Northern Economic Region

On September 9, 2019 the Kuwaiti Council of Ministers approved the bill of establishing the Northern Economic Region, the basic project in “New Kuwait’s Vision 2035”. We repeat our support for any vision or project that resembles the future, particularly creating adequate sustainable national job opportunities and seeks to achieve a fundamental change in the direction of gradual   reduction  of  the  country’s  semi-complete dependence on exporting crude oil and creating alternative sustainable income sources. In order not for the bill approval to be the entire achievement and matters run into the opposite direction in reality as in all previous development projects. As in all partial projects within them like education, health services, infrastructure projects and even facilities management like the airport and the port the shortages in any project should be addressed. Examples are numerous.

The above project as we understand it adopts a goal which lacks support in reality. The goal of creating 200 thousand indigenous sustainable jobs with productivity similar to the Singaporean labor’s         productivity,        which        is 

commendable. However, published materials about the project did not state the means to promote Kuwaiti laborer’s productivity to that level. The promotion basis is the education system, work values and competitiveness for the job in the general work environment all of which are missing in Kuwait. Education is bad and the measurement means is the degree, any degree and some of the degrees are of low quality and even fake. Work values with accumulated veiled unemployment are no more than attendance and leaving routine, with competition in its most part is limited to having the strongest connection or influence.

Another challenge is that the cabinet which approved the above project is also the same cabinet that approved Kuwait Petroleum Corporation’s strategy. While the Northern Project adopts the goal of diversifying income sources away from oil, the Southern Project adopts promoting Kuwait’s oil production to 4 million barrel per day by 2040. Hence, the two projects are under the authority of the same Cabinet though their goals are quite contradictory and compete for the State’s financial resources by US$ 450 billion for each or US$ 900 billion combined. They also compete for tempting the local or the foreign investor and convincing them of the feasibility and attractiveness of each one for them. The country does not endure the two projects’ costs, one of them must be incorrect.

The third challenge is that of the general environment nursing the business. Kuwait is classified within corruption circles; and corruption as well known is very harmful and costly during financial boom. And during resources scarcity, no progress is possible unless fighting corruption is a priority. If we look at the drop in the foreign direct investment inflows during the past five years might be enough to reaffirm foreigners’ consideration at us as being discouraging on the small enterprises level. Refrainment will be bigger at the mega projects level.

The need remains urgent to change the development approach; the country is losing its options by time. But the inability to manage an airport or a port or traffic or naming streets or Kuwait Bay environment or countering forgery in almost everything requires the public administration to gain trust by countering the above small challenges correctly. If it does, the public will support its approach in countering major challenges.