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Looking Beyond the Horizon

Kuwait’s development goals: Part II

Kuwait has been glorified as being the perfect country that it truly is; however, what determines a true perfect country? Is it a place where all companies prosper? A place where all resources are managed and meticulously balanced? A place where no child wakes up in terror of the hours ahead?  The Sustainable Development Goals aim to answer all of these thoughts, whether comfortable or not. This is done by first analyzing the deeply-rooted problems within our prosperous country, and going on to set our agendas straight – so we all can set ourselves to work hard towards a perfect ideology of Kuwait.
This is part two of last week’s article titled “Kuwait’s development goals: Looking beneath the Surface”.

Here are the rest of the goals:

8-    Decent work and economic growth – We live in a world where companies prosper
Kuwait is a wealthy economy with crude oil reserves of around 10 percent of the world’s supply. Moreover, the government plans to increase oil production to 4 million barrels per day by 2020. Kuwait is dependent on petroleum for over half of its GDP, dominating the Kuwaiti market by representing 94 percent of its export revenues and 90 percent of the government’s income.
During 2015, Kuwait found a large deficit within its economy. Kuwaiti authorities have tried to reduce the deficit by decreasing spending on subsidies for the local population, with not that much change. Impressively, the government has cushioned itself against the impact of lower oil prices by saving annually at least 10 percent of public revenue in the “Fund for Future Generations” despite Kuwait’s dependence on oil.
Kuwait has failed to diversify its economy or strengthen the private sector (which showed a notable rise in 2013). This is due to a poor business climate, a large public sector that crowds out private employment of Kuwaiti nationals, and a bitter relationship between the National Assembly and the executive branch has prevented most economic reforms. The Kuwaiti government has made little progress on its long-term economic development plan which was first passed in 2010. While the government planned to spend up to $104 billion over four years to diversify the economy, attract more investment and boost private sector participation in the economy, many of the projects did not materialize because of an uncertain political situation. These statistics have been taken from Theodora.com.
The process of owning a business in Kuwait is quite long and tedious, and an article named “How to start a business in Kuwait” explains just that. Unemployment within the country has been slowly decreasing, to around 2.2 percent in 2015 after a high of 3.6 percent in 2011. Overall, Kuwait requires a more active environment, especially for its youth to grow and start new businesses to help diversify the economy of Kuwait.

9-    Industry, innovation and infrastructure – Where people create, not just make, money, to make people’s lives better.

As a progressive country, Kuwait ranks last in terms of innovation within the GCC countries as of 2015 according to the Global Innovation Index. Sure, Kuwait’s electricity output per capita is ranked first within the GCC countries. Student-teacher ratio for secondary education is ranked 8th and the ease of paying taxes has been ranked 11th in Kuwait. So why are we last in innovation? Well, on business sophistication, we have been ranked in the 132nd place, on knowledge absorption, we have been ranked 130th and the ease of starting a business within Kuwait is low at 120th place.
There have been some attempts to establish innovation such as the two-day forum Zain launched last year on the topic of digital innovation, which was a success, with over 300 projects collected. KISR (Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research) is a body within Kuwait striving to apply innovation in our day-to-day lives, along with KFAS (Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences), but with limited success. Again, these programs are quite specific to nationality and acceptance from expats is quite difficult. For example, the Sabah Al-Ahmad School of Giftedness and Creativity – is a beautiful piece of architecture, which accepts only Kuwaitis!
Moreover, finding jellybean electronics is quite difficult here in Kuwait, like Arduino, etc – it’s not sold openly and is a lot more expensive. Innovation to help others can only occur once innovation can actually happen. Kuwait does have organizations such as LOYAC that primarily works on helping the youth and also the environment – this body is a key stepping stone to further innovation in Kuwait.

10-    Reduced Inequalities – We live in a world where prejudices and extreme inequality are defeated, inside and between countries.
Here is where the topic of expats comes along. Kuwait has a population comprising of 70 percent expats, as of 2017. Without the expat population, Kuwait would not be able to run itself – from doctors to maids to teachers – we can all agree that expats play a key role in Kuwait. Then why is it so difficult for them to get through day-to-day life? Sure, we are not Kuwaiti, but Kuwait strives to be a progressive country and yet mistreats its people.
Kuwait has been rated the worst country for expats by Expat Insider as of 2016. Kuwait in the perspective of expats, ranks 4th lowest in terms of a stable relationship within the country, ranks 7th lowest for climate, 9th lowest for the quality of the environment, 8th lowest for housing affordability, 9th lowest for housing availability, 55th place for the high cost of living, last for work-life balance, last for friendliness, second-last for feeling welcome, last for ease of settling in, last for personal happiness – the list goes on and on according to Expat Insider.
This is a frightening list! Aren’t we a country of religion? Where has our religion gone? Our morals? Aren’t we all brothers and sisters? Is this the way you treat your siblings?  EQUATE is a great organization that aims to help reduce social equality in Kuwait, so there is some growth to develop in this area.

11-    Sustainable cities and communities – Where people live in cities and communities which are safe and progressive to everyone who lives there.

The following information is based on reports released in 2016. According to OSAC, the crime rate within Kuwait is below the US average – however it is probable that many crimes go unreported, especially due to the fear by expats residing in Kuwait. The report suggests that most crime occurs between Kuwaitis and/or between Kuwaitis and domestic workers. Minor thefts have been reported regarding property within populated areas such as shopping centers. Other crimes include residency fraud, white-collar crimes, immigration and residency theft, bank card theft, white-collar fraud, embezzlement (salary fraud), and possession and trafficking of narcotics.

Within expats, there have been numerous reports of theft, which were nearly always financial-based. There is a perception as well that expatriate areas aren’t fully investigated regarding the levels of rape within the area, with special areas of concern being Jahra and Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh. Our new battlefield – the cyber platform – has been easily infiltrated by people with limited computer skills – allowing people to easily spy on celebrities and hack into private companies.
On the topic of road safety in Kuwait, OSAC has commented that “the most dangerous daily threat residents face is driving. Drivers must remain on the defensive. Locals often drive aggressively, pass on shoulders and emergency lanes, and operate without headlights at night.”
Traffic fatalities occur primarily due to speed. Kuwait has a wonderful traffic system. Sadly, people drive over the speed limit excessively and weave through traffic without any concern for surrounding drivers – 303 traffic accidents occurred as of 2015, with the media reporting 423 deaths. This gives us a total of 2,437 deaths over five years as noted by KUNA – and many of the reported accidents were due to negligent driving due to excessive use of smartphones.

12-    Responsible consumption and production – Where we replace what we have taken, put back what we have taken from Earth.
Recycling is surprisingly difficult in Kuwait – there are companies here to assist with recycling; however keeping these companies sustained has been difficult. We need to regulate waste in Kuwait! There are recycling companies such as Omniya, Challenge the Era Co, Epic and Environment Friends. There also have been events from companies, like KNPC’s annual celebration regarding health, safety and the environment to recognize Kuwait’s growing need for a sustainable cycle.
The EPA was an agency here that tried to regulate this, but it has seemed to have died during the beginning of last year, with no more updates. Yes, there have been a lot more regulations, especially along beaches, but Kuwait is practically at its final step to make itself more sustainable and environmentally efficient – by making environment a priority. Bring all these companies into the mainstream.

13-    Climate action – We live in a world that fights climate change.
Still, there are ways we can improve. You see those roaring red clouds laced with nitrous oxide? How about all of that CO2 being emitted? We can easily combat this by reducing the number of cars on the road – Kuwait has been planning on building a metro, and after many reschedulings, the project finally starts this year. However, we as a community still need to push through to make this dream of an efficient transport system a reality.

14-    Life underwater – We restore life in our oceans and seas.

Now here is where it gets a bit worrisome for Kuwait. Kuwait has had a rich history with water, from the times where the sea provided us with fish and intricate pearls; and now it ships our main export – oil – to the rest of the world. Then why do we have sewage pipes leading directly into the sea? Why are our corals bleaching to their pale deaths?
Along the areas of Sulaibiya, Kuwait Towers and the free zone beaches, marine pollution is extremely evident in the form of dumping of various kinds of solid waste such as industrial, construction, ship waste and litter that includes unrecyclable plastic and treated and untreated sewage waters, in addition to oil leaking from ships and boats.

What is frightening is the fact that many hospitals in the health zone in Shuwaikh that directly overlook the sea have been dumping their waste (usually contaminated with bacteria and microbes after treating infectious diseases and epidemics) directly into this beautiful abyss. This also leads to bad odors that have spoiled people’s enjoyment of the sea.
This marine pollution has created unprecedented damage to marine life such as ‘red tide’ resulting from pouring sewage into the sea amidst high temperatures and humidity that eventually led to a lack of oxygen in the water, and as a result, the death of fish. Most recently, large quantities of oysters and crabs were found dead at Khairan’s beaches.
It gets worse from here – we are importing bottlenose dolphins for a project here in Kuwait for entertainment.
However, we can change all this step-by-step – for one, the dolphins can be prevented from being held captive here through signing the petition “Say no to dolphins” on the care2 website. Whilst fines have been imposed to put a handle on this problem, with bins lining the beaches of Kuwait – we can see that the government has tried very hard to put a hold to this issue; now it’s up to us as people to make a change.

15-    Life on land – We restore and protect life on land, flora and fauna.
With the laws recently enforced in Kuwait regarding environmental control, rubbish is a lot more regulated now than ever in Kuwait. Sure, it may not seem like there is much to Kuwait’s fauna because of the land (which prompted the growth of biohydro in Kuwait), and this year there was a territorial dispute with Iraq over land. However, there are 25 mammal species in Kuwait, of which none are critically endangered, one is endangered, four are vulnerable, and one is near-threatened. One of the species can no longer be found in the wild. The Arabian leopard is critically endangered in Kuwait. And which is the extinct species? It’s the Saudi gazelle, which was declared extinct back in 2008.
Organizations like PAWS, K’S PATH and KAREQ8 in Kuwait are helping feral animals in the country – but just like the environmental problem, making these organizations a lot more mainstream would help the cause. It is very difficult to find trends for flora in Kuwait due to a lack of it. However, this does not mean that flora has to be native. Kuwait has grown many decorative plants, namely date palms and hedges all around the country. A forest could be grown or a company could be founded that installs green roofs in Kuwait.

16-    Peace, justice, and strong institutions – Where all governments are open and answer to justice, with everyone equal under its rule.
This is a key issue for people’s day-to-day lives in Kuwait. Being an expat is quite difficult here. How do I know? Well, just having a look at some of the most recent articles all refer to the silenced voices of expats – and what is even more frightening is that there are even more that are kept quiet due to ‘social inadequacies’. With new proposals now of taxing expats by up to 5 percent, the power of expats has been continuously decreasing over the years. This simply has to change.

17-    Partnerships for the goal – Where countries and people work together in harmony, under all different kinds of hardships to complete these goals.
Kuwait is a beautiful example of harmony in the world. Ranking 19th in the world’s most charitable countries (not surprising since we have organizations such as the Red Crescent), it has maintained strong ties to all countries around the world. However, more effectively is to lure it away from politics and try to find peace with relations in day-to-day life. A large step forward is lifting visa restrictions on countries such as Pakistan – which ultimately strengthened the ties between the two countries. Doing so with migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran will be welcomed as well.
This relationship is based on trust and to fight the common enemy – Islamic State. According to Business Insider, a new report finds the IS caliphate “is on a path to collapse”. Some of these efforts have been from Kuwait and its multitude of allies, with plans by the US to send 1,000 troops here to fend IS off. Kuwait has also collectively with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar given aid to Syrian refugees, amounting to over $2.3 billion, which further proves Kuwait’s strength to help out on the global field.
The only way Kuwait can help now is, despite its vulnerability, open up borders for Syrian refugees and provide for them, so they can join our growing community. Another way is to grant more power to expats as well. All in all, a good job!
Achieving these goals will need everyone’s participation and involvement, including you. Where? In your own backyard of course! Your home. This is a plan to be completed by everyone, and no one can be left behind. We have 13 years left – let’s make these years count! Let’s make it happen!

Here are the specifics on the Global Goals

By Sana Kalim

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