Kuwait has long been called the ‘sleeping giant’ of the Middle East’s projects markets. Opec’s fourth-largest producer has a rapidly growing population and has invested little in its infrastructure since the Iraqi invasion in 1990.
Despite the combination of demand for new infrastructure and the capital to fund it, few of Kuwait’s planned megaprojects have come to fruition due to bureaucracy and political infighting. Political tensions have reached a new high in recent months, culminating with major protests on 5 November over amendments to the electoral law.
Interestingly, the recent political issues have coincided with a revival in Kuwait’s projects sector. The long-awaited approval of the $2.6bn Subiya causeway was finally pushed through after parliament was dissolved in early October, and progress on several major infrastructure projects in the pipeline has led to a renewed sense of confidence in the country’s projects market.
The news that the first package on the $3.2bn new airport terminal will be tendered before the end of the year is a further positive sign for Kuwait’s development programme.
But with more than $115bn-worth of un-awarded schemes currently at the tendering or planning stage, much more needs to be done before Kuwait’s projects market can be said to have turned the corner. For this to happen, the government must streamline tendering and approval processes for vital projects.
The recent upturn in Kuwait’s projects market has occurred in the face of the current political crisis. However, for the state to deliver on all that it has promised, its rulers must ensure its projects sector is not controlled by politics.