Government must win the debate in Kuwait

25 November 2009

A good performance from the prime minister could give the country’s cabinet a boost of confidence

Kuwait National Petroleum Corporation (KNPC) will make its third attempt to push through one of the biggest projects in the country’s history in 2010: a $10-15bn refinery at Al-Zour.

Despite the state refiner’s best efforts, the project will inevitably attract a huge amount of controversy. If comparable schemes in the country provide any guide, the bidding process will drag on and the odds are against construction work starting at all if the country’s fractious National Assembly (parliament) has any involvement in making a contract award.

This is a huge shame for all concerned. KNPC and its parent company, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), have carefully planned schemes such as the Al-Zour refinery, and the tendering process for the construction deal is well laid out.

But, as MEED has repeatedly argued, a combination of overwhelming bureaucracy and the stalemate between government and parliament has made it impossible for the technocrats and engineers at the national oil company to do their jobs.

The country’s Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Ahmed al-Sabah , who wholeheartedly backs the energy projects, will have to defend them at a meeting with senior MPs in December. Kuwaitis and potential investors in the country will be looking for a rapprochement between government and MPs that enables the projects to move forward.

A good performance from the prime minister could give the country’s cabinet a much-needed boost of confidence and prompt Kuwait’s ministers of state to take the initiative in pushing through major projects.

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