–Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, speaking ahead of the opening of Parliament.
Al Sabah’s remarks, which included a plea to nationals to reduce their dependence on the government in the coming years, have struck a chord across the Gulf, where grants, loans and subsidies for education, healthcare and housing, among other services, are commonplace.
Whereas GCC nations previously avoided Arab Spring-like unrest in the past few years by upping salaries and offering other financial incentives, the fallout of such spending is proving costly for oil-rich Kuwait.
According to Reuters, the nation could see a budget deficit as early as 2021 – a possibility that “threatens national and social security and the stability of the country.”
In Qatar, whose natural gas reserves are still bringing in billions of dollars a year, government leaders are already looking forward to the day that wealth dips. But promoting the idea of a knowledge economy and making headway in terms of Qatarization has been difficult.
Currently, less than 30 percent of Qatari men, for whom lucrative government jobs become available after high school, pursue higher education opportunities. Local women fare better in terms of education, but are still not entering the workforce in proportionate numbers.
Only time will tell whether Qatar and other resource-rich nations follow Kuwait’s example, or treat the country’s woes as a cautionary tale.