A MAN WITH A PLAN

Kuwait 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Khaled A. Mahdi, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Planning & Development (GSSCPD), on the breakdown of Kuwait's long-term economic plan, the KPIs that will benchmark its success, and what Vision 2035 means for the nature of the economy.

 Dr. Khaled A. Mahdi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Khaled A. Mahdi serves as the Secretary General of the GSSCPD in Kuwait in a ministerial capacity. Furthermore, he is an associate professor of chemical engineering at Kuwait University. Dr. Khaled received his PhD in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, specializing in applications of statistical mechanics on complex thermodynamic systems. He has co-authored more than 65 journal articles, chapters, conference papers, and books in different fields, primarily focusing on the study of complex systems, process modeling, and optimization of the applied side of engineering.

What is the mission of the GSSCPD?

In the early years, we had a master plan for urban development in the country when no other countries in the region had such a plan. Our planning transformed from urban development to more strategic national planning. In 2004, His Highness the Amir issued a decree to form the GSSCPD in Kuwait, and it was inaugurated in 2007, initially as the Ministry of Planning. The primary objective was to develop a long-term strategic plan for the future of Kuwait, a five-year plan, as well as short-term annual plans. With all of these planning activities our ultimate vision has been the transformation of Kuwait into a commercial and financial hub for the region. The idea is to create an environment that encourages and empowers internal and external investment and has greater ease of doing business, which is driven and led by the private sector.

How do you envision measuring progress on the seventh pillar, the international positioning of the country?

It is a chief objective to change the government from being an operator to a regulator by 2035, and this involves privatization. For the master plan, we have outlined seven pillars and six of them ultimately converge in the seventh pillar, which is putting Kuwait on the map through “International Positioning of the Country." In each pillar, we look at the global competitiveness indices, which are compiled and published by international organizations like the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank, and we have listed 20 global indices and outlined KPIs for each of them. We would like to be at least in the top 35 for all indicators in the world by the year 2035.

As you strive to become a commercial hub, how do you plan to leverage Kuwait's geographical location?

As a hub, we need to be open to all, and as we are geographically well positioned, we can link the East to the West. We are moving closer to being part of what we call the economic corridor. With this strategic position, we are definitely looking at a higher rate of trade exchange volumes once we create the proper infrastructure to link the East with the West. With the investments that are made in infrastructure, we can host that linkage and be part of that global economic corridor. We are looking forward to building a solid commercial and financial infrastructure, and this cements us as a financial and commercial hub.

What characterizes Vision 2035 for you?

In line with His Highness the Amir's vision, by 2035 we should be able to transform the labor market so that 20% of our citizens work for the public sector and 80% work in the private sector. Furthermore, in line with our “Sustainable Living Environment" pillar, we have a very ambitious renewable energy project whereby 15% of our energy mix will be sourced from renewables. The potential for solar power is huge in Kuwait, and we should strive for solid PPPs to make progress here. Also, by 2035, the smart cities that we envision building should be up and running, and boost our society on the sustainability index. Our education system will be about delivering more creative and innovative graduates and human capital should become our biggest asset.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

We will be seeing a lot of megaprojects approaching submission, and by 2018 and 2019 most of them should be in operation. All entities are working together to get things done this time, and we are all locked into this vision together. Our judicial system is strong, which is a key parameter for international business to set foot into a country, so we should promote that. We still need to improve the ease of doing business in Kuwait, and we are working on that. With the conclusion of the Kuwait Business Center project, a company can be registered in just 30 days.