The Al-Zour independent water and power project (IWPP) might be just what Kuwait needs to put its utilities sector back on track. It is an opportunity for the country to show foreign investors that it is capable of breaking with its past. Investors are pinning their hopes on the fact that a new body, the Partnerships Technical Bureau, rather than the Electricity & Water Ministry, will be overseeing it.

If the scheme is a success, it is conceivable that the positive experience could rub off on the rest of the sector. Contractors are already speculating that the ministry itself might apply the IWPP model to some of its future projects.

With demand for power and water growing at 8 per cent a year, the ministry plans to more than double existing production capacity by 2017. If it is to achieve this, there will need to be a concerted effort by state bodies to ensure the contracting process becomes quicker and more transparent.

“The water and power project is an opportunity for Kuwait to show foreign investors it is capable of breaking with its past”

Kuwait cannot afford to retender projects three times as it has done on the long-delayed Subiya power plant, not least because of the message this sends to contractors. Contract awards are complicated by a convoluted decision-making process during which the client carries out the technical evaluation of the bids, the Central Tenders Committee opens the commercial offers and makes a recommendation, and the client decides whether to award the contract. The State Audit Bureau must then approve the award.

While Kuwait’s democracy is a welcome point of difference in a region where most governments lack explicit popular legitimacy, politics should not stand in the way of development. Observers say the government has lost sight of the ultimate goal for the utilities sector – to ensure that new power and water capacity is available when it is needed. It is time for Kuwait to show that it can indeed deliver.