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Political Kuwait before and after oil - Essay Example

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Kuwait as an oil rich but small country is flanked by powerful or large states, including Iran to the East, Iraq to the north, while to the south is Saudi Arabia. First exploited in the early to mid 1930s, Kuwait’s petroleum industry was further developed following the end of…
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Political Kuwait before and after oil
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Politics in Kuwait Before and After the Oil Discovery Kuwait as an oil rich but small country is flanked by powerfulor large states, including Iran to the East, Iraq to the north, while to the south is Saudi Arabia. First exploited in the early to mid 1930s, Kuwait’s petroleum industry was further developed following the end of the Second World War, as Kuwait’s independence in 1961 (Slot 96). Since this period, oil has been the dominant factor in both economic and political changes in Kuwait, accounting for more than ninety percent of the country’s export revenues. This latter fact has meant that it has played a critical role in political decisions, in the country since oil was discovered. Prior to the discovery of oil in Kuwait, their political structure was that different political classes were indebted to one another. This included the pearl divers, the captains, the merchants, the international merchants, and the ruling family, including the Sheikh. The entire political and governance structure was supported by debt that could not be rapid due to its amount. This, however, changed with discovery of oil as the government began to distribute wealth deliberately among all its recognized citizens. Kuwait also became a welfare state, while money was also funneled into the private sector through land purchases from the government at inflated prices (Slot 106). This worked to wipe out almost all debts owed by citizens.
Prior to the discovery of oil, the Sheikh in Kuwait carried out all the executive functions of government, including the arbitration of disputes, using customary rules. Those disputes that he felt were covered under Sharia law were sent to the judges, although this was only to allow him make an informed and just decision (Slot 102). For this reason, it was important that the ruler availed himself to the people through open Majlis that enabled them to present grievances and disputes directly to the ruler. However, with the discovery of oil, government work expanded rapidly to include numerous agencies as required. The machinery of government diversified to include the Supreme Council that was constituted by various heads of government agencies. The Supreme Council became almost like a Politburo in that it reflected sharing of power among individuals linked to the ruling family, while the Amir’s continued absence from its sittings gave it a level of independence despite his continued chairmanship. In a further change to political structure away from the centralized figure of the Amir, the Organizing Body was formed to reform government administrative machinery (Slot 106). These two organs work together as the legislative arm of government to advise the Amir, who functions as the executive arm.
Finally, the discovery of oil also led to changes in Kuwait’s socio-political structure. Prior to this discovery, Kuwait was made up of the merchants, the Bedouins, the mariners, and the ruling family with the former three social groups working at sea or as traders (Slot 103). The vast majority of Kuwaitis worked in the sea and formed the country’s labor force, while the Bedouin were pastoralists who also worked as the armed forces during the war and in law enforcement. However, with the discovery of oil, expansion in the government and construction sector led to an influx of skilled and unskilled labor from other countries. This led to a dramatic shift in economic activity as most of the labor force shifted towards the service industry from trading and sea industry (Slot 107), while the armed forces was also modernized and became more inclusive.
Works Cited
Slot, Ben J. Kuwait: The Growth of a Historic Identity. London: Arabian publishing, 2003. Print. Read More
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