Debtors gather in Irada Square to highlight their plight

KUWAIT: Around 400 people gathered in Irada Square opposite the National Assembly yesterday to call upon HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to cancel their loans. The gathering was organized by attorney Yousef Al-Gharabally through his account on Twitter. He said the gathering was held to deliver a message to the Amir to cancel the loans of over 400,000 Kuwaitis. In a previous statement, Executive Director of the supervision sector at the Central Bank Waleed Al-Awadhi, had said there are 429,000 Kuwaiti debtors, who represent 90 percent of the workforce under the age of 50.

KUWAIT: People sign a banner urging HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to cancel their loans during a gathering in Irada Square opposite the National Assembly yesterday. — Photo by Fouad Al-Shaikh

Gharabally mentioned different articles of the Kuwait constitution that set the rights of every citizen. "Under article 23 of the constitution, the government has failed to control violations by banks. Both the Central Bank and ministry of commerce have neglected their supervision duties. Also, article 25 speaks about crises and disasters, based on which the late Amir Sheikh Jaber canceled all loans after the Iraqi invasion. Our present situation is considered a crisis, as there are over 400,000 debtors," he noted. "Kuwaiti families are suffering greatly from the loans. The debtors want to send a message neither to the parliament nor the Cabinet, but to HH the Amir to save Kuwaiti families, saying 'you are the Amir of Humanity'," Gharabally added.

Some Kuwaitis are living in poor conditions, according to the attendees. "I only receive KD 260 out of my salary every month - the bank deducts KD 300 for the loan and my first wife and her four children get KD 430. Only KD 260 remains for me and my second wife and two kids. In fact, I'm not able to pay my rent - my family is supporting me," Jasem Al-Mousawi told Kuwait Times.

Mshabib Al-Shali complained about the unequal rights of citizens, which forced him to take a loan. "As the government refused to send my father for medical treatment abroad, I took a loan to pay for his treatment and to get married. After more than five years of paying the KD 50,000 loan, today I still have KD 48,000 to pay, as the bank's interest is almost the same value as the loan. Only KD 330 remains for me to live on and pay rent, as the rest goes for the installments," he rued.

Yaqoub Al-Yaqoub took a loan of KD 50,000 to rebuild the house of his father in 2013, and after six years of repaying it, he still has to pay KD 47,000. "I pay KD 350 every month for the loan, and only KD 480 remains for me to survive with my wife and two children," he said. Yousef Al-Ali also took a loan to rebuild the house of his father in 2017. "The bank cuts KD 350 from my salary every month, and only KD 300 remains for me, my wife and two kids. At least I'm lucky I don't have to pay rent, but it's difficult to survive on this meager amount," he explained.

Munif Al-Harbi is retired, but still has to pay KD 26,000 out of the KD 31,000 taken as a loan in 2011. "I have eight children and owe KD 4,800 to a furniture company besides the loan. I don't have a house so I have to pay rent as well. I only end up with KD 300," he told Kuwait Times.

By Nawara Fattahova