Monday, April 14, 2008

My education in Kuwait

I had a particularly enriching discussion about life in Kuwait this morning. Time is short, so I shall get down to details straight:
1. The government does not tax Kuwaitis or any resident for that matter.
2. However, Kuwaitis get several advantages - free healthcare and schooling among them.
3. They also receive a KD 70,000 grant from the government when they want to build a house.
4. They get special marriage gifts from the government and also gets child allowance, KD 100 per month per child.
5. The government guarantees a Public sector job for every Kuwaiti.

[To add a sense of perspective, 1 Kuwaiti Dinar is approximately £2 or $4]

The list went on and on. Pretty amazing - more welfare state than Soviet Union ever was, I bet! In fact, the government made an windfall this year from surging oil prices, so made a grant of KD 200 for all Kuwaitis and waived all their Electricity and Gas bills. For everyone!!

Not unlike the other gulf states, this is truly citizenship heaven. Though others dont have similar rights. The domestic helps are regularly raped and beaten. In fact, I was told that the government would now discourage getting domestic help from Africa - which they started promoting when Indian and filipino governments became increasingly concerned about the plights of their citizens - as Africans are proving too strong and hurting their employers when they try to rape them!! The menial workers, mostly expats, continue to live in abject poverty, much like Dubai, and the situation is getting worse with runaway inflation.

I will have to go now, but I guess I invite every apologist of capitalism to visit countries like Kuwait. All the talk of abundant opportunities and democratic choices, dignity of work etc can sound very hollow when one sees this Capitalism in action! It is indeed a showcase - Bentleys and Aston Martins all over the road - of Capitalism's achievements and Capitalism's limits.

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