By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The government on Sunday submitted to the national assembly its four-year program in which it included 107 major projects covering all economic, social, entertainment and human resources fields to be completed through to 2027. Speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun invited MPs for a special debate on the program on Tuesday.
Under the program, the government pledged to operate a number of mega projects like Kuwait’s part of the Gulf Railway project, operating in the third year the new Kuwait Airport Terminal 2 and raising the number of flights to and out of Kuwait from 240,000 to 650,000 flights by building three new runways. It said the government will revise the country’s residence law for foreigners without providing further details and vowed to take measures as part of its plan to reduce the number of expats in the country, currently forming just under 70 percent of Kuwait’s 4.5 million population.
The government also vowed to build or repair thousands of kilometers of roads, mostly damaged by rain, and operate the long-delayed Mubarak Al-Kabir Container Harbour on Boubiyan Island facing Iraq with a capacity of 8.1 million containers when completed. The government said the main target of the program is to transfer Kuwait into a regional financial and trade hub that is attractive to foreign investments and to be led by the private sector. Among the major projects listed under the program is the opening of an international class entertainment city (amusement park) in Doha, west of Kuwait City, slated in the fourth year of the program at a cost estimated at KD 200 million. It will also open Failaka Island as a tourist and cultural attraction.
Under financial stability projects, the government said it will restructure the subsidies scheme, currently costing around KD. 6 billion a year, or a quarter of expenditures, to direct subsidies to sections that need it. The government also plans to control expenditures by setting a ceiling for budget spending over the mid-term, diversify sources of income, currently heavily dependent on oil, issuing a framework for corporate tax and launching a mechanism to set prices for public services and fines.
The government also plans to revise public sector wages and at the same time encourage Kuwaitis to seek jobs in the private sector. The program states that the government will seek to get the approval for public debt legislation but to be linked with high-value economic projects. About housing, the government pledged to distribute 43,000 houses and land to help resolve the housing problem facing Kuwaiti citizens. About 92,000 Kuwaiti families are on the waiting list for government houses or land.
In the energy sector, the program states that Kuwait’s production capacity will be raised from 2.7 million barrels per day to 3.15 million bpd gradually until the fourth year. During the same period, the government expects to raise free natural gas output from 521 million cubic feet daily now to 930 million cubic feet daily at the end of the program. The government plans to launch the Northern Exclusive Zone in the first year of the program and the Abdali economic exclusive zone in the second year. It plans to privatize the North Shuaiba Power Generation and Water Desalination Plant also in the second year. To boost government local investments, the government plans to set up a sovereign fund for domestic investments.
In the meantime, the assembly financial and economic affairs committee decided on Sunday to approve a draft law abolishing the requirement for a local agent for foreign companies to work in Kuwait, MP Abdulwahab Al-Issa said. The aim of the project is to encourage competition in the domestic economy to improve the quality of services in the country and to reduce the cost of projects and services. Issa said that existing agencies will continue to be valid but foreign companies will be free to cancel their contract with their local agent and operate directly in the Kuwaiti market.