Inequality: why it matters in Kuwait

Badar Al-Dehani

Badar Al-Dehani

The notion of inequality has dazzled me for at least five months now. In fact, it was after that one day when I decided to go visit my uncle, who lectures at Kuwait University, that I dug into the entire debate. The debate, well, is quite complex; it circles around the speed of the growth of wealth. This debate could be applied to any society in the world and, hence, is not limited to the situation of, say, Kuwait or France. Yet, to use the Kuwait and France example, it is more difficult to measure how unequal the society of the former is since Kuwait is not a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as is the case with France. An economically unequal society is worth analyzing since such inequality arguably contributes to expansion of the implication of various forms of inequality like that of the political and the educational. How unequal is the Kuwaiti society?

Thomas Piketty in Capital in the Twenty-First Century argues that the wealth of certain capital-owners grows quicker than general wealth – that of the state. That is, inequality dominates the scene when the rate of return on capital (or r) gradually grows quicker than the rate of growth of the economy (or g). Thomas Piketty portrays this in a formula that may seem simple from the outside but is actually quite complex from the inside: r > g. Professor Piketty, a lecturer at the Paris School of Economics, demonstrates how inequality has historically grown: A downfall of the rate of inequality, after a continuous rise, was witnessed from the post-war period until the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher took power. The rate of inequality today is as high as it has ever reached – and it will continue to increase until governments regulate their economies. Two questions should be tackled: Should governments regulate their economies and, if so, how much should governments regulate? Those two interlinked yet essential questions have, until recently, diverged the world into several ideological divisions.

Inequality in Kuwait is undoubtedly developed. This should be witnessed when travelling through different residential areas across Kuwait. Residential areas in Kuwait are arguably divided by the concentration and accumulation of wealth one household enjoys. How much wealth one household owns most likely determines where that household lives, though some other factors may also add to the complexity of the formula. Studying not only the rate of inequality in Kuwait but also how that rate came to be is of the interest of the majority of citizens. Inequality will be one of the greatest challenges Kuwait will face in the near future.

By Bader Al-Dehani

This article was published on 29/11/2015