THE TIMES KUWAIT REPORT
A day after taking their constitutional oath before His Highness the Amir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Council of Ministers held their first cabinet meeting at the Seif Palace on 18 January. At its onset, the meeting, chaired by His Highness the Prime Minister Dr. Sheikh Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah reviewed the speech by His Highness the Amir to the National Assembly on 20 December.
In a profound address to parliament following his constitutional oath-taking ceremony, His Highness the Amir stressed his keenness on maintaining national unity and working for the progress, development and prosperity of the homeland, as well as expressed his abiding commitment to religious, national and constitutional constants.
He called for a heightened focus on strengthening governance, enhancing accountability, combating corruption, and applying the law equally to everyone in pursuit of effective governance. His Highness also reiterated his deep respect for the constitution and the law, and warned against negligence and tampering with the interest of citizens and the homeland.
The cabinet in its first meeting also heard from His Highness the Prime Minister, who thanked the ministers for accepting national responsibility, and the burden of government actions that will aim to gain the confidence of His Highness the Amir and the Kuwaiti people. In his address to cabinet colleagues the premier also outlined the policies and priorities that would guide the government going forward.
In line with the advice provided by His Highness the Amir in his earlier speech, the prime minister reiterated his commitment to maintaining the State’s prestige and enhancing confidence in government performance through respecting and enforcing the law on all in a just and transparent way. He also called for combating corruption and applying a reward, punishment, and accountability approach to all.
Pointing out that Kuwait had begun a new era, and an exceptional phase in the path of national action, he added that confronting the prevailing regional and international challenges would require a new thinking and a modern approach. He urged his cabinet colleagues to focus on developing public services and infrastructure, reviewing laws to enhance legislative reforms, as well as giving momentum to construction and development in the country.
The premier also called for elevating Kuwait’s status regionally and internationally, preparing a government action program based on Kuwait’s Vision 2035 and protecting the Kuwaiti family. In addition, he underlined the need to restructure the state’s apparatus, and launch national strategies for digital transformation and leadership excellence, as well as strengthen the national economy and ensure food and water security.
The prime minister affirmed that one of the government’s priorities, during the next stage, would be to present a vision about the future of economy and investment in Kuwait, with a view to maximizing value added to the national economy and focusing on logistics, digital and knowledge services’ sectors. He added, it envisages developing the northern region to be an international hub for providing solutions and transformative services to promote regional trade.
Sheikh Mohammad Sabah said that implementing these policies and plans would require each minister to assume his responsibilities towards implementing strategic objectives during the next stage, and reviewing all legislations, policies, plans, decision-making mechanisms, as well as restructuring government agencies concerned with economic matters to meet requirements of the next stage.
Commenting on the Premier’s speech, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Acting Minister of Interior Sheikh Fahad Yousef Saud Al-Sabah emphasized that the ministers remain dedicated to their responsibility towards the country and the political leadership. He underlined the need to work on the requirements of the next phase and achieve government solidarity as well as exert diligent efforts, while adhering to provisions of the constitution and consolidating the state of law.
“In line with the directives of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and the instructions of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, the government would work on achieving the aspirations of citizens by improving the country’s public services and pushing ahead development and reform in all fields,” said Sheikh Fahad Saud Al-Sabah.
There are a host of challenges facing the new ministers as they take charge of their ministries and related entities. From projects to develop infrastructure and utilities to improving quality of education, finding gainful employment for a growing youth population, and implementing social, administrative, financial and economic reforms, the government will have to find solutions that have evaded positive outcomes for far too long.
A major issue for the government would be filling the senior posts that have been lying vacant for quite a while in various ministries and institutions. The ministers will also need to resolve the festering issue of salary discrepancies that exist between similar job profiles in different ministries, which underpins the move by some employees to seek transfer to other ministries.
Transfers and appointments made by the previous government had been stopped through an Amiri decision last year. In his speech to the National Assembly after taking his constitutional oath, on 20 December last year, His Highness the Amir had pointed out that legislators and the government had a collective responsibility not to take decisions that would be harmful to the nation.
His Highness the Amir had cited unfair appointments, naturalizations that “change Kuwait’s identity”, the amnesty file “and its consequences”, and the rehabilitation file, as decisions that were “evidence of the harm to the interests of the nation”. He had added, “Therefore, we issued a decision to stop the appointments and transfer of people between jobs, and the rest of the files will be addressed to serve the interest of the nation”.
In line with addressing ‘other files’, the new government is also likely to revisit the ‘nationality file’, as well as some of the more contentious decisions taken by the previous cabinet. To make a clean break from the past the new government needs a fresh narrative. It needs a mission-oriented approach in implementing clearly defined plans and policies that drive sustainable economic growth and development in a time-bound manner. The government will need to make economic diversification the central plank of its growth strategy and promote greater private sector engagement.
Aligning public sector priorities and private sector interests will allow the government to crowd-in investments in productive and innovative non-oil projects that spur cross-sectoral economic activity. A result-oriented public-private investment strategy could lead to creation of innovative new jobs, empower the national cadre by developing and upskilling their latent capabilities, and ensure all-around productivity gains that are in the interests of the nation and citizens.
With 11 out of 14 ministers being new entrants to the cabinet and half of them holding a Phd, the council of ministers this time around is clearly tilted towards academics and fresh faces. While this is certainly a welcome change, whether the novelty of the cabinet line-up, or their academic qualifications and experience will equip the executive arm of government to tide over a parliamentary process that has over the years become an often chaotic environment, only the weeks ahead will reveal.
In the meantime, we wish the new government the very best in its endeavors to forge a new era of stability and growth for Kuwait and its people.