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OUR conviction that development projects are nothing more than ink on paper continues to solidify day after day. If anything comes out of them, it will be through a system of local companies that have agreed among themselves to share the cake at very high costs, and with methods that are known to all.
These methods focus on poor implementation of the projects, or exacting change orders that raise the costs to huge amounts. They benefit from employees who are either bribed, or appointed to their jobs through an MP or through wasta in order to carry out the order of the owners of these companies.
We today address His Highness the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Works, the Minister of Finance, and those concerned by saying that we hear news about bribery and corrupt people on a daily basis. The courts are full of lawsuits in this regard. The anti-corruption authority and other oversight bodies have submitted documents and information about the corrupt and the looters of the public funds to the Public Prosecution.
However, to this day there has not been any announcements that those involved have been arrested, or suspicious companies have been prevented from working on state projects, or the names of the violators have been published so that they can serve as an example to others.
Your Highness, it was said that there are negotiations with companies from abroad to implement some projects, especially roads. However, it turned out that they have agents in Kuwait, or rather those local companies came out of the door and entered through the window of subcontracting. In this way they work to practice looting from public money by hiding behind the names of foreign companies.
In neighboring countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, projects are implemented through direct contracting with international companies, and there are no local intermediaries. Thus the largest development works were carried out in Saudi Arabia, and infrastructure was developed, as well as the Dubai Metro, Burj Khalifa, and the construction of the nuclear plant in Abu Dhabi, roads, and many others. All these cost much less than a single project in Kuwait, and the implementation was carried out quickly without any change orders. The tenders were very transparent, and they were published by the media of those countries.
What about Kuwait?
The road network today is worse than any country in the world. Some official buildings have been completed but have not been used because they have defects that prevent their utilization. Their implementation was delayed for several years, and their cost was much higher than any similar project in other countries. Despite that, no one was held accountable; instead, the authorities received them. In other words, all of it was a waste of money and time. Is this how things are done?
Your Highness, the people accuse the government of working based on a mentality that is contrary to its interest, and as per the principle of “a day is equal to a year.” That is why citizens try to use wasta in order to complete their transactions. The youngest employee sees himself as a boss in his position, with people coming to him through wasta. He hence benefits in various ways, as he must serve himself and his interest, not the interest of the state, because firm oversight is absent. Therefore, “everything is up for grabs” is the mentality of the employees.
Your Highness, we are not exaggerating when we say that our country is being plundered. In fact, what we are talking about may be the tip of the iceberg of the corrupt and their practices.
That is why it is necessary to take a different trajectory from what successive governments are accustomed to. Negotiation should be held directly with international companies that are able to implement major projects, either for completing the construction of Mubarak Al-Kabeer Port, or Failaka Island, and even reviving the Northern Economic Zone project, or others that are what the infrastructure needs.
This matters only if you want reform; but if you do not want it, all you have to do is say “Our screams are in the wilderness, and it is better for us to break pens and stay in our homes.”
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times