While the nations of the world community struggle and strain in creating an economic, social and medical response to the coronavirus attack there is one nation which has been the most successful and generous in its response to its citizens. In addition to the provision of expert medical care, with a sufficiency of masks, PPE and respirators, the Government of Kuwait has also engaged in a broad and successful program to stabilise the economy and to create a giant safety net for its citizens. In a cabinet meeting on April 1 the Government proposed a path to protecting and assisting the nation with a comprehensive program in addition to the continuation of its shelter policies of three weeks ago they have agreed a social and economic program. They created a committee of experts from all areas, interests and regions of the country to plan a response to the challenges. These 82 experts suggested a plan. Which has been adopted. According to the minutes of the decision:
The report clarified the basic principles that were based on presenting the team’s perceptions, which were represented in:
1. Protecting public capital and rationalizing its use in the interest of the public, while emphasizing that these measures are to ensure the continued rotation of the economic activity, and not to compensate companies or individuals.
2. Commitment to full transparency in the implementation and follow-up of procedures.
3. Ensuring social protection for citizens.
4. Maintaining the national employees’ conditions in the private sector and increasing their numbers.
5. Investing the proposed measures in support of structural reforms of the economy.
6. Providing various ways of support and facilities subject to commitment to the requirements of national economy structural reforms.
In this regard, the report examined a number of measures aimed at social protection, including:
1. Ensure the safety of the citizens working in the sectors affected by the repercussions of the crisis.
2. Maintaining the necessary support to maintain stability in the levels and prices of food and medical commodities in local markets.
3. Establishing a mechanism to secure the minimum income that ensures facing the cost of living for workers affected by the current crisis and linked to contracts.
4. Support the salaries of those registered under Chapter 5 in social security in the affected sectors.
5. Assist owners of small, medium, industrial and agricultural projects by postponing the installments funded by the National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprises Development and the agricultural finance portfolio in the Industrial Bank.
6. Providing loans on concessional and long terms to small and medium enterprises, through joint financing from local banks and the National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Development.
7. Providing soft and long-term loans on the affected companies and clients, provided by local banks.
8. Postponing the share of business owners in the private and oil sectors not fully owned by the state from the monthly contributions due to the Public Institution for Social Security for a period of six months, in addition to postponing the payment of the monthly contributions due to the insured in accordance with the provisions of Chapter Five of the Social Security Law for a period of six months, as well Postponing the deduction of the replacement part of the retirement pension according to Article 77 of the Law for a period of six months.
9. Payment of the retirement pension on the assumption that what the law permits is not disbursed in advance for cases that have benefited from the provision of Article 112 of the Social Security Law for a period of six months, provided that the legal instrument necessary to implement this decision is specified.
10. Provide government exemptions to the affected economic institutions in the productive sectors and the cooperative societies from some government fees and dues if these exemptions are reflected on their clients with the same value.
11. Instruct government bodies to expedite routine work cycle to pay the obligations due to the private sector as quickly as possible.”[i]
In addition there are a number of co-operative societies which provide food and medicines to the expatriate population, in addition to the private companies. These have now expanded their home delivery services for food and medicines. To avoid price-gauging and exploitation the co-operatives and the private sector buy at a daily public auctions and then distribute to their storehouses before delivering to their shops and to the customers who get home deliveries. The cooperative societies has allocated cars for providing nursing services to the people in the region who suffer from chronic diseases and the elderly so that they do not have to visit the clinics. They take a nurse from the dispensary home to the homes of the patients and the elderly. The home delivery service of medicines from the main hospital and the health centres of the region was launched with the cooperation of Kuwait Fire Service Directorate. They also provide a free basket of dairy products and derivatives free of charge on a weekly basis from the Kuwaiti Dairy Company (KDCow), which is a local company that provides fresh products. The home delivery service was launched during the curfew and works from 6 pm to 12 am. The items allowed to be purchased during the curfew period include milk and its derivatives, rice, pasta, baked goods, baby supplies, tissue paper, water, sugar, salt, detergents, vegetables and fruits in cartons, with commitment to quantities for the main items at a maximum of three pieces of each item.[ii]
There have been many expatriates who wish to go home to their own countries. The Kuwait government has agreed to pay for their flights home and for their preparations. This includes foreign labourers seeking to go home. The Kuwait government has guaranteed the wages for all its citizens. It has also set up a program for bring back to Kuwait its citizens who wish to return. The government pays their air fare and, when they arrive in Kuwait, the families are housed in sealed area of houses by the beach where they stay for two weeks quarantine at the government’s expense.
There is a lovely video which shows the extent of Kuwaiti welcome home. A family returned to Kuwait and was moved from the airport to a hotel before being allocated a house for quarantine. As the family filled in the papers the staff of the hotel noticed the little girl who arrived was having her ninth birthday, After her family took her to the room in the hotel, they heard a knock on the door and saw that the hotel staff had a small birthday cake and greeting from the staff. Worth watching.