- Oil wealth drives progress -
Under the umbrella of state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), the Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery is a part of one of the largest oil complexes in the world.

he Kuwaiti economy grew by a staggering 16.4 percent in 2003 according to Sheikh Salem Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud Al-Sabah, Governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait. Over the same period, the Kuwait Stock Exchange rocketed by 101 percent. An unprecedented rise in global energy demand, which boosted Kuwait’s oil export revenues by 20%, meant this trend continued in 2004. These achievments are due not only to the successful conclusion of decade-long reconstruction efforts after the catastrophic Iraqi invasion in 1990, but also to the subsequent fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, which brought an understandable sense of security to the country.

Relieved of the financial drains relating to security costs and reconstruction, Kuwait is now free to turn its attention from rebuilding to economic reform. Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah states, “We hope improvements will prevail so that we can direct our resources towards strengthening domestic economic development, in addition to developing economic ties among regional states, especially Iraq.” Kuwait has been an important donor in Iraq reconstruction efforts, pledging US$1.5 billion (£821.6 million) at the 2003 donors conference in Madrid.

Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

Part and parcel of restructuring the Kuwait economy is a renewed focus on diversification, away from the country’s near total dependence on oil subsidies, and the increase of private sector participation and foreign direct investment. A new privatisation law is currently awaiting parliamentary approval, while a Foreign Direct Investment Act passed in 2001 has opened up the country’s banking sector and upped privatisation in petrochemical industries and telecommunications. For UK investors, Kuwait is ready to extend a warm welcome.

“We appreciate what the UK represents to Kuwait historically: first, in its role in the creation of the country; second, thanks to its part in the liberation of Kuwait; and finally, in the excellent and longstanding relationship between the two countries. The UK is most welcome here,” comments Minister of Energy Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahed Al-Sabah.

Consequently, according to UK Ambassador Christopher Wilton, more UK companies need to consider the burgeoning opportunities in Kuwait. “I think we should try to persuade British companies to engage more here. The private sector here is strong and we can build on the close and historic relationship between the two countries,” he says.

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