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03KUWAIT5343 2003-11-22 11:58:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kuwait
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L KUWAIT 005343 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2013

Classified By: CDA Frank C. Urbancic for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Poloffs met with Senior Adviser to the Prime
Minister and former GCC Secretary General Abdullah Bishara on
November 19. Amongst other topics (septel), Bishara
described an ambitious agenda Prime Minister Shaykh Sabah
Al-Ahmed hopes to implement in the near-term. End Summary.

2, (C) Prime Minister's Adviser Abdullah Bishara told Poloffs
during their November 19 meeting that Prime Minister Shaykh
Sabah Al-Ahmed has ambitious plans for domestic reforms, and
is "determined" to see them enacted. Characterizing Kuwait
as a society "divided" since the 1980's into tribalist
(conservative) and urban (liberal) elements, Bishara, a
definite liberal, claimed the Prime Minister has embarked on
a new political offensive aimed at curbing the influence of
Bedouin tribal elements and modernizing Kuwait.



3. (C) Bishara said the GOK has developed its domestic
political agenda around the following major issues, all of
which he predicts will be contentious: womens' political
rights, reducing the number of electoral districts from 25 to
10 (diluting tribal influence and making effective
vote-buying more difficult); privatization (which the less
edcuated/skilled tribalists fear will entail large-scale job
losses); opening the oil sector to foreign investment;
reducing the level of GOK-provided subsidies (known in Kuwait
as 'rationalization of expenditures'); dismantling of the
welfare state; allowing for private universities; increasing
fees charged for private use of public lands; and
implementing taxes on road usage.

4. (C) Bishara said Shaykh Sabah hopes to revitalize Kuwait
as a "vanguard of originality" (a reference to Kuwait's
tradition of openness and free-wheeling parliament), and has
chosen Ministers who believe so strongly in the GOK platform
that they are willing to endure the fierce political battles
which will ensue as the cabinet attempts to push these
changes through the National Assembly. He acknowledged that
Energy Minister Shaykh Ahmed al-Fahad, a nephew of the Amir
and the PM, has strong ties to tribalists and Islamists, but
claimed Shaykh Ahmed is a consummate politician, who tailors
his pitch to various audiences and is fully on board with
Shaykh Sabah's program.

5. (C) Bishara said the GOK strategy is to start by opening
the oil sector to foreign investment, given the pressing need
for foreign up-to-date technology. Next on the list, in
descending order, are privatization, education, womens'
issues, and subsidy reduction. Electoral redistricting can
wait: the next parliamentary elections are due in 2007.

6. (C) Comment: An informed and influential member of
Kuwait's political elite, Bishara was at pains to express
that PM Shaykh Sabah and his team are committed to
modernizing/re-energizing Kuwait, and to convey optimism
despite the certain opposition of Islamists and other
conservatives. Success is not assured, however, because the
conservatives are also motivated, well financed and committed
to their own agenda.