Interview: Sheikh Meshaal Jaber Al Sabah

To what extent is foreign direct investment being attracted in line with the New Kuwait 2035 vision?

SHEIKH MESHAAL JABER AL SABAH: Kuwait has always been an open market, forging strong economic and commercial relationships to integrate it in the global market, as reflected in Law No. 116 of 2013 for the promotion of direct investment into Kuwait. In full alignment with the New Kuwait 2035 vision, KDIPA’s operational strategy and promotional activities aim to attract added value investments. In November 2017 KDIPA enhanced its outreach programme by launching the “Kuwait Investment Outreach Roadshow” in London. A second roadshow was held in Silicon Valley in November 2018 and a third in Singapore is scheduled for 2019. There have been positive developments as Kuwait enters the third phase of its NDP. For example, FTSE Russell, Standard & Poor’s and MSCI upgraded the Kuwait Stock Exchange to emerging market status. This development reflects the increased attractiveness of Kuwait’s capital markets, strong investment opportunities and ongoing project pipelines in various sectors.

How is coordination being enhanced across government agencies to facilitate the ease of doing business for foreign investors?

AL SABAH: KDIPA heads the Permanent Committee for Streamlining Business Environment and Enhancing Competitiveness in the State of Kuwait (PCK), which was established by the Council of Ministers Decision No. 1551 in December 2013. Other members of PCK include representatives from the government, the private sector and civil society organisations. The committee aims to coordinate national efforts to improve the business environment. KDIPA launched an indicator-based reform with the hope of achieving further improvements in the country’s overall performance. Under this initiative, the first and second national reform agenda were developed and dubbed the Tahseen Programme 1 and 2. KDIPA also launched the Tahseen Portal to give the public access to government reports and presentations in a bid to improve transparency. These efforts resulted in enhanced engagement by the authorities in their area of specialisation. In turn, this triggered several regulatory and legal reforms aimed at reducing the number of procedures, duration and cost for starting a business, registering property, protecting minority investors and getting credit. In the “Doing Business 2020” report, the World Bank identified Kuwait as one of the top-20 improvers out of 190 economies. According to the report, Kuwait has enhanced business reforms in six components: starting a business, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors and trading across borders.

Additionally, KDIPA developed its investment facilitation model in accordance with international principles to provide continuous support and aftercare to investors entering the market. This includes establishing designated account managers, an online investors service centre, a mechanism to address complaints and suggestions, and an investors’ grievances committee.

What steps is KDIPA taking to support the country’s transition towards an economy more focused on innovation and sustainability?

AL SABAH: KDIPA initiated a national project to prepare a study called “Enhancing the Competitiveness of Kuwait in International Indices: Engine for Transformation into Knowledge and Innovation-Based Economy”, in partnership with the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research. The project ultimately aims to propose a national roadmap aimed at transitioning Kuwait towards an innovation-driven economy. Phases I and II of this project have been completed, and KDIPA is in the process of finalising Phase III, which comprises a coherent strategy that sets priorities, identifies policies, and develops programmes aimed at facilitating sustained inclusive growth and competitiveness in order to achieve socio-economic development goals.