Abu Dhabi: “We would have shut our eyes to an unwarranted smile on the face of our Prime Minister, had we not have been in the coronavirus era, and had we not have been inundated with daily reports of corrupt officials, who are eating into the foundations of the country like termite, while the nation grapples with the pandemic”, says Ahmed Al Jarallah, editor-in-chief of the Kuwaiti ‘Al Seyassah’ newspaper.
“After all, the government closed the doors of salvation in their face, when it offered the carrot of relief package, only to let them face the bankruptcy stick, whipping them daily, after the package did not work,” he says.
Al Jarallah argues all Kuwaitis agree that the government and the parliament are the authority to control all institutions, prevent corruption, and cure that pervasive disease that no longer has a medication other than ironing, not that some of their officials are involved in shameful corruption cases.
Also, they believe that the executive authority is entrusted to prevent any decline in the sovereign wealth, and bears responsibility for inaction alone, but the task of the parliament is accountability and control, not blunt blackmail for its members’ own manifesto and not for the public interest.
Therefore, one of the wonders of corruption in Kuwait is that some legislators, officials, deputy ministers and security leaders are involved in human trafficking and money laundering, which is revealed in the recent scandal of the Bangladeshi member of parliament.
In the past months, the government missed many opportunities that could have taken us out of the current crisis, by taking advantage of the excellent credit rating of Kuwait in the world, to take the path of the GCC countries when they used that good reputation in obtaining long-term loans or in the stocks, whose prices have fallen but were still profitable, in addition to real estate and major international companies. That has achieved great gains, and rather transformed the challenges to opportunities, and also worked to support the private sector to prevent the specter of bankruptcy that overshadowed it, so they returned to normal life with minimal losses.
Unfortunately, we have a stimulus plan that is still ink on paper, and we challenge the central bank to announce the names of companies or people who obtained these loans. Undoubtedly, there is someone out there who snaps fingers and says, “Here is the crisis is fading but we have not paid out any amount of the public money, by the time the knife has reached the bone in small businesses and young investors in the private sector”.
Al Jarallah says in Kuwait, assets have declined during the crisis because they were not managed by a clear plan. “So while the return on investment in most GCC countries has increased, it dropped here.”
He argues loans could have been obtained for 30 years, and instead the government is still locked in parliamentary imprudence on the case of the public debt law, and it is quite clear that it will not make a bold step for its fear of accountability, while the crisis exacerbates.
The losses incurred by the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have reached 21 trillion dollars, but there are many countries that will offset their losses within a year or two, while in Kuwait, all estimates indicate an economic contraction and an increase in the decline of the capital cycle, because the plans that were put in place were just to throw dust in the eyes, while in UAE, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and other countries, hundreds of billions were pumped out to help the private sector, and they did not wait for members of parliament to approve their relief plans, and for this they started to reap the benefits despite the crisis.
In Kuwait, there is legitimate looting, through absurd laws and decisions, and unlawful plunder, through widespread corruption in institutions, and all of this is costly and is paid by citizens from their future, and from national wealth, and today with the coronavirus crisis and its negative consequences, the problems will exacerbates to the extent that the Kuwaitis fear for their future.
All we hear are just talk of corruption, followed by smiles, while we have not seen any drastic measures to address these problems. We will not say to Your Highness, “look what some Gulf countries have done to the corrupt, and what they have learned from Western European countries, how to punish those who commit the slightest misappropriation of public money, so tax evasion is a crime that attracts imprisonment for 10 years. While in Kuwait, we did not hear about one corrupt person who was jailed or defamed, but some of those who plundered the public money fled in broad daylight, and the state did not take any action to recover that money”.
Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your smiles, but they honestly do not give us reassurance. What citizens aspire for is decisive actions that save them and their future, and not just data that do not save us from starvation. In our popular proverbs, “Whoever attends the market buys and sells,” but it seems clear that Kuwait neither sold nor bought, but was just preoccupied with slogans, hearsay and smiles throughout the past period, some of which seemed to be ironic.