Interview: Sheikh Meshaal Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah
To what extent has the new package of investment laws had tangible results?
SHEIKH MESHAAL JABER AL AHMAD AL SABAH: The approval of our new Investment Law, No. 116 of 2013, came as part of a notable legislative drive witnessed in the last few years to issue new laws and to amend decades-old ones. This host of new economic laws has contributed to making the legal and regulatory framework in Kuwait more pro-business. Law No. 116 of 2013 established KDIPA as an independent specialised public authority in charge of exclusively attracting direct investment to Kuwait. Its provisions also introduced more transparency in the criteria for licensing and granting incentives, as well as broader options for foreign firms to have up to 100% ownership and select from various legal forms to establish a Kuwaiti company.
Other supporting economic laws pertain to tax, commercial companies, partnerships, the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Fund, privatisation, commercial licences and protecting competition, as well as the recent anti-corruption and commercial agencies laws. This enabling environment has enhanced Kuwait’s unique proposition, accompanied by several other attributes which characterise our country. KDIPA began operating at the end of December 2014. Up to the end of June 2016 it had succeeded in approving and licensing – as well as granting incentives to – more than $2.1bn of direct investment in crucial sectors such as ICT, energy, health, renewable energy and higher education, with more applications under consideration.
Which emerging non-hydrocarbons sectors do you identify as having the most potential in terms of attracting foreign investors?
SHEIKH MESHAAL: We have completed a study with a renowned consulting firm to identify potential investment opportunities in various sectors in Kuwait and have identified 12, including infrastructure, storage and logistics, tourism and entertainment, environmental services, web and app development, air, maritime, rail and passenger transport, education and training, health care, and culture and media.
Our first Kuwait Investment Forum in 2016 attracted the attention of the global investment community, showcased our attributes and unleashed the potential of several investment opportunities with the full participation of our active local private sector. To build on this, we are working on improving the business climate to be more favourable for both domestic and foreign investors. In this regard, KDIPA heads the Permanent Committee for Streamlining Business Environment in Kuwait. We are identifying reform priorities and obstacles in collaboration with the private sector, and launched a series of public-private open dialogues to foster this initiative.
How can greater focus be encouraged in expanding the industrial manufacturing base?
SHEIKH MESHAAL: One of KDIPA’s key goals is to support the country’s economic diversification efforts, including raising the share of the manufacturing sector in GDP. There is a close relationship between our investment strategy and our country’s industrial and export development strategies. Through attracting foreign direct investment we play a key role in attaining the objectives of technology transfer, job creation and training for nationals, as well as supporting local content, which in turn links to our country’s science and technology policy. This is crucial given Kuwait’s international commitments, which we all need to observe in fulfilling the global Sustainable Development Goals 2015-30, especially in promoting sustainable industries, investing in scientific research and innovation, forging partnerships with multinational companies and creating competitive clusters in priority sectors through the integration of our local thriving small and medium-sized enterprises.
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