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Kuwait And See?


The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah

The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah

Perhaps the Gulf states are closely watching the events in Egypt.

One day after the protests broke out in Egypt, the Kuwaiti parliament approved legislation to grant each Kuwaiti 1,000 Kuwaiti dinars ($3,580) and to subsidize the cost of basic food items over the next 14 months.

Ostensibly, the purpose of the payout has nothing to do with the situation in Egypt. In passing the legislation, the parliament noted that payments came in recognition of national celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of liberation from Iraq, the 50th anniversary of independence from Britain, and the fifth anniversary of Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah's accession to emir of Kuwait.

Under Sheikh Sabah’s leadership, the Kuwaiti dinar has risen to become the strongest currency in the world. Yet inflation in Kuwait soared to 5.9 percent in November, the highest in nearly 20 months. Most of the inflation centered on higher food prices, which rose by 12.3 percent in the constitutional emirate.

The payouts will begin February 24 and will be given to all Kuwaitis over 21. Parents will receive payments on the behalf of their children.

The Kuwaiti government is able to fund such ambitious social programs with oil revenues. While analysts have worried that rioting in Egypt could lead to a fiscal collapse of the state, Kuwait has no such problem. The Kuwaiti government has recorded 11 straight years of fiscal surpluses, totaling more than $140 billion. Oil prices are expected to rise again this year, further lining the state's coffers.

According to the "Kuwait Times," the government also has announced that it has no plans to begin monitoring bloggers or social media in the country of 3.5 million.

-- Joseph Hammond

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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