OBG talks to Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah

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Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah

Interview:  Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah

Which projects deserve priority to enhance Kuwait’s economic development and ensure its prosperity?

SHEIKH JABER AL MUBARAK AL HAMAD AL SABAH: The government has set a development plan for the coming years based on five priorities: social welfare, sustainable economic development, human development, institutional distinction and administrative reform. We intend to involve both the public and private sector by privatising some economic activities, supporting technological projects and providing industrial plots for private companies.

At the level of human development, Kuwait faces a challenge which, if overcome, will guarantee growth, prosperity and a thriving economy. The key question is how to develop the skills and competencies of Kuwaitis so that they can meet the needs of the local labour market and also be competitive at the regional and global level. The Kuwaiti government is promoting a spirit of initiative among its citizens by launching a small business fund of about $7bn, which will increase job opportunities in the private sector and contribute to real growth that is separate from the public sector.

What safeguards are in place to ensure the accountability of political institutions?

SHEIKH JABER: Kuwait is a democratic country and has institutions that work according to legal and constitutional principles. We have a complete separation between the three powers – legislative, executive and judicial. The parliament, which controls the government’s work and promulgates laws, is elected directly by the people. The judiciary, moreover, is recognised for its neutrality, and our laws safeguard the rights of litigation and the principles of a fair trial. The government is subject to oversight by inspection bodies and civil services; by parliament, which is entitled to question the ministers and withdraw confidence from them; and, lastly, by the media, which possess the highest level of freedom among Arab countries.

We are proud that Kuwait’s democracy is the oldest in the region. The democratic path is cumulative, and we should not rush phases or use strategies that are customary but might not be suitable in Kuwait due to its social composition and historical legacy. We believe in democracy, and we believe that reform is a continuous act that should be performed through institutions and constitutional frameworks, and in a peaceful and civilised manner. These are fundamental prerequisites for any political or economic reform.

What steps must state institutions take to ensure that Kuwait is competitive in attracting foreign direct investment compared to other GCC countries?

SHEIKH JABER: One of the government’s priorities is allowing foreign investments to enter the country and contribute to developing our economy in different fields. This requires creating a build-operate-transfer law, establishing free zones, facilitating transactions and reducing the documentation cycle. We are also seeking to develop public warehouses and border crossings that ease transit procedures between Kuwait and other GCC states. To this end, the fast Customs clearance project is being implemented according to international standards. Recent amendments to the commercial companies law have also helped pave the way for attracting more foreign investment. Moreover, we are working on decreasing business requirements and reducing administrative costs; improving the visa system; and lifting restrictions on foreign investors. The government has launched a programme to attract investors through a broad marketing effort that sheds light on investment opportunities in Kuwait in the next 10 years. We have started to prepare for this by creating an appropriate media environment and launching advertising campaigns and an extensive public relations effort. Lastly, the independence of our judiciary is essential to enhancing investor confidence, and despite the past issues Kuwait has faced, the judiciary has remained immune from any bias or corruption. Indeed, its provisions have received wide acclaim. This encourages foreign and Gulf investors to look toward Kuwait.

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Cover of The Report: Kuwait 2014

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