I would like to talk to you about the SME [small and medium enterprises] Fund and the effects IT will have on employment and youth. When you addressed the human development forum in 2014, you spoke of the need to build effective human capital. Can you elaborate on what that means specifically for Kuwait? Did you mean in relation to education, healthcare, or another field?
Specifically for education, our aim within the plan is to increase employment within the private sector for three reasons: First, we would like to minimize the first chapter of the budget, which is increasing with the growth of salaries and numbers of employment within the government. Second, working in the private sector permits you to learn work ethics, such as respect for time and information. If you intend to approach education with the goal of becoming a leader within the government, you will have a different mindset. Finally, there are huge opportunities within the private sector, but there is also a fear that comes with working in the private sector. We need to minimize the population of Kuwait; currently, the population is made up of two-thirds non-Kuwaitis, which is not good. We have not trained them with all the qualifications that the private sector needs. It’s not just education; it’s a form of investment in the future. We have to invest in training, education, and qualifications to build on their understanding of work and how they can develop their country. There is the health aspect too—we must have healthy people. Each person here in Kuwait is responsible for the overall development plan; it is not only the government.
How do you effectively get that message across?
We use a strong relationship process; for example, we are implementing planning and strategy within the universities and schools that we then monitor. We use social media to educate people about the intentions of the plan, how it is important for their future and about what the plan entails more specifically.
Is there a consensus among you at the ministry, the university, and the private sector? Are you all on the same page about the necessities demanded by the private sector to coordinate your effort?
This is one of the goals within our plan. We have a committee in the Councils of Ministries, of which I am head, to reinforce the necessary needs within the private sector. This will not be achieved in a year but it is the foundation for change.
Many people internationally see Kuwait as being extremely rich due to its oil, and therefore equate it with having no social or development challenges. How do you respond to this?
Social matters are not dependent solely on money. How can we make everyone happy? Receiving money without working for it is not right. We have conducted a study with the World Bank in which we rewarded social bonuses for women over fifty-five, and now we are trying to create working environments in which those women can make things and make money from their work. From my position within the ministry I have to work with the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] to maximize their efforts as they are faster than us, have unique ideas, and are from the society themselves. I am working with them in each sector to raise awareness about what we need legally and financially.
In March 2013, the parliament approved a new law to establish a national fund for the SMEs. What are your expectations for implementation of this plan and what is the anticipated timeline for executing it?
SMEs, up to 80 percent involves working with the youth, who want everything quickly. I am responsible for the labor authority; in February 2014, I opened a special department for them. Kuwaiti SMEs don’t necessarily need finance; they need help in areas of initiating licenses quickly, labor, and so forth. Since February, the SMEs in that department have been growing. There are now around three hundred and they are all growing to medium-sized businesses. When they maximize, they open up job opportunities for others. We are going through all the channels to speed up the license process and minimize the cost. We need to focus on this process across all ministries. Regarding the tenders, we must offer them to these SMEs for outsourcing to help them grow. We must offer the opportunity for them to maximize their work outside of Kuwait, in trading products and so on. If we work together as a government, we can help the growth process. The youth is the engine behind these progressions; they lead developments through speed, efficiency, and technology.
As a government, who is leading the understanding between all the ministries in order to achieve results of progress and efficiency?
There is a committee within the cabinet led by the ministry of foreign affairs. Sheikh Mohammed is responsible for computerizing the whole process. We are helping him from our own departments.
How has the current Kuwait Development Plan changed from the previous one?
The first plan did not focus on the policy and the goals to be obtained; it only put in place projects. We must match each project with the required policy and goals. We have implemented a daily follow-up to maximize the implementation. Each project affects others so we must look at the output of each. We must focus on the megaprojects to expand other areas. We used to adopt a top-down approach based on targets; there was a lack on implementation and understanding. We needed target-driven planning in which the implementer has autonomy.
Is there a central goal to the plan or do they work in tandem?
In the plan, we have five goals and over two hundred policies. What we propose we later have to implement, so there is not only one goal. We want all of the cabinet and the parliament to focus on the plan and we have succeeded. Second, we also reflect on the blueprint for urban planning. Third, we have now a committee to schedule parliament’s priorities in accordance to the plan.
You are in charge of the communication of this plan; is there any collaboration that you expect to get from outside?
I have visited Japan for its input and experience, along with Korea and England about how people can help us to speed up the implementation of our plan. We have MOUs [memorandums of understanding] with countries for input, in particular the United Kingdom.