New Government in Kuwait

New Government in Kuwait

Many Kuwaitis, and many Americans, hope that the reshuffled Kuwaiti cabinet deck of cards produces a winning hand.

Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who was re-appointed as prime minister last week, formed the new cabinet, announced in a decree carried by the state news agency KUNA. The Gulf Arab state also named a new defense minister, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. The outgoing government resigned following parliamentary elections held earlier this month in the Gulf OPEC oil producer.

Kuwait holds some of the world’s largest oil reserves and has strong fiscal and external balance sheets, but political bickering and institutional gridlock have hampered investment and reforms aimed at reducing its heavy reliance on oil revenues.

Situation in Kuwait

As recently as 2009, Kuwait boasted the highest Human Development Index ranking in the Arab world. But the good old days are over. Actually, in 2009, the good old days in Kuwait were already drawing to a close.

Beginning in 2006, mild political instability plagued the country. Any instability in an unstable region is a major impediment to foreign investment. As a result, while other Gulf Coast countries at least somewhat diversified their economies, in Kuwait, it was still petroleum or bust.

The bust came in 2010. A worldwide oil glut depressed prices. Kuwait suffered more than any other petroleum-producing nation. Despite the downturn and instability, China was still willing to invest in Kuwait. These economic ties became closer as the years passed.

Things went from bad to worse. In 2014, the United States accused Kuwait of funding al Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations. In fact, according to Treasury official David Cohen, Kuwait was the world’s largest single bankroller of terrorist activities. 

ISIS was apparently willing to bite the hand that fed it. The group claimed responsibility for a 2015 suicide bomber attack at a large Shia Muslim mosque. Two dozen people died, and over 200 were injured.

In 2016, China became Kuwait’s largest trading partner. Kuwait is a key player in China’s vast Belt and Road initiative, a multi-trillion dollar investment in over 150 countries throughout the world.

The coronavirus pandemic, which halted tourism, among other things, might have been the last nail in the coffin.

Yet the American military continues functioning in this deteriorating environment. In the wake of the Global War on Terror, Kuwait might be America’s most important staging area in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. 14,000 servicemembers are stationed in Kuwait. 9,000 of these men and women live and work at the sprawling Camp Arifjan, which is by far the largest U.S. military installation in the area. The 9,000 figure does not count servicemembers who are just passing through, usually on TCS (temporary change of station) status.

Contractors in Kuwait

After a 1996 terrorist bombing, U.S. officials closed Camp Doha, near the Iraqi border, and moved those assets to Camp Arifjan, which is more securely located south of Kuwait City. So, the thousands of contractors at Camp Afri-Jail, as employees sometimes call it, do not have much security duty. However, they don’t sit around either.

“More securely located” is a very relative term in the MENA region. Someone, usually contractors, must verify identifications at checkpoints, conduct security sweeps, and otherwise look for and prevent terrorist activities.

Most contractors in Kuwait are construction and maintenance contractors. Bigger and faster Air Force planes require larger hangars and longer runways. These bigger and faster airplanes are also more technically sophisticated than ever before. Frequently, contractors handle maintenance chores. In many cases, they once worked for the companies that designed and built these advanced war machines.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, if officials want to squelch the Camp Afri-Jail moniker, construction contractors must focus on personnel facilities. Cell phone towers must be upgraded, common areas expanded, and individual quarters updated. The Army would much rather use its combat engineers someplace else. Therefore, it delegates these tasks to private contractors.

These construction contractors are experienced in this area. As a bonus, in a pinch, they know how to use a rifle.

Injury Compensation Available

Overseas contractors risk serious injury from the moment they step off the plane. At a minimum, these injuries usually mean weeks or months without work. Some of these victims are not able to work again. So, the Defense Base Act offers several kinds of wage replacement benefits, as follows:

  • Permanent Total Disability: This category usually includes fatal and nearly-fatal injuries. If the victim does not survive or is too hurt to work again, the DBA usually compensates these survivors or individuals based on their lost future income.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Some injuries, like the loss of a leg or an eye, are instant PPD injuries. Others are lesser injuries that do not fully heal. For example, the bones and muscles in an injured shoulder might mend, but there might always be a permanent loss of motion in that joint. So, the DBA typically compensates these victims based on the loss of use.
  • Temporary Total Disability: Many victims must take time off from work to recover. Afterward, they are good to go. Unfortunately, as mentioned, this process could be lengthy. To prevent these families from sustaining a financial disaster, the DBA usually pays two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage for the duration of the temporary disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: After a few weeks or months, some victims “graduate” from TTD injuries to TPD injuries. They may work, but they must accept light duty or restrict their hours because of their lingering injuries. The DBA usually pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new AWW in these situations.

The Average Weekly Wage is not just a snapshot. It accounts for past and future wages. Many injured contractors just arrived in-country. Past wages do not reflect future wages in these situations. Furthermore, most contractors earn performance bonuses based on the number of hours worked. An injury should not torpedo their qualifications for such bonuses.

For more information about DBA medical benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.