Kuwait’s development goals: Looking beneath the surface

Photo of Kuwait City seen from Salmiya with the Green Island in the foreground. — Kuna

At times, it is not anger that motivates us. Sometimes it’s just acknowledging how far we have come in terms of progress. And we have come quite far. Countries all over the globe have made a set of goals, coming up with a very ambitious list. The targets matter. The Sustainable Development Goals are for a better tomorrow, for everyone. And here they are in all their glory:

1-    No poverty: Nobody anywhere should live in a way where survival is their only option day in and day out – and feel like they are only alive hoping for a day of freedom that never arrives.
Kuwait has a budget surplus of $13 billion with $52,197 being the GDP per capita (the amount of money per person in Kuwait), so poverty isn’t an issue, right?  However, 500,000 citizens live in rented houses. Moreover, 106,000 people have applied for a government-provided house and are still waiting. This refers to the 10th goal of Kuwait – inequality within citizens – as money hasn’t been dispersed between each and every individual equally.

Most organizations such as WHO or UNICEF refer to Kuwait as having an insignificant amount of poverty. However, online blogs and Q&A websites suggest otherwise. Columnist Thaar Al-Rashidi has claimed that 90 percent of Kuwait’s citizens are poverty-stricken, even with high salaries. He went on to say that the problem is that rents are too high, installment payments are too high and there are in general “soaring prices right under the government’s nose and with its consensus”. “In fact, we are experiencing intentional poverty on the last 15 days of each month!” he concluded. All in all, poverty depends on the individual you ask in Kuwait, or maybe we have all been spoilt by the wealth of Kuwait.

2-    Zero hunger: No one shall wake up wondering whether or not they will have food today.
Just like money, Kuwait also has a surplus of food imports. Especially with the Amiri grant in 2011, it is clear that we have more than enough food! Thank God that we haven’t had a hunger issue within Kuwait. Obesity levels within the country have been rising, proof being that Kuwait is the 4th ‘fattest’ country in the world! We know this because Kuwait has the highest rate of stomach stapling surgeries, after which people still continue with their unhealthy diets – just at a lower amount. In a more positive light, there have been more walking paths built, and I have seen a lot more people playing during sporting events, which is very prideful to see!

3-    Access to good health and wellbeing: We shall live in a world where no child dies of diseases we know how to cure, and healthcare is a lifelong right for everyone.
Continuing on from the second goal – the only major health issue within Kuwait is obesity, respiratory problems and a rising rate of mental health problems. According to a report from the European University Institute, more than four out of every 10 Kuwaitis are affected by obesity – the highest rate in the world. Another health problem is the degradation of the lungs. Respiratory problems come from a multitude of sources – from the dusty environment of Kuwait now with the addition of smoke particles, or just the population smoking a lot due to culture (shisha), habit or depression.
According to an article by Muna Al-Fuzai on the ‘Health situation in Kuwait’, she discusses a report by KUNA called ‘Social Cohesion: National Pillar’ and states: “It is certainly sad that in spite of massive spending on healthcare that exceeds KD 5 billion, a shortage of beds and tired facilities as well as many other obstacles are hindering the healthy development of the country.” She goes on to state that the government spent around KD 17 billion during the 2015/16 fiscal year, so a clear increase in healthcare spending has been shown. Good job Kuwait, but keep on going!

4-    Quality education: Where proper education provides us with a fulfilling life.
Quality education within Kuwait is quite remarkable in contrast to neighboring regions. As of 2006, 13 percent of all government expenditure had been used for quality education. The country houses some of the most remarkable university institutes in the world, and 94 percent of the population is educated, with efforts from the ministry to incorporate women into the system. It’s all wonderful – however, what about people who have learning disabilities? What about expats whose children have learning disabilities?

5-    Gender Equality: Where both men and women have an equal opportunity to be safe, to live and be powerful. We cannot succeed when half the world is silent.
Stats from UNICEF indicate that on gender equality, Kuwait was ranked 105 in the world as of 2010, with continued support year after year to bring more women into the workforce, with over 80 percent women entering secondary school compared to over 77 percent of men. But we only have 45 percent of women entering the labor market, versus an overwhelming 83 percent of men, so where are our women? Our maternity leaves are 70 days long with 100 percent wages covered, which is one of the highest in the world. This may just be due to the tradition here in Kuwait, where mothers have to stay at home to take care of children, whilst men go out and work.

6-    Clean water and sanitation: Where everyone can get clean water at home, at school and at work.
The population with access to safe water is around 99 percent percent, and this has stayed consistent for the past 10 years. Moreover, sanitation is present to 100 percent of the population for the previous years – no improvement required here!

7-    Affordable and clean energy: We live in a world where there is sustainable energy for everyone. There is heat, light and power for the whole world. Without destroying the planet.
Kuwait is on record for raising carbon dioxide emissions by over 34 percent from 2004 to 2013. According to the IEA, Kuwait was the 9th top exporter of oil in 2009. An aim for 2030 is to ensure that 15 percent of the country’s consumption is from renewable energy resources such as solar or wind – to lead us away from harmful, non-renewable sources as agreed upon by an environmental council which included the Director General of Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) Samira Ahmad Omar and former Education Minister Bader Hamad Al-Essa in April 2016.
Here is where I stop, for the list has started to morph into a lengthy essay! In Kuwait, we have developed year after year at an astonishing rate – it’s always helpful to look back at our growth as a nation to find points to improve upon. Let’s make it happen!

Here are the specifics on the Global Goals:
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

By Sana Kalim

This article was published on 20/04/2017