O Your Highness, sovereign wealth is being looted

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THE Russian-Ukrainian war has exposed many flaws in various countries of the world, especially in the economic and financial affairs… and Kuwait has not been spared.

After the massive economic failures of the past decades and the mismanagement of economy, which was revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of diversifying the economy, and the shameful exposure of the government’s inadequacy in managing economic affairs, every Kuwaiti today is asking this question – What has the sovereign fund provided for nearly 70 years?!

This question leads us to another – How did the Norwegian sovereign fund manage to occupy the first place in the world, despite being established in 1990, and work on a wise diversification of the economy? The share of wealth of each citizen would be one million crowns if the wealth was to be distributed to citizens, while in Kuwait we only get out of a pit and fall into an abyss.

It is not enough for the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to be ranked third in the world in terms of assets, while the local economy suffers from a continuous crisis.

It is important for the state to preserve the citizen’s purchasing power on one hand, and work with a creative mind to diversify the sources of income on the other.

This issue has been raised for nearly six decades but to no avail. On the contrary, dependence on oil still accounts for about 90 percent of the national income, which means that the state is still at the mercy of fluctuations in global markets.

In this regard, it has become clear that we do not learn from the past, especially the lesson of Saddam’s invasion of the country. If that were not possible for us with international support and the insistence of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states to continue trading the Kuwaiti dinar, the picture would have been very bleak.

It is true that this fund had the upper hand in reconstruction and spending on liberating the country, but successive governments should have worked on diversifying sources of income and weaning themselves from oil as a main source of income.

Before oil, Norway was a poor country that relied on fishing and agriculture, but within three decades it became an economic power to be reckoned with. Also, most of the Arabian Gulf countries worked wisely to manage their sovereign funds, and chose the best economists and financiers in the world to work on those funds that are linked directly to the head of state.

On the contrary, Kuwait sank into an inch of conflicts between MPs and the government when it made employment in the sovereign wealth fund a source of buying loyalties, and submitted to backward currents that worked to close the country and prevent local entertainment, forcing citizens to flee abroad at the first chance, where they spend their money without any inconvenience.

In most countries of the world, the sovereign fund is linked to the head of state, especially when parliamentary interventions and many profiteers, and the monster of corruption opens its jaws to swallow the largest possible proportion of sovereign funds.

A good example is the ones who embezzled money and fled abroad, or are in prison. That is enough reason to lose money that we were taught is forbidden, because the government left the control in the hands of those who seek “wasta” and the electoral keys.

The sovereign wealth fund is Kuwait’s refuge, but it seems that there are those who seek to drop its roof on us and leave the Kuwaitis plundered by poverty and destitution after the looting crows fly with the sovereign money.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

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