Citizens wonder why oil producer Kuwait is not as dynamic a hub for the region as Dubai or Doha
With a youthful, well-educated population, strong relationships with both neighbours and world powers, and a strategic location on the Gulf, major oil producer Kuwait should be as dynamic a hub for the region as Dubai or Doha.
But while others in the Gulf have powered ahead, attracting foreign investment and developing infrastructure, Kuwait has stagnated, frustrating the people of a country once seen as a Middle East trailblazer.
This frustration is especially evident among young Kuwaitis, cosmopolitan and often educated abroad, who complain of bureaucratic red tape and dysfunctional politics, but also acknowledge complacency among their fellow citizens.
Although thousands took to Kuwait's streets in 2011 and 2012, seeking moderate political reforms, the demonstrations eventually fizzled, at least partly due to Kuwaitis' alarm over the chaos and rise of Islamists in the Arab Spring countries.
Kuwait's system of government handouts and well-paid, comfortable state jobs also blunted calls for change, whether in politics or in the state-reliant economy, observers say.
"We are very lucky that we are financially very comfortable," said Maha Al Baghli, president of the association of business and professional women in Kuwait and an advocate for female entrepreneurs.
"On the other hand, it is not encouraging entrepreneurs and hard work," Al Baghli told Reuters.
Sandwiched between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the country is one of the world's richest per capita, and more than half of its 1.2 million citizens are under 25.
Kuwait's leaders point to political deadlock in parliament that makes it difficult to get things done. But many observers say the government's frequent personnel changes, layers of bureaucracy and general ennui are also to blame.
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