In­equal­ity: Why it mat­ters in Kuwait

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - By Badar Al-De­hani lo­cal@kuwait­times.net

The no­tion of in­equal­ity has daz­zled me for at least five months now. In fact, it was af­ter that one day when I de­cided to go visit my un­cle, who lec­tures at Kuwait Univer­sity, that I dug into the en­tire de­bate. The de­bate, well, is quite com­plex; it cir­cles around the speed of the growth of wealth. This de­bate could be ap­plied to any so­ci­ety in the world and, hence, is not lim­ited to the sit­u­a­tion of, say, Kuwait or France. Yet, to use the Kuwait and France ex­am­ple, it is more dif­fi­cult to mea­sure how un­equal the so­ci­ety of the for­mer is since Kuwait is not a mem­ber of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) as is the case with France. An eco­nom­i­cally un­equal so­ci­ety is worth an­a­lyz­ing since such in­equal­ity ar­guably con­trib­utes to ex­pan­sion of the im­pli­ca­tion of var­i­ous forms of in­equal­ity like that of the po­lit­i­cal and the ed­u­ca­tional. How un­equal is the Kuwaiti so­ci­ety?

Thomas Piketty in Cap­i­tal in the Twenty-First Cen­tury ar­gues that the wealth of cer­tain cap­i­tal-own­ers grows quicker than gen­eral wealth - that of the state. That is, in­equal­ity dom­i­nates the scene when the rate of re­turn on cap­i­tal (or r) grad­u­ally grows quicker than the rate of growth of the econ­omy (or g). Thomas Piketty por­trays this in a for­mula that may seem sim­ple from the out­side but is ac­tu­ally quite com­plex from the in­side: r > g. Pro­fes­sor Piketty, a lec­turer at the Paris School of Eco­nomics, demon­strates how in­equal­ity has his­tor­i­cally grown: A down­fall of the rate of in­equal­ity, af­ter a con­tin­u­ous rise, was wit­nessed from the post-war pe­riod un­til the early 1980s when Ron­ald Rea­gan and Mar­garet Thatcher took power. The rate of in­equal­ity to­day is as high as it has ever reached - and it will con­tinue to in­crease un­til gov­ern­ments reg­u­late their economies. Two ques­tions should be tack­led: Should gov­ern­ments reg­u­late their economies and, if so, how much should gov­ern­ments reg­u­late? Those two in­ter­linked yet es­sen­tial ques­tions have, un­til re­cently, di­verged the world into sev­eral ide­o­log­i­cal di­vi­sions.

In­equal­ity in Kuwait is un­doubt­edly de­vel­oped. This should be wit­nessed when trav­el­ling through dif­fer­ent res­i­den­tial ar­eas across Kuwait. Res­i­den­tial ar­eas in Kuwait are ar­guably di­vided by the con­cen­tra­tion and ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wealth one house­hold en­joys. How much wealth one house­hold owns most likely de­ter­mines where that house­hold lives, though some other fac­tors may also add to the com­plex­ity of the for­mula. Study­ing not only the rate of in­equal­ity in Kuwait but also how that rate came to be is of the in­ter­est of the ma­jor­ity of cit­i­zens. In­equal­ity will be one of the great­est chal­lenges Kuwait will face in the near fu­ture.

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