ON THE UP

Kuwait 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

KDIPA adopts a proactive approach to attract value-added direct investments supported by an integrated promotional strategy serving Kuwait's developmental goals in line with its National Vision 2035.

Sheikh Dr. Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah
BIOGRAPHY
Sheikh Dr. Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah is currently Director General of KDIPA. He also chairs the Permanent Committee for Streamlining Business Environment & Enhancing Competitiveness in the State of Kuwait. Sheikh Dr. Meshaal served as Deputy Chairman for National Offset Company (NOC), previously chaired the inter-Ministerial Steering Group for insolvency and creditor/debtor regime, and was a member of the board of directors for the Central Bank of Kuwait. Prior to that, he was Chief of the Kuwait Foreign Investment Bureau Division under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. He holds a PhD in HR and marketing management from the University of Portsmouth (UK), an MBA from Maastricht School of Management, and a BA in political science and public administration from Kuwait University.

What specific actions have you implemented to increase levels of FDI into the country?

KDIPA adopts a pro-active approach to attract value-added direct investments supported by an integrated promotional strategy serving Kuwait's developmental goals in line with its National Vision 2035. KDIPA launched the Kuwait Investment Forum (KIF) to convey a consistent message to the local and international business community on developments and reflect achievements as well as display lucrative opportunities. KIF was co-organized by KDIPA and the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and is regarded as one of the biggest economic events in the country. This forum clearly reiterates the government's commitment to support investment led growth that will favorably impact the economy and expedite its ability to cope with accelerated technological advances. In conjunction, KDIPA also launched the Kuwait Investment Outreach Roadshow (KIO) in association with the Financial Times Group and in strategic partnership with Kuwaiti companies that kicked off in London in 2017 and continued in Silicon Valley in 2018, with the final leg of this roadshow scheduled to take place in Singapore in March 2019. This was further supported by numerous other collaborations and outreach programs with KCCI and other parties. The successful implementation of these key promotional initiatives resulted an extensive network of interested investors and yielded a total of around USD2.8 billion of investments in leading services sectors like ICT, renewable energy, healthcare, entertainment, and consulting, among others. On another note, KDIPA continues to develop its three economic zones in Abdali and Wafra to avail needed space for land and create sector-driven competitive clusters.

In which industries is Kuwait attracting higher levels of FDI?

Kuwait has attracted direct investments primarily in the services sector. The cumulative approved direct investments since KDIPA started its operations in early 2015 until March 2018 were focused in activities relating to ICT, oil and gas, construction, training, health, energy, recreational, and consulting services. With increased commitment by the Kuwaiti government to embrace digitalization and innovation, in a transparent environment adopting sound governance and integrity practices, as well as intellectual property rights protection, its ICT sector is witnessing unprecedented blossom. These investments came from 16 different countries, both developed and emerging. During KIF 2018 an exclusive session was held where Kuwaiti high-ranked officials and ministers presented a series of projects across diverse sectors of the economy—from infrastructure development and renewable energy to the digital transformation initiatives. Furthermore, path-breaking announcements were made to boost the status of Kuwait as a financial and capital market hub.

How has KDIPA assisted in the improvement of the Kuwait's business environment?

Kuwait's business climate has been on a steady progress course, reflecting the commitment of the government to improve business environment. There are also other relevant reform programs that are part of the national efforts to improve doing business in full collaboration with the concerned government authorities, the private sector, and civil society, and with technical support by the World Bank. The national agenda for streamlining business environment in Kuwait (Tahseen Program) was duly conducted under KDIPA as the head of the Permanent Committee for Streamlining Business Environment & Enhancing Competitiveness in the State of Kuwait (PCK), established by a council of ministers' decision 1551/2013. To follow up implementation of the Tahseen Program, the Tahseen Portal was launched through the KDIPA website with a transparent dashboard aimed to document all the reforms by competent government authorities. KDIPA fosters its advocacy role further by providing direct channel and constant support through a series of open dialogues between the public and private sectors to depict potential obstacles and address them duly and collaboratively. Furthermore, KDIPA adopts a full facilitation paradigm based on investors-services to encourage business retention and expansion. The hope is that these efforts will attain the expected results to enhancing economic diversification for a sustainable future.