Interview: Sheikh Meshaal Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah

What role can foreign companies play in helping Kuwait shift to a more diversified economy?

SHEIKH MESHAAL JABER AL AHMAD AL SABAH: Foreign companies established in Kuwait are positively contributing to job creation and training opportunities for Kuwaiti nationals. In 2016 foreign companies in Kuwait created more than 1000 jobs for Kuwaiti nationals. In addition, renowned global companies are establishing long-term ties in Kuwait by opening training and research centres in line with the country’s vision for economic sustainably for future generations. “New Kuwait”, the country’s national vision for 2035, is the strategic roadmap for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). It emphasises not only the importance of increasing direct investment into the country, but also the key role it plays in diversifying the economy and facilitating the transfer of knowledge in various fields; factors that will in turn create jobs for Kuwaiti nationals and expand the role of the private sector in the local economy. The government is aware that foreign companies entering the country will strengthen Kuwait’s global value chains as well as its economic development and diversification. This will help to ensure a sustainable future in conjunction with the country’s international commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Which non-oil industries are likely to benefit from foreign investment in the short to medium term?

SHEIKH MESHAAL: Under the current development plan, there are nine strategic sectors covering north zone development, electricity and water, oil and gas, urban development, education, health, transport and communications, tourism and media, and the environment. Kuwait is allocating around $103bn in investment expenditure to 30 mega-projects. Kuwait’s projects market maintains its relatively healthy momentum, with most projects seeking to involve the private sector, subsequently streamlining and improving the public-private partnership (PPP) process in order to deliver vital projects on time and within budget, as this has become more crucial and imperative than ever. The government is actively seeking to attract powerhouse industries to focus on advanced technology and the required technical know-how to build the pillars of Kuwait’s knowledge economy. Today investors can enter the Kuwaiti market through several channels: through the KDIPA, based on Law No. 116 of 2013, which provides incentives and guarantees to investors, along with the potential for 100% foreign ownership of companies; the PPP programme, based on Law No. 116 of 2014; the privatisation programme that is overseeing advances in liberalising new sectors; and government approved project contracts.

How is Kuwait distinguishing itself from other countries as an investment destination?

SHEIKH MESHAAL: Kuwait is a dynamic growth market with several unique attributes making it an attractive investment destination: its strategic geographic location, which contains a platform linking it to an extensive market in neighbouring countries; a strong macro-economy; high per capita income and purchasing power; political stability and security; a low political risk rating; a positive investment grade sovereign rating; a fair and transparent judicial system; a dominant highly educated youth population; and cultural openness. Moreover, Kuwait is highly integrated in the global market and is part of numerous global organisations. This enables the country to capitalise on extensive international, commercial and investment relations, on top of around 100 bilateral and regional agreements it is engaged in. Kuwait’s commitment to the global economy is reflected in the country’s high rate of official development assistance, and its humanitarian assistance compared to GDP, which has surpassed international targets.