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Kuwait 2035 plan picks up pace
April 7, 2018, 4:23 pm

We will feel secure when our neighbors are settled and happy with us: Sheikh Nasser

Pace of reforms required to achieve the goals outlined by ‘New Kuwait 2035’, the development plan that details the country’s long-term development priorities, need to be expedited and pursued diligently, says Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

“I want it to happen yesterday,” said Sheikh Nasser, in reply to a question on how soon he would like to see changes needed for the vision of New Kuwait 2035 to materialize. The Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister was speaking to Bloomberg News on the sidelines of the second iteration of Kuwait Investment Forum that was held recently.

During the interview, Sheikh Nasser, who was reportedly brought into the government, following a recent Cabinet reshuffle, to spearhead His Highness the Amir’s ‘New Kuwait 2035’ vision, elaborated on his views about the future of Kuwait and the plan to transform the country into a cultural and financial hub in the region.

Sheikh Nasser said that there was a growing realization among the people that by 2035, the development plan would transform Kuwait to make it a “real fit” for prevailing society. “We are working very hard to produce the code of investment and legislation that will eventually transform Kuwait.” He added that the transformation will not only benefit Kuwait and ensure its security, but also bring peace and prosperity to neighboring countries in the region, including to Iraq and Iran. ”We will feel secure when we feel our neighbors are settled and happy with us,” the minister said.

Responding to whether the pace and scale of change in Kuwait will be as rapid and ambitious as that being witnessed in neighboring Saudi Arabia, where Prince Mohammad bin Salman is in the midst of initiating and implementing a slew of reforms intended to transform what is arguably one of the most conservative countries in the world, Sheikh Nasser said:  “No; while I have great admiration and respect for His Highness Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the way we operate in Kuwait is totally different. We are more constitutional and so, the behavior and the way you work with the constitution and parliament is not as easy as when you are an individual and can decide to make anything you want happen. But it is progressing well in Kuwait and we are hoping that by the end of the year, things will already begin to be visible… A code of investment, new legislation, there will be an international stock exchange here.  There will be an airport where everybody can come, with his visa being his hotel reservation. We are looking to emulate other similar cities...not Hong Kong, more like Singapore or that kind of city.”

In answer on how Kuwait hoped to raise the capital needed to finance the development plan and its various mega projects, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense replied: “We don’t have a problem of capital because we are not encouraging the State of Kuwait to invest at all. We want other investments to come and join us here, because that will give a sense of security. If people come and live, and invest, obviously the country will look after them and will not jeopardize those areas. So it gives a sense of direction and it is a unique position, unique geopolitics.

With regard to his vision for the future of Kuwait, Sheikh Nasser said that the country was headed forward at full speed as it prepared to become an integral and valuable player among prevailing societies by 2035. “The path ahead is tough and we realize that a lot of work needs to be done; education is key element and reforms in this sector are vital,” he added.

When asked how it would be different from the past, when Kuwait’s voluble and contentious parliament has often managed to stymie the government’s ambitious reform plans, Sheikh Nasser replied confidently, “It will be different this time around. Before we were often changing for the sake of change. Now, we are changing for a reason and clear goals that are backed by facts and figures. We also have a lot of stakeholders involved in New Kuwait 2035, so hopefully, we will face less problems.”

Saying that the government was determined to push through reforms this time around, Sheikh Nasser noted that the first thing would be to convince the people on New Kuwait and get them onboard the development plan. To this end, there would be a lot of discussions held at the grass-roots level, as well as animations to display how 2035 would look like, and the activities involved. There would also be a system in place that would allow people to interact and input their views and opinions on the development plan, said Sheikh Nasser.

- Staff Report



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