‘Great misery’: Kuwait political crisis drags down economy

March 27, 2023

DUBAI: A seemingly never-ending political crisis is plunging oil-rich Kuwait´s economy into the mire, affecting basic services and causing mounting public concern.


Despite its large oil reserves, hospitals and educational services are in decay as squabbling paralyses the wealthy Gulf region´s only fully elected parliament. Ahmed al-Sarraf, a businessman and newspaper columnist, says his concerns are growing as the country falters.

“I feel great anxiety for my family, for the future of my grandchildren, for their education, and for my health,” the former banker told AFP. “This situation is generating great misery.” Kuwait, which borders Saudi Arabia and Iraq, is home to seven percent of the world´s crude reserves. It has little debt and one of the strongest sovereign wealth funds worldwide.

However, it suffers from constant stand-offs between elected lawmakers and cabinets installed by the ruling Al-Sabah family, which maintains a strong grip over political life, despite a parliamentary system in place since 1962. The stasis has prevented lawmakers from passing reforms to diversify the economy, while repeated budget deficits and low foreign investment have added to the air of gloom.

The latest twist came last month, when the constitutional court dissolved an opposition-controlled assembly over alleged electoral irregularities and reinstated the previous parliament. Kuwait´s parliament has now been dissolved around a dozen times in its 61-year history.

In January, Kuwait´s government resigned three months after it was sworn in due to disputes with lawmakers. It was the sixth government in just three years. Kuwait´s neighbours the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have managed to transform their desert nations into booming modern metropolises, largely thanks to oil wealth and foreign investment. Led by a new generation of rulers, they are stepping up projects to wean their hydrocarbon-centred economies away from oil.