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Kuwait explores reform with youth

The country has tasked three men with exploring reform among the youth...

May 9, 2013 9:47 by



Officials like Sheikh Mohammad, an influential member of the younger generation of the Al-Sabah family, are acutely aware of the threat posed by this lack of diversification, diplomats and political analysts say.

The younger officials may also be amenable to modest political reforms to ease long-running tensions between the hand-picked government and elected parliament, which are seen to be among the main factors holding up development, they say.

Education Minister Hajraf, who observers say is determined to overhaul the lagging education system, was CEO at an Abu Dhabi real estate company and worked as a financial advisor to Kuwait’s stock exchange before going into government.

He studied at the University of Illinois and completed a doctorate in accounting at Britain’s Hull University.

Saleh, the commerce and industry minister, worked for several financial companies in Kuwait after studying business administration at the University of Portland.

Sheikh Mohammad, the son of a well-known female Kuwaiti poet and a former deputy ruler, like his colleagues speaks almost flawless English thanks to his studies in Britain.

He favours an informal style, especially when meeting young Kuwaitis. At a recent youth conference, he applauded Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah’s decision to relax the dress code, no longer requiring that ministers wear the formal “bisht” cloak over their everyday white robes.

“I was told, no, don’t wear it; the prime minister is not wearing it, and I was very happy to hear that,” he said.

The young ministers have the ear of the prime minister, who selected them for his cabinet, although their influence on major policymaking is not thought to be comparable to the emir’s close advisors.

“These guys absolutely get it,” another Kuwait-based diplomat said. “They understand the need for reform, particularly on the business side.”

HOUSING AND BUREAUCRACY

This younger generation has contributed to attempts to address the housing shortage and curb the bureaucracy that has held up investment – top concerns for young Kuwaitis today.

A report from the Oxford Business Group said in April that the waiting list for government-subsidised housing has grown to more than 100,000 in a country of 1.2 million Kuwaitis with access to generous welfare benefits.

The government hopes to remedy the shortage with new developments.



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