ONLY TIME CAN TELL

Kuwait 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

PPPs are an essential part of the government's efforts to establish more trust in the private sector.

Dr. Khaled A. Mahdi
BIOGRAPHY
Prior to becoming Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development in 2016, Dr. Khaled A. Mahdi was Assistant Secretary General for Follow-up and Future Forecasting and Acting Assistant Secretary General for Planning. He has also been on several government boards and higher committees, including the Public Authority for Industries, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, the Public Authority for Civil Information, and the Arab Planning Institute. He is a member of the Supreme Council of Education and the committee for Economic and Fiscal Reform, Humanitarian Foreign Aid, Fiscal Budgeting Framework, and Kuwait Demographic Disparities. He holds a PhD in chemical engineering from Northwestern University.

What is the current main focus of SCPD?

SCPD continually focuses on investing in capital projects, CAPEX, and development projects. Current examples include the Jaber Causeway and Silk City. Our focus is the same regardless of the oil price. We use a custom-made system for the preparation and monitoring of progress of the national plan, which allows the manager of each project to update us with their individual status, which in turn adds responsibility and accountability to the role of the SCPD. We constantly strive to improve the efficiency of our project management and development, one example of which is the integration of our new Astrolabe system, which optimizes project selection, our decision support system, and data entry with macro-models. We are currently focusing on patenting this system, which is unique insomuch as it carries out follow-ups by incorporating the use of artificial intelligence into project selection and simulation.

What is the SCPD's stance on collaborating with the private sector?

We are actively pushing for the government to support more PPPs and encouraging other entities in the government to secure projects that the private sector will perceive as attractive. Results are not achieved instantaneously; success in this regard is a lengthy process. The only way the Kuwaiti government can develop trust in the private sector is by producing economic results, boosting job creation, and giving the private sector significantly more freedom to conduct its own business operations. Trust between the private sector and government is also gradually improving. There are an increasing number of infrastructure projects undergoing development, and the results are becoming more evident. Infrastructural projects, power stations, and Shamal Resort are the only PPPs that have been successfully implemented thus far, which is undoubtedly insufficient. However, dealing with energy waste, city development, wastewater treatment, stages two, three, four, and five of the power stations, and the Agella beach tourist attraction are all examples of PPPs that we are currently in the process of implementing. These projects are all in line with our overall vision of diversification and shifting the economy away from oil. We aim to do this through innovation, human capital, and increasing the inclusion of women in industry across society.

Can you tell us more about your plan for women's empowerment?

We have a full-fledged program to help increase the political and economic inclusion of women. In our most recent initiative, for example, we had 61 women fully engaged in a program designed specifically to help them enter the business community and political sphere. Part two was launched in October in collaboration with UN Women, Kuwaiti universities, and the Women Studies Center.

What are SCPD's goals and objectives for 2019?

In 2019, we will present our voluntary national report on the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. It is a substantial project led by SCPD that will engage with all government entities, the private sector, NGOs, the World Bank, and the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce. We have our own PR strategy, which involves the complete rebranding of the Kuwaiti national plan, an initiative has been fully supported by every ministry. So far, the OECD, UN, World Bank, international think tanks, and universities have all acknowledged our National Vision for 2035, demonstrating the success of our PR efforts. Though our projects will take time, the end results speak for themselves, as our brand's credibility has gradually solidified on a global scale.