I could sense it very well. You could sense it very well, too, if only you listen and see well enough. There is a growing sense of hatred towards non-nationals in Kuwait – Bloomberg just recently thought so, too. Politicians, oh do they love kicking off occasional ‘us-versus-them’ campaigns, capitalize on such rhetoric. It feeds into their interests. Deficit concerns spice the dish, economic reforms give it the sour taste it needs, loud political demands make it look fresh and good, bake it for thirty minutes and there you go: Widespread, populist anti-‘other’ movement in Kuwait.
Is Kuwait – or, to broaden the concern, the Arab world – immune to the global populist wave that has begun taking shape on June 23rd, 2016? Will we ever see the Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage of Kuwait anytime soon? Or do they already exist? Why would we be against globalization anyway?
Well, I think it all returns back to how well our economy breathes – and what does not return back to the economy? There is a growing belief that our economy is not doing well enough – and of course it is not doing well because of the unneeded, unessential, untaxed ‘other.’ Do not blame the fact that our economy is mainly dependent on oil revenues and the oil market, as of just recently, was drowning with the oversupplied commodity which, as a result, has led to cheaper oil prices. You should also never blame the highly subsidized goods and services that Kuwait’s social contract has promised to provide since oil was discovered and produced in the first half of the twentieth century. Nope, the ‘other’ is always the problem. Get rid of the ‘other’ and you create another ‘other’ within. And the story will never end until actual, technical economic reforms are enforced.
Yes, we may be at 4.7 percent unemployment rate and yes we may have just last month borrowed money for the first time, but I nonetheless happen to very much disagree with such illogical, anti-globalization, highly isolationist viewpoint. Dear expatriates, foreigners, immigrants, welcome. Welcome to the Kuwait of opportunities where, if you work hard and smart enough, you too might be the next founder of Talabat or Carriage. This is the Kuwait that I envision: a liberal environment where one could freely produce and where the free market would then price the product. It is the Kuwait where the rule of law is celebrated, science and technology cherished, liberal arts encouraged, private sector emboldened, economy strengthened, legislature checked and questioned about policies, implementations and outcomes. It is the Kuwait that does not limit itself to oil revenues but, rather, diversifies its economy and encourages the energizing of its domestic economic activity.
Dear Kuwaitis and non-nationals, because we share a country that is proud to be part of the international economic community, we are responsible in building the Kuwait that we all envision. Again, I welcome you to your Kuwait.
By Bader Al-Dehani