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50 years from now

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan

Among the most notable of ideas to come out of the Government Summit 2015 in Dubai this week was those presented by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan. During his keynote address, Sheikh Mohammed urged the Emirates to encourage its "human talent' and to look to education and not oil for the country's future.

I couldn't agree more. But this opens a debate. How many Gulf countries are actually capable of sustaining themselves without oil? In all honesty, none of them. The truth is that the entire region lives on oil reserves. None of the Gulf countries have true and developed manufacturing industries, with perhaps the exception of Saudi Arabia. None of them have a tourism industry with the exception of Dubai and Makkah for religious purposes. None of them have enough highly educated and technically skilled local people.

Education is paramount in every aspect of life. Whether you are building an economy or creating a stable political environment, education is the key to development and prosperity. Having an educated society would create the conditions for economic and business innovation and promote research and development in ways to sustain the country away from natural resources.

Some are working on it, some are nearly there. The UAE and Qatar are now hosting international events, building research and knowledge centers and improving their educational system, medical field, human talent and building tourism industries and finance sectors. Saudi Arabia has its factories, and has been focusing a lot lately on building its educational system and universities. Saudi Arabia has even begun addressing its social issues and responding to societal needs rather than just trying to keep things the same.

Unfortunately, Kuwait seems to be falling behind in all these matters. It's a known fact that Kuwait's educational system is grossly outdated and inadequate and has deteriorated, and the illiteracy level has increased.

Even when thinking of investing money in the country, official statements are very discouraging. Every other government announcement says 'our budget is going bankrupt' or 'our security is under threat' or we will remove government subsidies on a certain commodity, which obviously will make life more expensive. These are all discouraging actions, even for local investors. Certain policies and statements seem to be made without thought of the consequences or the reaction from the market. Every diwaniya you go to in Kuwait seems to be complaining of the lack of action and the lack of economic development and opportunities.

We look to our brotherly GCC neighbors and we feel proud of their successes. But we also ask: Why not Kuwait? Where does our future lie? And how will we survive without oil? It's time to start planning now for where we want to be 50 years down the road.

By Abd Al Rahman Alyan

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This article was published on 10/02/2015