YOUR Highness the Amir and Your Highness the Crown Prince, I turn to your lofty positions from my position as a journalist and a Kuwaiti citizen who is worried about the current economic situation. I think there is nothing wrong with that, especially since the picture drawn by world-class rating agen-cies, the latest of which is the Standard & Poor’s report of the future of Kuwait, appears to be the same. It portends a great crisis, and everyone realizes that this is caused by economic mismanage-ment, procrastination by the government and its improvised decisions that are not based on a scien-tific vision.
Reports that sound alarm bells, both local and international, have been published for years, according to which the welfare State has ended in Kuwait and so it has to face the fact that it must wean itself from relying on oil as the sole nourishment of life and work towards diversifying the sources of in-come. However, this did not fall on deaf ears, especially since the government is concerned, first and foremost, with revitalizing the economy, and imposing laws that help increase the attractiveness of investors, instead of legislation to isolate and close the country, and to respond to racist desires, which made it repelling at all levels, and preventing investors from embracing it.
A few months ago, the Minister of Finance announced to us in an official parliamentary session that there would be no salaries at the end of November or December. This statement raised concerns at all levels, as it indicates the level of bankruptcy of the State. Have we really reached that point or did the exaggeration practiced by those in the government lead to talking irresponsibly?
In both cases, there is a calamity if the speech was correct and the executive authority did not take firm measures to avoid reaching this point. If the speech was without knowledge, the calamity is greater, and the responsibility is on the Prime Minister, for whom we have all the respect and love but we wonder about his natural role in this matter.
Experience in the recent months has proven that the current Cabinet does not have the ability to con-front challenges. It yields to the wishes of the MPs more than once; even the recent interpellations were a bazaar of deals that further complicated the situation in the country. This leads us to ask – Doesn’t the country need a prime minister and ministers with a great deal of courage for confronting and adhering to decisions taken without fear of parliamentary blackmail?
Today, we are on the verge of new elections and it seems their outcomes will not be better than the previous Parliament. Therefore, the country is continuing on its downward path, which does not bode well at all.
Years ago, neighboring countries – I mean the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – began to lay down laws and legislations to reduce dependency on oil and to diversify sources of income; and they have achieved great benefits in this regard.
In Saudi Arabia, which has oil reserves estimated at $35 trillion, dependence on non-oil income has reached around 33 percent. This is the preliminary result of the efforts that began four years ago, and reports indicate that this is growing and is expected to reach 50 percent within a few years.
In the UAE, the non-oil sector constitutes 70 percent of the national economy. Today, there are 37 free trade zone areas there, thanks to the sophisticated legislations which were developed to the point of enabling non-citizens to have 100 percent ownership in companies.
The UAE is currently moving towards becoming a global financial and commercial hub, but this reality is still a slogan in Kuwait where all the legislation issued in this regard prevents the achievement of this goal.
Bahrain has taken a series of encouraging measures to attract investments, and so has Qatar, while the Sultanate of Oman has made great steps in this regard.
These countries have devised bold plans to transform the COVID-19 crisis into a great investment op-portunity, and supported the local private sector by helping it to cushion the negative impacts of the crisis, and eventually overcome it.
His Highness the Amir and His Highness the Crown Prince, there were no measures to encourage the industrial sector. Unfortunately, this sector has transformed to trade in lands or tanning sheepskins at best. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has partnerships with international institutions, and they are today building aircraft and developing weapons, whereas the UAE has entered the era of satellites.
For 30 years we have heard talks about diversifying sources of income. Nothing has changed apart from going from bad to worse. Because favoritism and the quota game have reached all sectors, the salary clause has become the highest in the world.
The number of national manpower in the government sector has multiplied to the point that there is random employment in sectors with specific specialties like oil, for example, where a non-Kuwaiti works and a Kuwaiti gets paid.
This is due to the fact that underemployment, or rather the so-called disguised unemployment has swept over all the State’s facilities. The legislation issued here and there make things more difficult for people, as if Kuwait is the only envied country in the entire world, while the truth is that states and peoples deal with us on the basis of bad classification, and no one will accept us.
Dear leaders, I speak as a citizen who sees opportunities slipping from our hands while we are dis-tracted by the Byzantine intrigues between a government and a Parliament, casting responsibility on each other.
If the government is impotent, a sound choice must be made for whoever takes over it. If the Parlia-ment is the source of obstruction, let the solution be to suspend it, and in return take bold decisions that lead to the opening of the country, as all the Arabian Gulf states have done. Otherwise, we will only have to cry over the ruins of a country that was previously a pioneer in everything and is today at the end of the wheel. I have conveyed the message to you all.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times