Interview: Khaled Mahdi
How is the council enhancing integration between the public and private sectors in the Kuwait Development Plan 2015-20?
KHALED MAHDI: The government stated very clearly its intentions to transition its role in the economy from an operator to regulator, from wealth distribution to wealth creation, and to entrust the economy to the private sector. The important question is how to achieve this change in strategic governance? We have identified what we call four private sector enablers and these are; privatisation programmes, public-private partnership initiatives, enhancing the role of small and medium-sized enterprises and their contribution to the economy, and lastly the promotion of foreign and local direct investments. For the strategic governance change to be successful, the government has set up two regulatory tools, the Anti-Corruption Authority and the Authority for Protection of Competition. In addition to the core private sector enablers, the government is also restructuring the labour market in order to create a freer and more dynamic movement of labour.
With these enablers, the government is readying itself for a greater degree of cooperation and integration between the public and private sector participants. However, we, the government must also understand the consequences of the opportunistic and profit-driven approach taken by the private sector. So we must protect social security and national security, and maintain social economic stability.
What are some of the factors under which a broader national consensus can be achieved for restarting important strategic projects?
MAHDI: We already have a national consensus on Kuwait’s strategic development, which came from the approval of the 2010-14 National Development Plan by the National Assembly that was elected and represents the people. The mega-projects have been approved and for the most part have started. The question that we are asked most often pertains to issues of decision-making or implementation delays. Realistically, the government needs to develop our own human resource capital and capacity, because some of the mega-projects are in some cases are too advanced to be implemented and managed by the current apparatus. This is where the delay is happening, and to be frank, people are not suitably equipped to understand the complexities of some projects and execute the decisions that need to be made. After all, these are strategic projects that define our future economic direction and national strategy. The very role of the government is to develop skills capacity, increase knowledge, boost project know-how, streamline management processes and break down the barriers between civil service and private sector.
How can the council improve bureaucratic processes to stop the decline of Kuwait’s competitiveness in regional and global rankings?
MAHDI: We can do this by restructuring our public administration and the way it implements government policy. The private sector, however, is not always the most efficient, and so it must also improve and raise standards in this area. Restructuring a public administration that has been functioning one way for 30 years is a challenge, but this is one of Kuwait Vision 2035’s strategic goals, and the creation of a new centre for governance is expected to pay significant dividends in this regard. We need to introduce governance models that are smart, inclusive and responsive.
There are two pillars and programmes for achieving our new governance models. One of these, the Effective Government Administration initiative, is broken down into two projects, e-governance and the Kuwait Master Plan 2040, with an objective to change policymaking towards smart governance. In addition, we are not measuring or benchmarking against our in-house key performance indicators, but rather our goal is to measure only against the global competitiveness indices.
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