Political change to revive Kuwait projects

10 October 2013

The Partnerships Technical Bureau may finally push forward with a wave of infrastructure schemes

Kuwait has always been the regional underperformer in terms of delivery on its infrastructure plans. That may be about to change.

Over the past decade, other GCC countries have pushed forward with projects and have experienced huge growth. Dubai has been transformed into one of the most modern cities in the region. More recently, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have moved ahead with plans to invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure as they seek to modernise their cities and diversify their economies.

Kuwait has been the laggard. Despite having the financial resources, its fractious political system frequently obstructs development plans.

The Partnerships Technical Bureau (PTB) was created by the government as a way to circumvent political interference in its investment drive. For much of the past three years, it looked like the idea had not worked. Closing the deal for the first scheme in the PTB’s public-private partnership programme, the Al-Zour North power plant, has been repeatedly delayed.

Now, there are signs the situation is about to change. Sources close to the PTB say the attitude in the organisation has recently shifted. With a few changes to the country’s laws in place, the PTB is said to now consider Al-Zour North as effectively a done deal. Its attention is shifting to the next wave of schemes.

The award of an advisory mandate to the UK’s HSBC for a solar energy project, coupled with the anticipated launch of the Umm al-Hayman wastewater scheme and another power deal, suggests that after a year of optimism, Kuwait is finally turning a corner.

The hope is that with Al-Zour North having ironed out all the wrinkles from the process of procuring infrastructure with private sector investment, future schemes will not have nearly as many obstacles to overcome.

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