Your High­ness PM ... smiles don’t nour­ish, mar­kets are only praised by those who profit from them

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ahmed Al-Jar­al­lah Email: ahmed@al­jar­al­ Fol­low me on: ahmedal­jar­al­

IT would have been sim­ple if it had not hap­pened dur­ing the COVID-19 era, es­pe­cially at a time when daily news con­tin­ues to lead us to new cor­rupt in­di­vid­u­als who have en­croached into ev­ery beam of the coun­try.

Un­doubt­edly, the cur­rent cri­sis ex­ac­er­bates the pain of Kuwaitis, and puts more bur­den on them es­pe­cially af­ter the gov­ern­ment shut its doors of sal­va­tion in their faces. It used the “carrot and stick” ap­proach such that the peo­ple are not get­ting the carrot but con­tinue to get whipped by the stick of bank­ruptcy on a daily ba­sis.

Ev­ery time peo­ple see a smile on the face of His High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter, they ex­pect glad tid­ings in the form of a de­ci­sion or rather a so­lu­tion that would cush­ion them from the cur­rent cri­sis. How­ever, all they get is dis­ap­point­ment as soon as that smile dims away.

Ev­ery­one agrees on the fact that the gov­ern­ment and the Na­tional As­sem­bly have over­sight au­thor­ity on ev­ery estab­lish­ment. The tools to con­tain and stop the cor­rup­tion epi­demic, which can only be cured through cau­ter­i­za­tion, are in their hands, with­out in­volv­ing of­fi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tives on both sides in em­bar­rass­ing and shame­ful cor­rup­tion cases.

Also, ev­ery­one be­lieves that the ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity has the fi­nal say in pro­tect­ing the pub­lic funds and gen­er­at­ing more wealth through prof­itable in­vest­ments, ei­ther lo­cally or in­ter­na­tion­ally.

The gov­ern­ment is en­trusted with pro­tect­ing the na­tional wealth from mis­use. It is a duty that it solely bears in terms of re­spon­si­bil­ity. On the other hand, the duty of the leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity is to en­sure checks and bal­ance are in or­der, with­out ren­der­ing black­mail to be the top pri­or­ity of the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans in a bid to score elec­toral gains.

There­fore, the cor­rup­tion in Kuwait is quite as­ton­ish­ing es­pe­cially when re­al­iz­ing that some leg­is­la­tors, of­fi­cials, min­is­te­rial un­der­sec­re­taries and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers have been in­volved in the visa trad­ing busi­ness. The most re­cent rev­e­la­tion in this re­gard is the scan­dal in­volv­ing a Bangladesh­i ci­ti­zen.

There is no doubt that this scan­dal will not be the only one, as there are many cor­rupt peo­ple who are still work­ing to this mo­ment in the dark clouds of this for­bid­den trade.

In the past months, the gov­ern­ment missed sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties which could have cushioned and even ab­sorbed the im­pact of the cur­rent cri­sis. It could have done so by tak­ing ad­van­tage of the ex­cel­lent credit rat­ing that Kuwait en­joys and by fol­low­ing the path that other GCC coun­tries went through in terms of em­ploy­ing their good credit rep­u­ta­tion for ob­tain­ing long-term loans.

An­other path the gov­ern­ment could have taken was buy­ing shares that are los­ing value but are still con­sid­ered prof­itable, in ad­di­tion to in­vest­ing in real-es­tate and ma­jor in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies. This would have gen­er­ated huge gains by trans­form­ing threat into op­por­tu­nity. It could have also worked to­wards sup­port­ing the pri­vate sec­tor to pre­vent the loom­ing cloud of bank­ruptcy in or­der for life to re­turn to nor­mal with min­i­mal losses.

It is re­ally un­for­tu­nate that our stim­u­lus pack­age is still a phantom. If that is not the case, we chal­lenge our Cen­tral Bank to pub­lish the names of the es­tab­lish­ments or in­di­vid­u­als who have ob­tained loans through this stim­u­lus pack­age plan.

It is cer­tain there is some­one who is snap­ping his fin­gers and say­ing, “Here we are, the cri­sis is about to come to an end and we haven’t loaned out any money at a time when small com­pa­nies and young en­trepreneur­s in the pri­vate sec­tor are on their knees”.

O Your High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter, you know quite well through the in­sti­tu­tions af­fil­i­ated with the gov­ern­ment and the Cen­tral Bank that the in­vestable as­sets in Kuwait have sus­tained ma­jor losses dur­ing the cri­sis be­cause they were man­aged us­ing un­clear plans. While the re­turns of other Gulf coun­tries in­creased, they de­creased in Kuwait.

We are in a po­si­tion that en­ables us to take a long-term loan, but the ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity is in­stead still in the cap­tiv­ity of the par­lia­men­tary bar­gain­ing in terms of the pub­lic debt law. It is quite clear that it will not take a bold step due to its fear of the phantom of ac­count­abil­ity, while the cri­sis is wors­en­ing.

The gov­ern­ment holds in its hand the sword of emer­gency de­cree through which it can chop off the head of self­in­ter­est, and cush­ion peo­ple from the im­pacts of the cur­rent cri­sis.

Hence, the gov­ern­ment will not get the KD 20-bil­lion that it re­quested to re­in­force the re­serve, which un­for­tu­nately is be­ing eroded by ven­tures that cur­rently pre­vail in the arena, while it con­tin­ues to fear the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est re­ports con­cern­ing the losses in­curred in the world as a re­sult of the COVID-19 pan­demic, they have reached $21 tril­lion. There are many coun­tries that will re­cover from the in­curred losses within a year or two, but in Kuwait, all es­ti­mates in­di­cate that the econ­omy will shrink and the cap­i­tal cy­cle will de­cline.

This comes as a re­sult of the im­ple­mented plans which were just a smoke­screen, while in the United Arab Emi­rates, Saudi Ara­bia, the United States, Bri­tain, France, Italy and other coun­tries, hun­dreds of bil­lions were pumped to help the pri­vate sec­tor with­out the need to wait for par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to grace such a mea­sure with ap­proval. Be­cause of this, th­ese coun­tries are al­ready reap­ing ben­e­fits de­spite the cri­sis.

Your High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter, if we re­viewed all the laws that crip­pled the coun­try start­ing with the mis­placed sub­si­dies, the north­ern oil fields and elec­tric­ity, the “Dow Chem­i­cal” losses, and the anti-co­ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies along with other sim­i­lar laws, we would find that they have been based on the men­tal­ity of treach­ery, skep­ti­cism, and so­cial back­ward­ness.

Oddly enough, those who ap­proved them are lament­ing dur­ing their sem­i­nars on Kuwait’s eco­nomic, cul­tural, sci­en­tific and so­cial ret­ro­gres­sion. They are tan­ta­mount to mur­der­ers who at­tend the fu­neral of their vic­tims.

To be hon­est, there is le­git­i­mate loot­ing on­go­ing in Kuwait through ab­surd laws and de­ci­sions, along with il­le­git­i­mate loot­ing through wide­spread cor­rup­tion in in­sti­tu­tions. The ones pay­ing the price for all this are the fu­ture of the peo­ple and the na­tional wealth. To­day, with the COVID-19 cri­sis and its neg­a­tive reper­cus­sions, chal­lenges have in­ten­si­fied to the ex­tent that the peo­ple of this coun­try are fear­ing for their fu­ture.

All we hear is just talks about cor­rup­tion, fol­lowed by smiles, while we are yet to see a rem­edy to it.

Your High­ness, we will not point out what some of the Gulf coun­tries did and con­tinue to do in their ef­forts to deal with cor­rup­tion. How­ever, we should at least learn from the Western coun­tries and the way they pun­ish even the slightest mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of pub­lic wealth. For in­stance, a crime of tax eva­sion im­poses a sen­tence of ten-year im­pris­on­ment on the per­pe­tra­tor.

In Kuwait, we are yet to see a cor­rupt per­son be­ing im­pris­oned or even ex­posed; in fact, some of those who vi­o­lated the pub­lic funds man­aged to es­cape over­seas in broad day­light, and the state did not take any step to re­cover this money.

As for the stim­u­lus pack­age, among the most im­por­tant con­di­tions in or­der for com­pa­nies to qual­ify for such loans is that they must be prof­itable, and they should have liq­uid­ity and col­lat­eral as­sets.

O Your High­ness, and the Cen­tral Bank gover­nor, I beg to ask – Would such com­pa­nies re­ally need stim­u­lus loans?

In other coun­tries, such loans were guar­an­teed by gov­ern­ments un­der re­laxed con­di­tions. No ab­surd mea­sures were put in place to in­ca­pac­i­tate or dis­cour­age the bor­rower; in­stead, the con­di­tions were made eas­ier in or­der to ob­tain such loans and keep the busi­nesses run­ning.

With all due re­spect, we thank you for your smiles, O Your High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter, but we have to be frank with you when we say such smiles are not giv­ing us any re­as­sur­ance.

What the peo­ple are as­pir­ing for are firm de­ci­sions that would res­cue them from what they are go­ing through. Give us inspiratio­n and as­sur­ance that our fu­ture is guar­an­teed, in­stead of just state­ments that nei­ther nour­ish nor avail hunger.

There is a pop­u­lar say­ing – “Who­ever at­tends the mar­ket sells and buys”. How­ever, in our case, it seems very clear that Kuwait is nei­ther sell­ing nor buy­ing. It in­stead has been pre­oc­cu­pied with rhetoric, hearsay and smiles through­out the past stages, some of which seemed to be sar­cas­tic.

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