Despite the slow start for the Kuwaiti government's development plan, approved in 2010, many of the obstacles that had hindered progress are being removed, and important projects are underway, according to financial experts and government officials
The government vowed to implement the plan, which aims to reduce the country's dependence on the oil sector and promote private sector participation in development projects. It is part of a strategic vision extending to 2035 that seeks to transform Kuwait into a financial and commercial centre.
The estimated $104 billion plan aims to create more than 1,000 projects in various sectors including oil, gas, electricity, water, education, health and social welfare, as well as infrastructure projects such as airports, ports, and housing. The plan aims to raise the annual gross domestic product rate to 6.5%.
Critics of the plan say the slow start happened because the government did not understand the actual concept of the economic development plans.
"We must first address the flaw that has existed in the government's understanding of these plans from the outset, and then we can proceed to fulfil the desired objectives," Jassem al-Saadoun, chairman of the board of directors for the Shall Consulting and Investment Company, told Al-Shorfa.
The solution lies in setting the economic development plan on the right track "through the formation of a new government by the state, one that recognises the importance of this plan, whose implementation has become inevitable", al-Saadoun said.
Kuwait's ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, swore in a new government on Sunday (May 8th), lead by Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd, deputy prime minister for economic affairs and minister of state for development affairs in the former and current cabinet, said during a recent press conference that the government's development plan is "proceeding according to schedule and an acceptable portion of it has been completed".
Economic analyst and general director of Wethaq Takaful Insurance Company, Majed al-Ali, said that although the development plans "are experiencing many obstacles, in some cases bringing them to a halt, many of the projects put in place have become a reality, including the seaport, the foundations of which were laid on the island of Boubyan, and also the Al-Sabia and Jaber bridges connecting Kuwait and its islands located in the Arabian Gulf."
He told Al-Shorfa that these projects are in addition "to the many health projects that the government began to implement, whether the establishment of new hospitals or the development of old ones".
Al-Ali called on the government to appoint an official spokesperson to announce these projects to citizens so they will know and be assured about the direction being taken.
Hajjaj Bukhdur, an economist, said the plans "faced extreme difficulty this round because of a number of fundamental loopholes that have since been closed by requiring identification of funding sources, the resources used, and the skilled manpower that would be utilized in implementing this plan."
"Because of those gaps, the plans were proceeding like a ship without a sail, a captain, trained crew, or oars which caused the ship to be tossed between the interests of the executive and legislative branches," Bukhdur told Al-Shorfa.
He pointed out that the gaps were remedied only recently, and the political escalation that led to the resignation of the government caused interruptions in execution and debate on the development plans.
Bukhdur said that the existence of such development plans "will reduce the annual depletion of oil resources, and the surplus can be stored for future generations. This is a great achievement that we hope will translate into more action in the near future. However, until now, activity has been limited to a few projects involving alternative energy."
In order to achieve the ultimate goal of becoming a centre for finance and commerce in the region, Bukhdur said that Kuwait needs to conduct studies "on tax laws and the amendment, modernisation and development of corporate laws, which also has not occurred yet", and improve the educational system.