“Progress vs democracy” in the Gulf
In a comment, Mishaal Al Gergawi proposed comparing democracy and development focusing on Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Al Gergawi said that Kuwait is perceived as an “aspirational beacon of political participation in the Gulf,” and the U.A.E. as a “successful post-oil development attempt.” Considering any comparison between democracy and development, the author reports that “Khaliji (states from the Gulf) capitalists will note that democracy has an adverse effect on development,” and Kuwait would be cited as “a state gone wrong via democracy.” However, Al Gergawi noticed that Dubai and Kuwait achieved soft power strength; following a different path, Kuwait “gave Khalijis contemporary cultural depth and a disposition towards self-criticism” while “Dubai raised the bar of the Khalijis’ own expectations of their cities.”
Al Gergawi called the Kuwaiti ruling system an “hybrid democracy,” and said “it’s in principle a parliamentary system, elections are limited to 50 of 65 seats; the Emir of Kuwait appoints the remaining 15. Those form 15 of the 16-member cabinet, the 16th is ceremonially chosen from the parliament’s 50 elected members.” This system has driven to ensure “a continuous state of crises,” as the parliament is often in conflict with the cabinet.
The author also noticed that “the abundance of oil in Kuwait and its near lack in Dubai required the latter to pursue a policy of revenue diversification while the former became a welfarist rentier state.” The different economic situation impacts the development of both cities. Dubai met an economic growth “driven by internal realities such as limited natural resources and a heritage of trade that precedes its discovery of oil.” On the other hand Kuwait’s deceleration was driven by a crisis-prone hybrid political system that was meant to balance the interests of the ruling family and people but has really antagonized both,” moreover Al Gergawi believed that the ruling family bought the Kuwaities’ apathy by expanding the state reaching an inefficient size.
The author concluded that “democracy shouldn’t be given more credit than its due or held accountable for what it does not have a direct effect on,” and added “development is the product of thorough planning and dynamic execution. If anything, it is more susceptible to oil wealth and welfarism than anything else … even if that was a well-functioning democracy.”