Q. How were social, political, and economic aspects of Kuwait in the 1970s and 1980s?
A. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, Kuwait was renowned as a flourishing trade hub.However, the British Empire enforced a trade block against Kuwait in the 20th century for supporting the Ottoman Empire. The country had managed to maintain an open economy, even after the Gulf War. The massive growth of the country’s economy due to oil revenue has attracted foreign workers the Middle East and Asia. However, overreliance on oil led to economic crisis in the 1980s due to drop in oil prices.
Although Kuwait is governed through constitutional monarchy, the country adopted the Western ideology of leadership. Due to its association with Britain, Kuwait adopted liberal democracy in its political thinking, which was seen by other Arab countries as a threat to their culture. Skeptics usually perceive Islam as a barrier to development and modernity. Although most of Bedoon tribe originates from Iraq, they formed about 90% of the country’s army. In the 1970s, Kuwait’s press was considered among the freest in the globe, and many Arab writers flocked to Kuwait where freedom of expression was guaranteed. Women in universities were allowed to wear miniskirts and had an option to wear or not to wear the hijab. The country has accepted English language to be used for business purposes.
Kuwait in the 1970s and 1980s compared to Kuwait Today
In the 1970s, Kuwait was the most highly developed country in the Persian Gulf. Revenue from oil enabled the country to advance its infrastructure. Although the country constitution was ratified in 1962, Kuwait began to adopt strict Sharia laws in the 1970s. The threat of invasion by Iraq began in shortly after independence, as Iraq was not satisfied on its borders. Kuwait encountered a political turmoil in 1970s, as emir tried to cool the political opposition. To promote local investment and employment opportunities for locals, all foreign companies were compelled to have a local nominal CEO. In 1975, Kuwait government took control the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), the company that was responsible for distribution of oil within and outside the country (Casey, Thackeray and Findling 75). In the 1980s, the country managed to enter into European market through local-owned firms. The country continued to invest oil wealth in overseas, and towards the end of 1980s, investments income had surpassed income from oil.
The contemporary Kuwait has seen numerous developments both politically and economically. In 1990, the country was invaded by Iraq, but the US attacked Iraq in its attempt to force Iraq out of Kuwait. The attack affected the country’s economy, although it has recovered and has maintained the public debts as low as possible. As a constitutional monarchy, Kuwait’s young activists have been protesting to enforce political reforms. The country is still ruled by Emir, who comes from the Al-Sabah family. The country’s legal framework has not been well designed while the rule of law is weak. Foreigners usually encounter difficulties while securing contracts through local courts. Human rights groups in the country have not been able to secure the migrant workers rights, as kafala system continues to affect migrant workers. The country’s per capita income stands at $39,706, with unemployment of 3.1% (Kuwait). High oil revenues have restricted policymakers from implementing tough rules to liberalize the country’s economy. The country has continued to gain from an open trade regime, which attracts investments, but rising protectionism has hindered essential international trade linkages. The government procurement favors domestic firms while foreign banks are restricted to offer investment-banking services.
“Kuwait.” The Heritage Foundation, 2015 Index of Economic Freedom (2015).
Casey, M. S., Thackeray, F. W., & Findling, J. E. (2007). The history of Kuwait. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.