KUWAIT: Housewives driving their personal cars arrive in the day early hours to buy food and other necessities and commodities, sufficient for a day or a longer period of time, and in a matter of minutes the chores are done and the items with aid of an all-time ready worker are put in the trunk. This is not a supermarket in downtown Washington or Berlin, it is Al-Shamiya store located close to downtown Kuwait, and other modern and historic landmarks, such as the parliament building, remnants of the old fence that had existed a long time ago before the oil boom in the 60s of the last century, along with the building of the American Hospital, founded by an American missionary early last century-now turned into a museum.
Al-Shamiya shopping complex, which includes food products, fruits such as imported American and African apples, various fruits from Iran, Syria and Turkey, diverse commodities, clothes as well as cafes, namely Starbucks, is one of up to 51 co-ops dotting Kuwait’s residential districts and serving the estimated 1.4 million native population, as well as hundreds of thousands of expatriates. The market, which employs nearly 600 workers and managerial staff, along with its sisterly markets and branches situated in the heart of the other residential districts, such as Keifan, Shuwaikh and Al-Shaab, has developed over the years, in terms of structure, facilities and services. “We have recently added online services for our customers; posting our accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and applications on smartphones, offering our customers various information and services, such as prices of commodities, lucrative prices and offers, as well as information about sideline activities, also with reasonable costs,” said Ahmad Tantawi, a staff who works at the management of the market in Al-Shamiya market.
The online information include prices, special rates for some commodities and activities. When asked about the possibility of delivering products through online orders, Tantawi said the idea has been pondered over and remains under consideration. “However, once we apply it, we will need additional staff and we need to restrict such service to certain goods,” he said, explaining that “home delivery might not be easy selling products such as vegetables and fruits because some clients are picky.”Moreover, the market offers various activities for residents of the Al-Shamiyah district, a vast neighborhood of tree-ornamented streets and roads and green public parks, adjacent to the airport road and the nearby residential district Keifan. According to references, the term Al-Shamiyah derives from Al- Sham (the Levant) for caravans from the Levant used during olden days, to stop in the area for resting and watering goods-carrying camels.
Elaborating Tantawi indicated that the market work is not restricted to commodities trade. It offers activities for the residents, such as expeditions to the holy land and chalets’ booking at low costs. Moreover, the managers are planning to build a three-storey parking lot and expanding the warehouses. An affiliate branch in the district of Gharnata will be renovated and expanded on a 5,000-squaremeter plot of land. Co-op shareholders of Al-Shamiya and the 50 other markets and branches get annual dividends in addition to earnings per point, scored according to purchases.
Up to 25 percent of the co-op market earnings are invested in some services and utilities in the area where it is located, such as beautifying public sites and locations and purchasing decoration items for national occasions, such as the National Day. “We even offer commodities for free to personnel of some governmental facilities in the region, such as the Citizen Service office,” he explained. Each co-op market is managed by a board; Shamiyah comprises of nine members.
The co-op markets often grants gifts to clients. A citizen posted on Instagram information and pictures about a large box of foodstuff she had received from Mishref supermarket last fasting month of Ramadan. “I arrived home yesterday to a big fat colorful box tied with a pink ribbon, so heavy you couldn’t lift it on your own. At first I thought someone had sent me a gift box but looking closely I realised it had the Mishref Co-op logo on it! Never before have I seen a local co-op distribute such a beautiful and well thought of gift before!” she wrote.
The co-op movement in Kuwait dates back to 1941 when the first society was founded at Al-Mubarakiah School. In 1955, a consumer co-op was founded for employees of the social affairs department. Later, the Ministry of Social Affairs drew up laws to organize the co-op sector. Al-Shamiya and Keifan co-ops were founded in 1962, when the movement started to flourish on basis of the constitution that stipulated collaboration and justice among citizens.
The number of the co-op markets reached 43 in 1997, with up to 200,000 stock holders. The overall capital of the co-op reached KD 75 million in end of 1995. The total net profit the same year reached KD 14 million. The cooperative movement began in Europe in the 19th century, primarily in Britain and France, although The Shore Porters Society claims to be one of the world’s first cooperatives, being established in Aberdeen in 1498 (although it has since demutualized to become a private partnership). The first documented consumer cooperative was founded in 1769, in a barely furnished cottage in Fenwick, East Ayrshire, when local weavers manhandled a sack of oatmeal into John Walker’s whitewashed front room and began selling the contents at a discount, forming the Fenwick Weavers’ Society. By 1830, there were several hundred co-operatives. — KUNA
KUWAIT CITY: A meeting today between the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and representatives of government and educational institutions focused on suitable work and school hours to avoid traffic congestions.
Chairman of the commission Abdulaziz Al-Zabin said in a press release that it was imperative to coordinate efforts amongst government institutions and educational facilities to avoid the traffic’s daily grind. During the meeting, the commission asked for the other participants to provide solid statistics and numbers to reach a solution for the traffic problems caused by the conflicting working and school hours, said Al-Zabin. Meanwhile, Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs has reportedly refused to hire a Kuwaiti woman who was recruited by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), because she did not wear an ‘Abaya’ during her interview, reports Al-Jaridah daily.
The candidate said she was shocked to receive the news particularly since she had passed the written test, adding she refused to see the officials of the ministry to complain about the problem. She explained that the ministry employee who was conducting the interview insisted that she must wear an Abaya, as it is compulsory to do so in the ministry. In response, she said an individual’s dress sense is a personal matter. After the interview, she was told that she had failed the test and would have to wait for another interview. She revealed that she did not get a call from the ministry for the interview even after one month.
KUWAIT CITY: Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Affairs at the Ministry of Interior Abdulfattah Al-Ali has referred two female employees working at the Citizens Center of the General Traffic Department to the Public Prosecution, reports Al-Qabas daily. They were caught forging documents and assisting two expatriates to get driving licenses for money.
During interrogation they admitted to facilitating 79 persons to get driving licenses — Arabs and persons of other nationalities. They also said they took KD 800 from each person.
Meanwhile, Major General Abdul Fattah Al-Ali has succeeded in pressuring those who were driving vehicles with expired insurance, as owners of nearly 17,000 vehicles out of 300,000 have renewed the insurances of their vehicles in August, reports Al- Rai daily quoting informed sources.
They explained that Major General Al-Ali had issued instructions to suspend the transactions of those people whose vehicles had expired insurances until they renew the insurances, adding that they are expecting the number to increase in the coming days.
KUWAIT: The Director of Kuwait’s Central Bank Dr. Reem Al-Radwan recently met the Ambassador of Pakistan to Kuwait Syed Abrar Hussain (left) in his office to offer appreciation for the successful conduct of the blood donation camp by Pakistani Blood Donors in Kuwait on Aug 2, 2013.
The Ambassador thanked the visiting guest. He said that Pakistan and Kuwait enjoy cordial relations and the success of emergency blood camp was reflection of care and love that Pakistani community feels for its Kuwaiti brothers and sisters. The Director also presented the Ambassador a shield and certificate. She was accompanied by the head of PR department Ali Al-Mahmeed.
KUWAIT CITY: The Criminal Court adjourned cases filed against some 67 expatriates accused of falsifying university degrees to obtain drivers license for hearing until Oct 8.
The Public Prosecution charged the expatriates who are from Syria, Jordan and Egypt and entered the country on family visas for securing driver’s license with forged documents, as they didn’t meet the criteria of KD 400 salary and university degree.
They are also charged for helping six other expatriates to obtain fake certificates for KD 300-KD 500 after they were able to use their forged certificates to serve their purpose. The Interior Ministry officials who discovered the disloyalty referred them for Public Prosecution.
‘Driving school paper mandatory’
Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Affairs at the Ministry of Interior Major General Abdul Fattah Al-Ali declared that a certificate from the driving school is a mandatory requirement in order to apply for the driving test, reports Al-Rai daily. He stressed that no applicant can take the driving test without submitting a certificate from the driving school where he obtained driving skills as well as learnt the rules to follow while driving on the roads in the country. He insisted that the certificate must include the skill level of the applicant, number of classes he took, the details of the driving school where he took the classes from and the name of his trainer.
Major General Al-Ali explained that the applicants will undergo a practical driving test on the street to test their level of driving skill as well as a theory test on the computer system to test their understanding of the driving rules of the country. He indicated that the General Traffic Department will supervise the driving schools and evaluate the ability of the trainers to ensure they are committed in following the schools’ work regulations. Meanwhile, Major General Al-Ali revealed the department’s intention to set up new buildings for the departments of driving tests in Farwaniya and Mubarak Al-Kabeer this year as well as launch online tests based on instructions from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Mohammad Khalid Al-Sabah and the Undersecretary of Ministry of Interior Lt Ghazi Al-Omar
KUWAIT: The political situation in the Middle East is not stable, and people are worried of the repercussions of US attacking Syria. Some are anxious while others aren’t bothered too much and feel safe in Kuwait. The government tried to allay fears by announcing that it is ready for any emergency situation. George, a 35-year-old Filipino expat is worried of the situation and the planned attack on Syria. “I already bought canned food to last me for two weeks at least and some of my friends also have done the same. In case of an attack, or if the war spreads across the region, I will head back to Philippines with my family as it’s quite far away. But if everything is fine, I will continue to stay in Kuwait,” he told the Kuwait Times. Osama, a professional expat photographer is optimistic and thinks that nothing will happen. “I think US is only threatening and they won’t attack.
In fact, I don’t care if they attacked Syria since it’s quite far from here and I wouldn’t mind going there to take photos of the war, if it happens. In general, I feel safe in Kuwait,” he pointed out. Nand, a 50-year-old doesn’t believe that any great attack will take place. “The United States only wants to save its face internationally and not really interested in regime change in Syria.
At the most, it might be an attack on a small scale, so I’m not really worried. My philosophy is to not worry as it won’t help or change reality. I feel safe here and have no plans to leave or buy extra food supplies,” he stated. Ahmadi Co-op noted that the sales are in normal range, and they are not running short of supplies in the canned food department. Khaitan Co-op experienced a shortage during these last two days but that’s only because they were taking stock. Also the Diaya Co-op didn’t notice any increase in sales or demands for canned food over the past few days. Siham, a 29-year-old Lebanese expat also thinks she is safe here. “We don’t feel the threat of any attack on Syria here as they do in Lebanon and Syria.
Hezbollah threatened to attack any country supporting the US attack which may reach the GCC countries, but I feel safe here and I hope nothing will happen. This is one of the primary reasons why I’m living in Kuwait. I have started saving to help my family in Lebanon in case they need something, but I don’t think my life will change,” she noted. Ibtisam, a 33-year-old Syrian expat is only worried about her family members living abroad. “In general, I don’t think the threat is very serious, and here we are far from it. Kuwaiti government stated that everything is safe and we don’t have to panic. Even when the war on Iraq in 2003 happened, we didn’t suffer, despite Iraq being our neighbor.
I think that maybe some demonstrations related to the attack may take place in Kuwait but the government will control it. I’m only worried about some of my family members who are still in Syria and I pray that nothing will happen to them,” she explained. Abdulwahab, a 55-year-old, said that he has been through more terrifying situations in Kuwait but still never thought of leaving. “I’m optimistic and I don’t think something bad will happen, and even if it did, Syria is far from here and is not Kuwait’s immediate neighbor, unlike other countries. Besides, I don’t have any money to save and I’m living my life normally,” he admitted.
By Nawara Fattahova
KUWAIT: Three months ago, the price of this precious yellow metal came down a considerable level in the world market. The reason, according to some analysts, was connected to the improving US economy. The collapse in gold prices – from a peak of $1,900 an ounce in August 2011, to under $1,250 at the beginning of July 2013 – represents a vote of confidence in the global economy. During a downward spiral, customers took advantage of the decline. Although it was short-lived, it was enough for some people to buy and get a pretty discount on the metal – especially Indians who love and adore gold. “It was a short but really great relief for many Indians who are investing in gold crazily,” said P Pouldas, owner of Plaza Atlas, International Jewelry.
He said, the downward trend can also be attributed to the fact that gold in the United States was sold to invest in the stock market and other economic prospects. “Usually if the economy is improving, the overall attitude of investors is positive to push the trend forward. So, if they have savings in gold, they will sell it and invest it in the market,” he added. But it was short-lived. Now, the price is climbing rapidly and many blame uncertainty in the Middle East for it. “We are witnessing an upward trend, mainly because of rumors of an impending war,” he said. “At a time like this, people don’t want to invest.
They want to hold on to their money until the rumors are confirmed. This will automatically affect our buying and selling,” he explained. For some Indians like Felomina, the rise in gold price spells bad news. “I love to invest money by buying gold. But the price now is not what it was four months ago. It’s really expensive and not affordable but I will still buy, albeit for a smaller amount, for my daughters,” Felomina admitted she’s been buying gold for herself and for her children. “I have three daughters and the only reason I have been working so hard is for us to save some money and buy gold for them.
I have to invest for them, because it is our custom to decorate our daughters with gold during their wedding, so that they can have a better life,” she said. Felomina works as a secretary at a private firm in Kuwait City. According to her, six months ago, the Indian government had already implemented a 10 percent tariff on all gold purchases. “If you buy gold now in India, it is far more expensive than what it was six months ago because our government imposed a tax on gold,” said Felomina, who is originally from Kerala but now lives in Goa.
Arabs are not that fond of buying gold though they do buy it during holidays like Eid and on other special occasions. Indians, however, according to Pouldas, will continue to purchase gold regardless of price. “They will continue to buy gold because the culture demands it.
They usually save for the future. During hard times, they can easily go to the bank and get money, so even the poor will make sure they have some gold reserve,” Pouldas added. Prices of gold in Kuwait market are heavily dependent on the international price tags. On the onset of the global financial crisis, the price of gold has often been portrayed as a barometer of global economic insecurity. Gold has hit a record price of $1,900 an ounce.
The price tag though will increase dramatically when the precious metal is turned into ornaments like necklaces, rings, earrings, bangles or armbands where craftsmanship is usually counted as ‘making charges’.
By Ben Garcia