By Fatima Nasser Al-Azmi
The first attempts of cooperative work in Kuwait were in 1941 at Al-Mubarakiya School, where the school cooperative society was successful. This was expected as the Kuwaiti society was accustomed to cooperation, until law 20/1962 to establish cooperative societies was issued. The law included the basic principles of cooperative action approved by international cooperative conferences. This was the start of the cooperative movement in Kuwait.
Co-ops have played a major role during crises, as in 1990 when the Iraqi invasion took place. Co-ops were a major factor in supplying food and other goods to citizens and expats. They also contributed through volunteer committees to provide citizens with money when banks shut down, and provided residence for those who needed it to change their address. Their role did not stop there – they provided hospitals, power stations and fire centers their food needs.
During the health crisis and the discovery of the first COVID-19 case on Feb 24, 2020, and with the start of preparations by all sectors to face the pandemic, the cooperative sector had a major role to provide food security for all citizens and expatriates. It coordinated work through administrations and volunteers and gained the trust of citizens and expatriates. It delivered their needs to their homes all day long during the partial and full curfews and is still doing it.
Once again the cooperative sector in Kuwait proved its effective and important role. Kuwaitization is required in this important sector and we hope that this does not come out of tribal and sectarian considerations or appeasement of relatives and friends. Rather it should be through specialized committee from the ministry of social affairs and should be subject to evaluation to safeguard the sector and its sustainability.
We do not want some current experiences to be repeated, as when a cooperative was scrapped in an area in the Capital governorate and the private sector replaced it, which constitutes a preliminary warning to abolish the cooperative sector in Kuwait. It was a good move by the social affairs ministry to follow supervisory jobs at cooperatives and work towards Kuwaitizing them. We hope this Kuwaitization will be sound, good and not nominal.
We hope that our colleagues at the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training and the College of Commercial Studies in particular to introduce a training program for cooperative work at a diploma level for Kuwaitis who are qualified to work in this sector and cover the shortage of Kuwaitis in this field.
Final word: Voluntary teams played a positive role in the COVID-19 crisis, and the drawbacks were at a minimum and do not include all teams. We hope cooperative societies reward their volunteers morally and materially, as many of them dealt at close proximity with the pandemic and the risk of infection.