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Food and tenders

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan

The biggest business news last week was the sale of the locally-created Talabat for KD 50 million. Here is a good example of a few young Kuwaiti entrepreneurs who came up with an idea and developed it and grew it into a truly valuable business model. The news shows that our youth have great potential if they are given the right platform. In other words, if they are given the support and access to doing business.

Unfortunately our financial hub is really more of a financial snub. It is extremely difficult for young Kuwaitis to set up their own businesses from home. Regulations do not allow them to be self-employed unless they already have the financial backing that sets them on their way.

For example, a computer programmer in almost any country in the world can work from home and develop programs or do networking for small to medium-sized businesses. However in Kuwait, in order for him to work and be licensed, he will be required to rent an office in an area that is approved by the government as a commercial area - even if he doesn't need a location or any equipment other than his computer. Then he needs probably KD 30,000 (more than $100,000) as bank guarantee, which is near impossible for the average fresh graduate. Many people in the world could retire with $100,000, never mind setting up a new business.

Then our erstwhile young man would have to go through a slow, daunting, bureaucratic system that involves the Ministry of Commerce, the Municipality, the Fire Department and God knows what other departments and ministries that have nothing to do with this young man's self-employed business. It's no wonder why so many enthusiastic young people are put off by the labyrinthine regulations that seem to be created more to discourage rather than encourage them to build their own business.

Small and medium-sized businesses are key to the growth and development of any economy. They support innovation and efficiency and help encourage creativity and new ideas. Unfortunately here in Kuwait, it seems that everyone has their eyes on the big government tenders which only a handful of companies can effectively compete for. But the little guys are mired in the muck of government regulations, limited to no opportunities and few options beyond working for someone else or investing their time, energy, money and ideas abroad. Even the new 'small and medium enterprise' funding programs that are being set up do not address the bureaucratic problems. Instead they offer limited support in exchange for a share of the youth's hard work and ideas.

Kuwait desperately needs to create a market for these small business owners away from public spending, the oil sector and the government's money. But with an economically locked-up country, it seems that food and tenders are the only thing the government cares to promote.

By Abd Al Rahman Alyan
Editor-in-Chief

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This article was published on 15/02/2015