37 governments, rot still continues
AFTER being exhausted and filled with resentment, we may ask what we have achieved after 60 years of independence and 37 governments that promised to build a self-sufficient state capable of competing industrially, and benefiting from the longstanding commercial experience of the generations of pre-oil traders.
For 60 years, successive governments have been preparing and announcing development programs and future plans. We pinned our hopes on these for getting us out of the closed circuit, but what all we end up with is devotion to confrontations with the National Assembly, and altercations with the MPs for a particular job or a deal.
We were promised a parallel oil industry that would help diversify the sources of income. Instead, the governments fought industries, and even deliberately neglected them, turning some of them into warehouses for goods imported from abroad.
We lack food security, even though there have been many promises to work on achieving this basic need of protecting the country from food crises. The same applies to housing, the crisis of which has reached the point of dilemma.
Many observers have repeatedly highlighted the successful experiences in housing sectors in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman. However, the government is seemingly deaf. When asked about it, its response was that there is a law that we cannot violate ... This makes us wonder if that law is a sacred text that cannot be amended.
As for the health and educational sectors, they score the lowest in the global ranking. The best testimony to that is the recent poor ranking of Kuwait University. In the Gulf countries richer than Kuwait, the private sector is responsible for the hospitals, imposing insurance on everyone, and letting the people choose where they want to receive treatment. This has achieved the highest degree of progress.
As for the subsidies for goods, food items, and services, for which Kuwait spends KD 7 billion annually, they no longer exist in those countries because there are governments that know how to plan and implement.
Unfortunately, our successive governments did not perform their role, but rather “allowed rot to continue” as if there was a conviction that the matter of the country did not concern them. They bribed the people by securing their welfare from cradle to grave, and considered the national income from oil to be the wealth of the people such that the latter would get their share from it and spend it as they pleased.
Hence, the issue of infrastructure was not given any attention. On this basis, it was content with the random recruitment game that serves the interests of MPs. However, at the first economic shock, the mourning began. Despite all the calamities that Kuwaitis have been living through, there are still officials who are content with the status quo.
As a result of all this rot, what do we have today? A public sector that serves as a shelter for disguised unemployment, where thousands of employees do not work, such that the number of Kuwaitis in this sector has so far reached 361,381 employees, serving 1.5 million people ... Will such a mentality build a state?
All that these governments achieved was making people dependent on everything. Therefore, the state lost about KD 140 billion, i.e. about $ 420 billion, for just subsidizing goods and services in the last 20 years. So is there more harm to the pockets than this deficit that threatens the future of the people?
On the other hand, we have clear examples from some Gulf countries of how their governments are dedicated to supporting their citizens in the right ways both effectively and firmly. The latest of such an example is Bahrain, whose Council of Ministers announced on Monday a financial stimulus package for companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including salaries and rents. This is the step in which Kuwait stumbled because of the altercations that cause all of us to lose in the absence of proper study, planning and firmness in implementation.
Unfortunately, all of these experiences have not benefited Kuwait. Its governments are doing the opposite of what they should do... further stifling the private sector and restricting citizens, and at the same time not seeking reform.