Kuwait's foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, vowed Sunday that the government would push ahead with a program of economic reforms in cooperation with parliament. "The government is making serious and active efforts to implement the program of economic reforms," Sheikh Sabah told the official news agency KUNA. "In this, there is close cooperation between the executive and legislative powers."
"The economic reforms are inevitable and there is no alternative: the private sector must adopt its true role in development and Kuwaitis must change from consumers to producers," he said.
On November 5, the cabinet formed a special committee to oversee economic reforms in the oil-rich emirate, where the public sector contributes more than 75 percent of the gross domestic product. The committee is headed by Sheikh Sabah and includes several ministers and private sector figures.
More than 93 percent of Kuwait's 220,000-strong indigenous work force are employed in the government where they receive high salaries, lucrative benefits, generous time off and practically no accountability. The private sector, meanwhile, is dominated by expatriates.
A host of economic draft bills including privatization and foreign investment are on the agenda of parliament, which reconvened in October. Although the government insists it will press on with reforms, local economists have said a recorded surplus was likely to slow reforms and liberalization, citing past examples of when high oil income rolls in.
Kuwaiti citizens — only a third of the 2.2 million population — enjoy a cradle-to-grave welfare system. — (AFP, Kuwait City)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)