Gasoline is free, but it's tough to find a chocolate bar at any price. Unskilled Filipino laborers have suddenly become the subject of bidding wars. In one of the world's richest countries, hardly anyone has money.

Kuwait's once-prosperous economy is now distinguished by widespread shortages and quirks that are bewildering Kuwaitis as they try to recover from war."We don't know what the government is planning to do," said Mohammed al-Yahya, general manager of the Commercial Bank of Kuwait.

Kuwait City's skyline of sleek glass-and-steel towers now looks like a ghost town that was hit by a tornado. Row after row of shops sit empty after being looted or burned during the Iraqi occupation.

Insurance won't cover war losses. Banks say new loans are a distant prospect. Most consumer goods, from clothes to cars, are not expected to reappear soon.

The government is importing gasoline from Saudi Arabia and pumping it free at filling stations that often have lines snaking for several blocks. But businesses still lack electricity, telephones, labor and supplies, and only a few have reopened.

Restoring the banking system is essential for Kuwaitis, even wealthy ones, who are desperate for cash. Most banks have been closed since December, and Kuwaitis who have currency are likely to be holding Iraqi dinars they were forced to use during the occupation - money now considered largely worthless.

But at an open-air market, vendors were willing to take Iraqi money, betting the government will exchange it later.

"I need money. I'll take any brand," said Issam al-Najjar, a surveyor who has taken to selling dresses from a wooden crate.

Michael Kano, an American banker working in Kuwait, said he offered $100 for a Toblerone chocolate bar. No one has come through.

For now, U.S. dollars, Iraqi dinars, old Kuwaiti dinars and Saudi Arabian riyals all are in use.

A more difficult problem could be the shortage of labor - oil-rich Kuwaitis are not accustomed to working.

Filipino and Indian laborers, who previously made $2 an hour, now are being offered $8 and up.