Kuwait fails to keep up with its neighbours

Post by Mark


A reader just passed me a link to an interesting Economist article which I thought would be worth sharing on the blog. The two paragraphs below kinda sums up the article for me:

Innovative Dubai is the comparison that most frustrates Kuwaitis. That is in part because Kuwait was once the Gulf’s trailblazer. It set up the world’s first sovereign-wealth fund in 1953 and was a leader in health care. It started one of the first airlines in the region. But the decline of Kuwait Airways is instructive. As its fleet aged and losses piled up, carriers from Qatar and the UAE began offering better service and more routes. Politicians have talked of privatisation. But parliament, reluctant to mess with one of the country’s biggest employers, has frustrated these efforts.

The government’s failings extend to public services. It has neglected public hospitals and schools. Low electricity prices and a sweltering climate make Kuwait one of the world’s biggest consumers of energy per person. But the government, which is the sole provider of electricity, has invested little in infrastructure. Parliament has delayed efforts to boost the supply. In 2014 a power outage shut down all three of the country’s oil refineries, crippling fuel production for a week. Endemic corruption completes the dismal picture.

It’s not that long of an article and is worth reading fully, so check it out [Here]

The picture on top is currently my favorite Kuwait skyline photo and was taken by @ziadgram

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18 comments, add your own...

  1. zaydoun says:

    So nice to see my photo here!!! Thanks Mark

  2. Altaf says:

    My Qatari cousins, who always viewed Kuwait as the epitome of Gulf chic and sophistication during the 70’s and 80’s, shake their heads in genuine sadness and bewilderment when they ask:” what happened to you?” A question they mean sincerely. What these Gulf countries have done is watched and learned where the pitfalls and mistakes were in our lack of foresight and caring about rebuilding and restructuring our country productively and sustainably post Iraqi invasion and Saddam. Did we learn from our second chance once liberated? My opinion is a strong no. Instead, things mostly became a gauche caricature of what overly wealthy, nouveau riche, indulgent, greedy and egotistical people do and behave but on the scale of a whole country. I deeply love this country and we have so many talented and amazing examples of creative and hardworking forward thinkers (many who end up broken spirited and give up, and eventually leave). But what I forsee in Kuwait is similar to an article I just read about affluenza afflicted and drug addicted children of wildly wealthy parents who worked hard to earn their fabulous wealth after stints in cushy rehabs: people who come up with delusional and unrealistic plans for fabulous businesses they think will generate Incredible wealth so they can continue being ” rich” and carrying on with their gauche lifestyle. They miss the point which is now SURVIVAL because we missed the boat. I miss the 1970’s Kuwait when I was born and a child. When we were all so hopeful, far less spoiled, and resolute in our confidence.

    • Agja says:

      I think the late, great Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum’s line is instructive: “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel”.
      There was a generation or two (from the 40s to the 70s) that built Kuwait with a far-sighted vision. Their children and grandchildren, though, have been coasting by on past glories. Just as many family-run businesses often flounder in the third generation, it’s not uncommon for once thriving countries to get complacent. Look at Argentina; 100 years ago, they were one of the richest countries in the world, the land of opportunity.
      I worry for the Kuwait of 2040.

  3. Mohammad says:

    i disagree with most of the article.

    i lived in UAE for 5 years ( early 2010 to late 2015 ) to continue my Education there.

    most of the people here see UAE for example from the tourist Eye.
    but me i lived there and saw it from “Living” Eye.

    here some notes from my 5 years living experience:

    1- never believe what the media say about the new and awesome inventions or services even from the government media, coz it usually for limited time just to show off or in one or two locations in the tourists spots so not every one can make use of it.

    2- the governments medical and health services services is so bad that Kuwait embassy had issued private medical insurance for every student so they can use in private hospitals to get a proper health care , still with that some times we book a flight home just to go for our medical centers to have a better health care coz private hospital in uae can not match with the quality care here in kuwait . surprise right!

    3- the cost and quality of living there .. oh i can write for days about this topic. trust me .. its F#$%^ing expensive with low quality. even the tap water you will notice its salty. and im talking here about residence not hotels. lets jump to internet :) every where you will see advertise about the new and awesome feature .. in realty NOTHING . i had a Fiber optic line in my home with 20mb bandwidth.. the surprise is that my 4mb DSL line back in kuwait has better Quality than the 20mb Fiber !!!!! plus its expensive …

    4- dont be surprised if some time you went to fill up you car with petrol and find that there are no petrol in the station or they limit your fuel to only 40 liter due to shortage in petrol. did i mentioned is also London expensive.

    the list go on and on ..

    last thing

    UAE is awesome for 3 day tourist trip you will have fun

    but for living .. kuwait could consider a heaven in living in compare with UAE .

  4. AA says:

    “But it has fallen behind countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in terms of dynamism and international appeal. ”

    International appeal in terms of what? For example, in industries like tourism and aviation, it was never the plan to reach a global level.

    “It is the closest thing to a democracy in the Gulf.”

    By whose standards?

    “it limits speech”

    Members of the Parliament can say anything in the Parliament. That includes criticizing, insulting and even cursing anyone/anything, for example local/foreign heads of state and religious figuers. Also, citizens have the right to schedule a meeting with the Emir, and express their views to him personally.

    “Dubai encourages development through a suite of companies known as “Dubai Inc”.

    That’s needed to gain the trust of potential foreign lenders and inventors. It’s a matter of necessity not innovation. Just look at Dubai’s sovereign debt.

    It should be noted that Dubai’s iconic project, Burj Dubai, had failed in an embarrassing way. It had to be renamed as Burj “Khalifa.”

    “In Kuwait, the government owns most of the land and hampers its use by the private sector”

    If the author heard of the Avenues and knew to whom the land belongs, he wouldn’t have embarrassed himself with such an inaccurate claim.

    “It has neglected public hospitals”

    Kuwait is about to open the biggest hospital in the ME.

    The author is ill-informed, the article, for the most part, is factually incorrect.

    • Altaf says:

      With respect, I think you may have overlooked the overarching point of the article which is critically important.. To hold up our abysmal and embarrassing excuse of a medical system just because a new building is being built (as someone who has worked in and for the government medical and educational system for 15 years) and use it as an example of medical leadership and excellence is misguided. We in the medical system have long suffered deep frustration over the waste of over inflated budgets for medical equipment that looked and sounded good and was then bought (or “bought”) and did nothing but gather dust until they were outdated and then disposed of because people who knew what to do with them productively were not available. I’m not sure this new hospital is anything other than the same old same old but in nice, spiffy new clothing. In any case, The article is a good hard look at ourselves through another’s eyes and a view point based on certain facts and opinions and one which is a reality for many disheartened Kuwaities. White washing our weak points and mistakes in favor of a blind complimentary and facile loyalty does the country and its future generations no good or justice even ( not that you did that, just saying in general). I am not afraid to hear, admit and know where we went wrong, I want to know what we are going to do to acknowledge and start to fix it so that we have a real and stable future.

      • AA says:

        You may be right about the situation at public hospitals. On the other hand, when you look at the public clinics system in the suburbs, one has to acknowledge that it’s a great public health system.

        For the most part, the article provides claims, with no evidence. It has many fallacies and a few facts.

  5. Abdulwahab says:

    I think there’s a lot of commentary that goes around showcasing Kuwaiti fragility. Here’s a framework ciriticism from yours truly, regardless of the topic: Kuwaitis must stay grounded in their discussion of the status of their country and allow all informed voices a place in the conversational space. It is pivotal to progress as a country to be able to look with more a critical eye than a nostalgic one. Sure, Kuwait was once this and that and a bag of chips. Today, it is not. Attempts at “making Kuwait great again” will only erase the harsh reality that the challenges facing Kuwait today are so much bigger and more complex than they have ever been. 70s Kuwait is nice for the pictures, let’s leave it there. 2016 is torn apart by more than its economy, it’s a sick society filled with classism, elitism, sectarianism, and xenophobia – and all other sorts of discrimination as well. We need to come to terms with this and acknowledge it because sociodynamics are closely tied to economics. We need to overcome our fragility and accept that no, we don’t compare to any of our neighbors, and that shouldn’t be our goal in the first place. We aspire to an ideal of our own, of our definition, that guarantees the prosperity of all people on our land. All the commentary I’ve seen is defensive. Take a moment and think why such an article might be posted.

    • aaa says:

      “2016 is torn apart by more than its economy, it’s a sick society filled with classism, elitism, sectarianism, and xenophobia”

      All things that were there in 1970, but that were socially acceptable at the time so nobody noticed. If anything newer generations are a bit more tolerant than the older ones – the older ones might have been more polite on the surface but it was out of the question for their kids to marry anyone that was from outside the family much less outside nationality or sect, hell a lot of them didn’t let their kids interact with Non-Kuwaitis.

      It’s definitely an issue (and yeah probably the main social issue) don’t get me wrong but let’s not pretend in the 1970s everything was perfect, you had 20% of today’s population and were basically a large village

  6. meh says:

    At least we don’t have to move our shit in trucks ;)

  7. Anwar Kh. says:

    Didn’t pay attention to the article. photo was enough to make me appreciate Kuwait more … idk maybe it’s just me.

  8. mungee says:

    It’s cus we are starting to shy away from the idea of slave labour. not entirely. but slowly.

  9. old school says:

    main difference between kuwait and uae is the people in the uae have better manners they are super friendly with everyone kinda reminds me with kuwait old and gold generation.

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