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It was no great shock when Kuwait Airways announced last summer that its troubled privatisation programme has effectively been abandoned. The state-owned flag-carrier is still officially looking for equity buyers, though only through a watered-down proposal that will leave politicians firmly in the driving seat.
Taken in isolation, the decision to keep Kuwait Airways in the public sector might have been disastrous. The airline has performed miserably over the past two decades, steadily losing ground to a new breed of more efficient, better funded Gulf rivals. Parliamentary bickering over strategy and fleet renewal are largely to blame for its sclerotic performance – creating an opening for Dubai's Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways to funnel Kuwaiti passengers through their own hubs.
However, the move away from privatisation did not occur in a vacuum...