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Island projects to attract international investments
October 30, 2018, 9:20 am

The strategic New Kuwait 2035 plan, which aims to realize the vision of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to transform Kuwait into a leading regional center for finance, commerce and culture by the year 2035, will see the country investing billions in infrastructure developments in the coming years to stimulate growth, attract investments and diversify the economy away from its preponderant reliance on oil revenues.

During his visit to China in July of this year, His Highness the Amir witnessed the signing of several cooperation protocols with the Chinese authorities, including on the Silk City to the north of Kuwait, and the development of five islands located off the country’s eastern seaboard. In the coming years, Kuwait is expected to pour in excess of $150 billion into developing the five islands of Awha, Boubyan, Failaka, Miskan and Warba into commercial and residential venues. 

The development of Silk City, or Madinat al-Hareer as it is known in Arabic, to the north of Kuwait City across the Kuwait Bay involves a planned urban area of 250-sq km in Subiya area. The Jaber Causeway over Kuwait Bay, which is nearing completion will be the main link between Subiya and Kuwait City.

The Silk City will also be linked to Boubiyan Island to its east via an existing bridge as well as a couple of new bridges to be constructed. Of the five islands that are to be developed, Boubyan Island with an area of 863-sq km is the largest and is strategically located close to the mouth of the Shatt Al-Arab waterway that forms the border between Iraq and Iran.

The island will anchor the Mubarak al Kabeer Port that is under construction and also feature large environmental reserve areas, as well as resorts for the public.  The remaining four islands are relatively much smaller — Failaka (43-sq km), Warba (37-sq km), Miskan (0.75-sq km) and Awha, which is less than 0.35-sq km in area.

However, more than their size it is their location that is likely to attract foreign interest and investments into these projects, as they lie in an area that sees an estimated annual economic turnover of over $2 trillion. 

The five-island development project will include the building of an airport, a seaport with an integrated free-trade zone that will have new operating rules which minimize bureaucracy and enhance efficiency. The islands will also have resorts, hotels, amusement, leisure and sports facilities, as well as shopping and business centers, and wildlife sanctuaries. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are planned to power several of the projects on the islands. 

A government report projected that, when fully completed over the next 20 years, the islands would house over 400,000 people and generate around $40 billion annually, while providing jobs to more than 200,000 people. Chinese interest in these mega projects are in line with its ambitious plans to revive the old Silk Road that once linked the Far-East with Europe. The Chinese development strategy that is labelled the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ involves a vast network of infrastructure development and investments in countries in Asia, Africa and Europe aimed at increasing regional trade and economic cooperation.

It is estimated that Chinese investment bodies such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund and the New Development Bank will commit in excess of US$1 trillion to fund the Belt and Road Initiative.

While Kuwait has been supportive of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and Chinese investments would be welcomed for development projects on the islands, there were no plans to lease the islands to Kuwait as reported in some media, said a government source.  Projects such as the Silk City and Five Island Development plans are part of the government’s approaches to diversify the economy and boost non-oil sources of revenue.

These strategies are in line with the New Kuwait 2035, the country’s strategic national development plan, that aims to revive Kuwait’s pioneering role in the past, in social, cultural and financial fields.

-Staff Report

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