Interview: Abdulwahab Al Bader
Why was KFAED established, how does it operate and what does it seek to achieve?
ABDULWAHAB AL BADER: Since its independence in 1961, the state of Kuwait has been participating in economic development efforts, motivated by its firm belief in the principles of cooperation and humanities. To this end, Kuwait proceeded to establish KFAED, the first institution in the Middle East to take an active role in international developmental efforts. The fund extends loans on concessionary terms to finance development projects in developing countries. It also provides technical assistance to finance the costs of the feasibility studies of projects, as well as the training of nationals of the recipient countries. In addition, the fund contributes to the resources of international and regional agencies.
Apart from providing finance, what other contributions does Kuwait offer to projects?
AL BADER: In many developing nations, access to financing can be a cumbersome hurdle, and this is where KFAED can offer the most assistance. That said, KFAED has been operating in developing countries for 51 years, and we have gained a lot of valuable experience. Our first project was in 1962 in Sudan, so, besides finance, we share this experience with the recipient country in terms of managing contractors, consultants and turnover in all projects that we oversee. Preparing terms of reference determines the quality of the project that can be implemented. This is often overlooked or does not receive enough focus due to a lack of capacity. KFAED works with the recipient country to define the objectives, stakeholders, responsibilities, plan and schedule for each project – while fully assessing the risks and restraints – to ensure success.
Where do you strike a balance between humanitarian aid and a healthy return on investment?
AL BADER: KFAED does not offer direct humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid needs special care and attention because of the nature of events that it addresses, for example, natural disasters, wars and other special situations. KFAED focuses on development aid. Normally, humanitarian aid is managed by the government and transferred in the form of a grant. In some cases, the Kuwaiti government appoints KFAED to implement a transfer of direct humanitarian aid, such as that given to Haiti after the earthquake, because of our expertise in using this aid for developmental purposes. We do not have experience of dealing with individuals, but we can help in assessing the construction aspect of this type of aid. This is beneficial to the recipient countries, as many of them are underdeveloped and do not have the resources or know-how to manage such projects, especially at the time of a disaster.
How do you rate the oversight of deployed funds? Is there a risk of abuse of loans or grants?
AL BADER: There is corruption everywhere in the world, from the most developed nations to third-world countries. You try your best to avoid it, but if you are going to stop working because of corruption, you cannot work anywhere. We feel the more we can be involved in the project, the more we can mitigate the negative effects of corruption. KFAED tries to oversee the selection of projects using criteria such as its importance to the country’s economy, its technical grounds and its economic viability. From there we work with the recipient country on the terms of reference, which as I mentioned is very important for successful projects.
Within this, we make sure that everything is done in accordance with the law and applied throughout the process. If we see something abnormal, we address it, and withdrawing is always an option. At the end of the project, payment is issued directly to the company, not the government, after verifying that the work is done. Of course, there is always the possibility of intangible corruption, but this is something we actively work against and try to limit. We are doing our best to counter any corruption on the projects we are involved in.
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