‘After Iftar’ Column
By Amer Al-Hilal
Reprinted From ‘Arab Times’ (19th September, 2008)
THE Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) stated: “He whom Allah gives his authority of ruling people and fulfils not their needs and treat their poverty but Allah will not fulfill his need nor treat his property (for mercy) on the Day of Resurrection.” (At-Tirmidhi).
For the past couple of years we have been highlighting corruption, the state’s blatant lack of compassion and neglect towards its people, mismanagement and lack of vision, but what has not been obvious is that all of the above is not just plain ineptitude but it is utterly un-Islamic to the ideals of a modern Muslim state, a state that has been blessed with riches from the Almighty.
As a country we reap what we sow, the results are evident all around us: State Security agents bribed into smuggling dangerous foreign elements into Kuwait, toxic materials dumped in areas such as Messila and Um Al-Hamain, visa traffickers importing tens of thousands of laborers and refusing to pay them, widespread embezzlement in government institutions, among countless other infractions.
Citizens — struck this Ramadan by rising prices, decrepit health care services, feeble infrastructure and higher cost of living in general — want their quality of life in Kuwait to improve, they demand less bureaucracy, favoritism, and more transparency, accountability and justice — they want to spend less time whizzing from one inefficient, power-hungry bureaucrat to another in order to get their business in order — they want to live as citizens, as human beings with decent health care, decent education, with efficient pricing mechanisms on commodities (as the more progressive Gulf states currently do), without worrying about rising over-inflated prices, human rights abuses, tuberculosis, cow scares, sleeper cells infiltrating the state, environmental pollution and other typically Kuwaiti ‘manifestations’.
A spirit of cynicism and anger is sweeping through Kuwait, a mistrust of old school government and business-as-usual politics, citizens detect a lack of compassion from both the inept government and various duplicitous parliamentarians; bitter that this affluent country aids others beyond its borders but cannot or will not help its own citizens — citizens who always seem to be at the mercy of a power or water cut, a bureaucrat, a KD 50 carrot.
And the state continues to announce its willingness to become a ‘Financial Hub’; a running joke verbally perpetrated by an assortment of governmental lackeys in denial. Don’t believe the hype. We need to clean house before we start talking big, unrealistic ventures. There is no way in hell Kuwait is ever going to be a ‘financial hub’ unless a complete metamorphosis, a cultural, legal and work systems revolution takes place. Parliament and the government can pass as many laws as they can muster but they are doomed to failure unless the state begins to serve the people, not vice-versa (and they need to be efficient and professional doing it); outdated laws are overhauled and updated (in addition to being enforced in order to gain transparency to local and foreign investors) and state of the art Administrative and Financial systems are integrated into institutions (so projects, expenditures and general income are kept track of).
We must eradicate ‘corruption’ by applying the full extent of the law, because corruption is not just relegated to ‘bribes,’ it affects the environment, it fuels crime, it propels jobs and positions of leadership to the wrong people, it instills despair and hopelessness among the populace, it devastates our infrastructure and resources, it stimulates bureaucracy and human rights abuses, frees lawbreakers, tarnishes Kuwait’s image, reputation and collective pride, among many other concerns. The day we can eradicate most of the above is the day we can truly call ourselves a ‘Muslim State.’
Kuwait — blessed with a major financial windfall — will never get another chance to makes things right. How the state acts today — for our sake and those of the next generations — will be the deciding factor on whether Kuwait ends up being a safe, modern, thriving metropolis or a dingy, underprivileged, dilapidated state with no future.
It’s the difference between you and your kids living comfortably and leading a productive life in Kuwait the year 2025 or your children becoming expatriates in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha because this state squandered its intellectual, natural, financial and, dare I say, moral resources. The stakes are very high, but until the powers that be and their minions exhibit compassion towards Kuwait by stressing accountability, reform and the rule of law, we will continue on the road to oblivion.