‘To forget a wrong is the best re­venge’

Your High­ness PM, what good has the tra­di­tional health mea­sure done?

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ahmed Al-Jar­al­lah Email: ahmed@al­jar­al­lah.com Fol­low me on: ahmedal­jar­al­lah@gmail.com

KUWAIT is nei­ther the only coun­try in the world to be over­whelmed by the COVID-19 pan­demic nor is it the best one in deal­ing with it.

How­ever, through­out the past nine months, it ap­pears as though this coun­try is liv­ing in a huge con­fine­ment due to the ex­ag­ger­ated pre­cau­tion­ary health mea­sures, which failed to ei­ther re­duce or flat­ten the curve of COVID-19 in­fec­tions.

In fact, the rate of in­fec­tions has risen higher than what it was prior to the to­tal lock­down.

It is true that health is more im­por­tant than wealth, but un­jus­ti­fied delu­sion and ap­pre­hen­sion has led to a great eco­nomic dis­as­ter, the neg­a­tive ef­fects of which have started ap­pear­ing in their ugli­est forms.

To­day, we are fac­ing the fury of two pan­demics. The first is the COVID-19 pan­demic which can be ad­dressed through re­al­is­tic mea­sures, and the sec­ond one is the shrink­ing econ­omy, which is head­ing to a re­ces­sion, the ef­fects of which will con­tinue to pre­vail for sev­eral years to come if there are no proper econ­omy stim­u­lus plans in place.

None­the­less, the vi­cious cir­cle has be­come in­evitable, be­cause of ei­ther dis­re­gard for the fate of peo­ple, or a cer­tain de­meanor of the Min­istry of Health which rec­ti­fies a mis­take with another mis­take.

Due to the con­tin­u­a­tion of these un­re­al­is­tic mea­sures, Kuwait in­curred huge losses that were not en­dured by coun­tries that suf­fered more dur­ing the pan­demic. The coun­tries of the Euro­pean Union, the United States of Amer­ica, Latin Amer­ica, and even our neigh­bor­ing coun­tries took re­al­is­tic health mea­sures, but also worked in par­al­lel to stim­u­late the econ­omy through a se­ries of bil­lion in­stant stim­u­lus plans.

Even some mid­dle-in­come coun­tries such as Bahrain, and also bankrupt ones such as Le­banon, worked on re­viv­ing their econ­omy through im­me­di­ate aid, while others worked to trans­form the threat into a great op­por­tu­nity, as is the case with coun­tries that se­cured soft loans and in­ter­est rates, with which they paid salaries; for in­stance, Canada and the United States of Amer­ica.

Your High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter, what did your gov­ern­ment do?

It launched a com­pletely un­re­al­is­tic stim­u­lus plan, and left the banks to im­pose their con­di­tions on bor­row­ers, such as sign­ing mort­gages in the event that they re­quested for any amount of money, un­less they had suf­fi­cient or par­al­lel sol­vency for the loan.

While bor­row­ers were striv­ing to ful­fill the re­quire­ments for ob­tain­ing loans, the tra­di­tional health mea­sures con­tin­ued to place the coun­try un­der lock. This led the bor­rower to won­der how he would pay back the loan that he took when his busi­ness was still locked down.

What is worst of all is that the gov­ern­ment, in­stead of fo­cus­ing on deal­ing with the cri­sis im­me­di­ately, de­flected by en­gag­ing in side shows, ei­ther with the MPs or by ag­i­tat­ing is­sues that could have been post­poned such as its cam­paign against hu­man traf­fick­ers (visa traders) who did what­ever they wanted in front of the con­cerned agen­cies through­out the past years and were not de­terred by these agen­cies.

When the fire of that cam­paign started to dim, the gov­ern­ment ig­nited other scan­dals re­lated to the money laun­der­ing net­works, celebri­ties, the Malaysian fund, and “In­te­rior Min­istry’s leaks” among others. This means the ex­ec­u­tive author­ity es­capes from a cri­sis by ig­nit­ing another cri­sis. All of this caused chaos of a kind that Kuwait has never wit­nessed in the last three decades.

Your High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter, we had pre­vi­ously raised the is­sue of the sov­er­eign credit rat­ing, the way this mat­ter can be ad­dressed, the in­crease in Kuwait’s in­vest­ments in in­ter­na­tional stocks, and the ma­jor projects that rep­re­sented a real op­por­tu­nity for seven months, as well as the lo­cal spend­ing to raise the na­tional prod­uct.

On more than one oc­ca­sion, you said ef­forts are fo­cused on im­prov­ing the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, at­tract­ing cap­i­tal, and that the white shark is for the black day. Have you sought to achieve this?

When the pan­demic be­gan, the gov­ern­ment es­tab­lished a se­ries of health quar­an­tine cen­ters and spent tens of mil­lions of di­nars on them. It reached such an ex­tent that some of us imag­ined that these field hos­pi­tals, rented ho­tels and shel­ters for the quar­an­tined would in­clude all of Kuwait’s pop­u­la­tion, but they re­mained empty of its thrones. In­stead of the gov­ern­ment in­vest­ing in them, it is­sued an imag­i­nary de­ci­sion.

The gov­ern­ment man­dated ev­ery cit­i­zen or ex­pa­tri­ate re­turn­ing to the coun­try to spend 14 days in a third coun­try and ob­tain a COVID-19-free cer­tifi­cate, so that Kuwait be­came scarce in news­pa­pers and re­gional me­dia. It is this de­ci­sion that re­vived the economies of those coun­tries. At the same time, most of the coun­tries were sat­is­fied with just such a cer­tifi­cate, and when the en­vi­ron­ment opened up, they even worked on ac­ti­va­tion of tourism based on a de­lib­er­ate plan.

Among the gov­ern­ment’s strange de­ci­sions is that any cit­i­zen re­turn­ing to the coun­try with a PCR cer­tifi­cate that proves he is free from the COVID-19 virus has to stay un­der quar­an­tine for 14 days, and af­ter this pe­riod ends, he must ob­tain a new cer­tifi­cate if he wants to travel to any coun­try, and re­peat the same pro­ce­dures all over again. Where is the ra­tio­nal­ity in all of this?

Un­for­tu­nately, all this did not hap­pen. The gov­ern­ment did not pay any at­ten­tion to all the talk by ob­servers, ex­perts, the press, and even or­di­nary peo­ple. It seemed as though the gov­ern­ment was work­ing in line with the fa­mous proverb – “Your un­cle is dumb”, un­til Kuwait turned into a big prison be­cause of the point­less reser­va­tion.

Your High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter, there is no log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion for what is happening. It in­stead leads to the clo­sure of the coun­try, in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of its eco­nomic cri­sis, and suf­fo­ca­tion of peo­ple in the end. It is con­fu­sion in it­self, and the ab­sence of a vi­sion and fea­si­ble de­ci­sions. Is this what the gov­ern­ment wants?

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