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Kuwait Transparency: Corruption, Political Instability Obstacles to Development

Salah Mohammad Alghazali's picture
Also available in: العربية
Prior to Kuwait’s independence on June 19, 1961, it had experienced periods of political instability. It had been the hope that turning into a state and adopting a constitution would end the political chaos and serve as a catalyst for Kuwait’s development.

Kuwait’s modern history, however, reveals that decisions taken immediately after independence sought to tackle the issues present at the time. But new issues arose, in some cases they were the same old issues taking a different form. The political crises since independence confirm this fact. For example: Between January, 1962, and January 2014, 34 governments were formed at a rate of one government every 18.3 months. This is -not counting cabinet reshuffles.

This political situation has had a clear negative impact on Kuwait’s social, cultural and economic development.

In 2004, local and international indicators pointed to the spread of corruption. Kuwait ranked 35 on the corruption index in 2003. In 2004, this rank dropped to 44 on Transparency International’s index (in 2014, Kuwait ranked 67).

When we established the Kuwait Transparency Society in 2005, the goal was to encourage transparency and integrity, to combat corruption, and ratify the right to access information. All these are requirements to fulfill the basic human rights each citizen should exercise.  All states must strive for development, ensuring that its citizens enjoy the best possible ‘life with dignity’ given their current context.  If we do not strengthen integrity and combat corruption, development will be the first victim.

Given this diagnosis we carried out, we reached a number of conclusions:
  • No development with corruption: Development plans cannot be executed in an environment where high levels of administrative and financial corruption are rampant.
  • No stability with democratic chaos:
  •  Countries cannot enjoy stability and have its institutions,  and social and economic powers focused on development without a stable democratic regime that enjoys the support of a social consensus. 
  • An integrated governance strategy:  If we opt for good governance – transparency, integrity, fighting corruption and their positive results – integrated reforms must be applied across all sectors and levels of administration. Administrative and financial reforms cannot be enacted with widespread political corruption.
  • Harmony between the ruling establishment and the citizens: The State of Kuwait is a monarchy, headed by an emir, and the constitution outlines the process to amend it for more progress. This takes place through consensus between the Emir and parliament. Therefore, those parties must come to agreement to achieve reform: a seemingly difficult and long path. But it is easier and more effective than experiences in other countries that were formed without consensus among the relevant players.
We have summarized the process of reform and good governance, the ultimate goal of any state, in the following figure:
Integrity and democracy represent two sides of the triangle, which mainly contribute to development and progress for any state and society. Development is the objective of any good governance which provides a favorable climate to attract capital and further investment.
 Kuwait Transparency Society (KTS) took initiative and presented a vision to increase political stability, achieve development, advance democratic values; and reform the state civil service through partnerships with government, legislators,  civil society and activists.

To this end, KTS has developed an ambitious program to enhance democracy and further reforms. Its most important achievements include, the enactment of a law in 2012 establishing the General Anti-Corruption Authority, requiring senior officials' financial disclosure statements, and protecting whistleblowers, witnesses and victims of corruption. KTS has hosted international observers for the legislative elections, and has over the past six years held campaigns to rally support for draft bills it has developed, such as the conflict of interests and code of conduct, the law of transparency and regulating the access to information, and the law on hiring in senior positions.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Bank

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