Why are things so expensive in Kuwait?

October 30, 2006

Having discussed this with numerous people on numerous occasions – most will conclude that Kuwait has a very over priced consumer market when compared to our European and Stateside ‘Neighbours.’

But why? It must be the sky high ‘operational costs right? Err….Nope….Let’s examine the basic facts:

  • Cost of living here is relatively cheap
  • we have no taxes on income
  • we have a minuscule 5% import tax on goods arriving from overseas
  • we employ cheap labour forces
  • we have access to cheap fuel

In Reality, the only thing which could be deemed ‘expensive’ are the rents – which incidentally are still reasonably priced per sqm when compared with other large cities. So again, I have to ask why is Kuwait so expensive for consumer goods?

Here are the basic assumptions which I have derived:

a) Monopolistic Market Characteristics: In Kuwait, people take established ‘brand-names’ on an ‘exclusive’ basis whereby they become an ‘agent’ for the International mother company.

Whereas in Europe or the US anyone can become a McDonald’s franchise owner – in Kuwait (typically) only one person controls the entire market for that product. Let’s not single out McDonald’s here – the same goes for all Cars, Food and Electronic items.

So it’s Lucky for the owner – but unlucky for us, the consumer.

The Agent is thereby authorized to put any desired markups on products which typically far exceed the manufacturer’s recommended retail prices.

Well we do have a few choices don’t we? I mean we can go to another store and buy our ‘Sony’ DVD player right?

Kind of true, but when you see that the prices are very similar (because remember the agent is controlling the supply) – then things start to become decidedly frustrating for the consumer.

So what options do we have other than looking for another brand?

Well, we could buy off of the ‘Grey Market’ (non authorized dealer) but as I can tell you from experience, this can be a painful issue should anything happen to your ‘non-authorized’ unit. Taking a ‘grey’ unit to the dealer is as worthwhile as taking in a different brand altogether.

b) Pure Greed: Long established companies, who have had an agency for many years, quite frankly, don’t care what we the consumer think of their prices. As far as they are concerned – we can pay the price on the sticker – or we can get out and find something else.

Owners have already milked enough money from their brand to cover all their expenses and their initial investments – so to them, it’s just another sale…..

The ‘hot brands’ are especially easy to maintain and subsequently abuse due to the elaborate amounts of R&D capital reinvested by the International Mother company per annum. This is to ensure that their designs /technology stay ahead of the chasing pack for the following season.

In all cases there is not much good news for the average consumer and the archaic problem of overpricing in Kuwait is unlikely to end anytime soon.

So is there a solution? Well yes, but it’s a long shot….perhaps I should rephrase that – a very long, long, extra long shot.

Only when the Government interferes and abolishes Monopoly ownership OR the consumer collaborates through mass boycotting (example: use International Internet Services) will we finally see prices drift down to more ‘worldly’ acceptable levels.

Of course, there is another slight problem…..It’s not so easy to order your favorite Big Mac and Fries via FedEx now is it?


What was the Number One Song – when you were born?

October 30, 2006

Check out this pop history site, it tells you what was the “Number One Song” at the time when you were a twinkly eyed baby in your mother’s arms. Enter your birthdate and bingo!

Number 1 when I was born:

David Cassidy – Daydreamer…..

Click ME

edit: just listened to it………… rubbish song!


Why such a lack of Creativity in Kuwait?

October 29, 2006

I have always wondered why there is such a lack of creatvity and imagination in Kuwait and many parts of the Middle East.

Let’s take the advertising industry in Kuwait as an example. Is it any coincidence that most of the companies employ ex-pats (mainly Lebanese Nationals) to do their ‘creative art’ work?

I remember seeing the exact same scenario when I was Dubai, UAE. Each and every advertising company – from account managers to creative directors were lead by Ex Pats.

So what does that tell us? Why are we so relient on outside influences to shape our internal marketing needs? Where are the new breed of ‘pop-culture Kuwaitis?’ – the ones who we regularly see flashing their ‘creative dressing’ skills in Marina Mall and the like?

I believe that there are 2 possible reasons why there is a distinct lack of creativity (particularly amongst Kuwaitis).

1) De-Valuation of Creative Minds…..When you sit amongst family members, friends or co-workers – the typical conversation revolves around hardcore, traditional business. Ask any patriarch what they advise you to study at college – and you’ll get the same 3 or 4 answers. Business, Medicine or Engineering.

Whilst all those are essential and necessary components of modern day life – none of them are creative orientated jobs. Tell your family you want to study Art, Graphic Design, Advertising or Music and they will look at you with a blank, empty and un-encouraging stare.

2) Environment…… As I alluded to yesterday, there is a desperate lack of colour in most Middle East countries. Everything always has the same sandy stone tonality – and the weather is for the most part –  predictably sunny. Artists need climates, colours, temperatures, scenery and most importantly ‘change’ to be inspired.

Is it any co-incidence that some people here also wear some of the most ridiculously un-colour coordinated clothes you are ever likely to see? Are the big huge flowery dresses or the ‘fruit and vegetable’ coloured t shirts merely a (subliminal) way to put some much needed inspiration into their lives? Of course it is.

We should promote creativity in Kuwait – not look down upon it. We should encourage self expression by promoting art / music and fashion. Creativity, afterall, lies at the centre of everything.

I would love to see a day when we see Kuwaiti designers take the runways of New York by storm, or Kuwaiti Musicians go on a World Tour promoting their new pop album…..let’s encourage growth and creativity rather than kill it before its even had a chance to shine. We need these people to help promote the image of Kuwait, its people and our future direction.


Let’s Make Kuwait Green – Sand Kills Inspiration

October 28, 2006

One of the things I love the most about Europe and many places in the US is that there is plenty of greenery. There is something so refreshing about seeing a nice set of trees and a long stretch of well maintained grass.

I’ve noticed that in Dubai, they take meticulous care of their public gardens and greenery. They have invested a fortune into the appearance of the city. So what about Kuwait? Are we doing anything to make the country more beautiful for its residents and tourists?

Well Perhaps…..

On my way back from Fahaheel yesterday, I noticed large segueways of the roads and highways were being lined with grass and trees….I was very pleasantly surprised.

On the Gulf Road, they’ve done some amazing things with the landscaping. If you ride along the coastline – especially via boat – you’ll see some truly beautiful imagery which helps to instill a sense of pride in Kuwait. Whilst this is only the beginning, I believe we are still heading in the right direction.

Their is an old notion that states that ‘nothing can survive in the desert.’ Well for me, I believe that to be true on many different levels. Has anyone ever wondered why there are so few Kuwaitis who have become major successes in the ‘Creative World’?

I believe the answer (partially) lies in the environment. Sand clearly kills creativity and is completely devoid of any emotional / inspirational value…. If we make Kuwait Greener, not only will we help to create a more beautiful country – but we’ll also help to inspire our starved creative sides….


Salmiya Pollution – Disgraceful bus photo

October 23, 2006

I was driving on one of the inner roads in Salmiya yesterday when I unfortunately got caught behind a commercial bus. Whilst, I was trying to overtake him – I was absolutely shocked to see how much pollution this thing was chugging out.

*********N.B. This picture looks minor in comparison to the real thing.************

Every time the bus started to speed up I saw clouds and clouds of thick black smoke pumping out of the rear exhaust. The smoke was so thick and dense that it even came into my car through the vents.

I immediately called the Bus Company to report the bus and its horrific pollution – but unfortunately no one was there to take my call.

This kind of mindless pollution has to stop. It’s time we started to look after our country a bit more. Wake up Kuwait!!


My Scientific Ramadan ‘Weight Gainer’ Theory

October 21, 2006

 

It’s pretty funny. Most people seem to gain weight during Ramadan – but why so? If we are on a fast for 3/4 of the normal day – aren’t we supposed to eat less – therefore lose weight?

 After many years of scientific research, I have come up with some groundbreaking and revolutionary Ramadan theories. Here are Dr.Toxy’s top ‘waistline killers’:

  • Over Indulgence……When we do eat at 5:30pm,we over indulge on our portions. Where as on a normal day we eat 2 spoons of rice – during Ramadan, we eat 5 or 6 spoons of rice because we are feeling ‘so hungry.’ It’s normal for the human body to want to over eat because of our intrinsic, biological survival instinct. We want to pack in as much as possible because we fear not having ready access to food.
  • Arabic Deserts….. OK, everyone knows that Ramadan deserts are the most tasty! But does anyone remember or even think about the calorie content of one of those delicious Ramadan deserts? Errr……not me…. We tend to forget that most deserts are laced with obscene amounts of Oil, Sugar, Cheese and Fat. I’m sure that those 3 innocent looking  Knafeh’s on my plate contain more calories than 5 Big Mac Meals put together. (Ok I lied about this being a scientific test).
  • Sleeping After Eating…….. After every heavy meal, we tend to feel a bit sleepy. That killer move is to go and sit on a comfortable couch under a dimly lit light with a slightly chilled A/C …You’re as good as gone – especially after your hard day’s work at the office. (Oh wait scratch that last point – Kuwait hibernates right?)
  • Exercise …What Exercise?…….. I know, I know – we can’t go to the gym BEFORE Iftar because we can’t drink water. We’ll dehydrate and shrivel into a ball wont we?……Well, how about AFTER iftar?….I know, I know the gym will be too packed and the traffic will be even worse….. We wont be able to find a free machine will we?  Well my scientific studies have concluded that everyone is thinking the same thing! I’ve found that no one is on the streets – and no one is at the Gym!

So here we are, end of the Fasting month….and sadly (as usual) the Jeans seem a bit tighter than usual…… This year hasn’t been too bad for me…. Only 2 kilo’s added to the poor waistline……the problem is that it will probably take until next Ramadan to lose them……Now what’s that saying? ‘Easy come, Easy Go?’…..erm yeh………… 


Check out these Amazin FastTelco Ad’s I saw in Salmiya!

October 19, 2006

 I have to admit, I am very happy that FastTelco have decided to come clean and tell Kuwait the truth about their Internet Services. This has given me a new found respect for the company. Good job FT!

The truth shall always set you free………………….