For Sale: The Kuwaiti Dream

January 29, 2009 by  


By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

q8pride With America facing the worse economic crisis it has ever seen, the so-called ‘American Dream’ is a rapidly fading illusion that has already turned into a nightmare for those Americans who bought into it in the first place. Things are only set to get worse as America, today, faces a depression that will take years rebound from.

Things are, however, a bit rosier across the Mediterranean in many Middle Eastern countries courtesy of surplus oil revenues and a booming construction industry. In Kuwait, specifically, things always seem to be looking up for the Kuwaiti nationals who are seemingly ensconced in a bubble that neither recession nor inflation can burst. In Kuwait, it’s not only the wealthy that benefit from the free-flowing ‘black gold’ that drenches the land beneath this tiny Gulf state. Ever since oil was first discovered in Kuwait in 1938, the ruling family has ensured that its citizens are well taken care of straight from the cradle to the grave.

From the moment a Kuwaiti child is born, they have a golden spoon in their mouths regardless of what their parent’s socioeconomic status. The government of Kuwait provides free health care for life and free education, from elementary school all the way to college, for all Kuwaiti Citizens. Families also receive a monthly social allowance, which is based upon the number of children there are in the family. So, having more children is not a burden, but rather a viable way to receive more money. Each Kuwaiti child receives approximately $275 a month, every month, until they turn 18. The allowance is not a welfare system, as even children from wealthy Kuwaiti families receive it. Rather it is a way for the government of Kuwait to extend a helping hand to its own people. And as if all of those benefits of being a Kuwaiti were not enough, citizens also get a lump sum of cash in the amount of $12,000 when they get married and a free house is thrown in too!

Most Kuwaiti citizens live a life of shopping in the priciest boutiques, dining on the finest meals available in the country and traveling around the globe whenever the mood strikes. However, things are not the same for the expatriate community, which comprises a whopping 65% of the population of Kuwait. Many expatriates often lead a hand to mouth existence as the rate of inflation continuously soars while salaries remain the same. There are no governmental perks for expatriates. Quite the contrary, expatriates are financially harassed around the clock as fees for rent, health care and private education rises every year. Expatriates in Kuwait live a life as a traveler with their suitcase always ready to go back ‘home’ even if they were born in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti nationality is based upon bloodlines and has nothing to do with being born in the country. All expatriates must register their children born in Kuwait as ‘births abroad’ at their own embassies. Since non-Kuwaitis are forbidden from buying land in the country, expatriates have difficulty establishing roots in Kuwait even if they have spent their entire lives here.

However, for a sparse few expatriates, attaining the Kuwaiti citizenship is possible due to a recent article in the nationality law that states anyone who entered the country prior to 1955 can apply for the Kuwaiti nationality. However, the process is long and hard with many applicants expecting to wait years before their own ‘Kuwait Dream’ can begin. Their impatience has resulted in a new business opportunity for a few clever Kuwaiti citizens who are selling spots on the nationality lists for hundred of thousands of dollars. “I was minding my own business when a Kuwaiti citizen came into my shop,” says Mohamed Atif, “He said that he could get me on the list if I paid the equivalent of $30,000, which I do not have.” The Kuwaiti government has been vigilant in rooting out those citizens who would attempt to profit from the nationality law and prosecuting them to the full letter of the law.

While the American Dream may be harder and harder for most to accomplish, it is still attainable for anyone who works hard to make it into the ‘Land of the Free and Home of the Brave’ unlike in Kuwait where either blood or cold-hard cash are the determining factors of any dream worth dreaming.

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