The government’s pledge to pursue capital investments, despite lower oil revenues and deficit budgets, signals a commitment to fully implement the first five-year phase (2015-2020) of the Kuwait Development Plan (KDP), which has the overarching aim of weaning the economy from its over-dependence on oil and transforming the country into a regional financial and trade hub by 2035.
The first phase of KDP envisages a two-pronged approach of introducing the economic and legislative reforms needed to empower the private sector and, fast-tracking and implementing several ambitious infrastructure and utility projects, some of which were held back in the past due to political wrangling.
Acknowledging that the 2010-2014 National Development Plan was less than successful, the government has decided to carry forward the 421 unrealized projects from the previous plan and, along with 92 newly identified projects, implement a total of 513 projects by 2020.
Initially drafted with a budget of around KD47 billion, the first phase of KDP will focus on building and expanding core infrastructure, utilities and housing, as well as strengthening the country’s vital oil and gas sector, through the extensive use of the public-private partnership (PPP) framework, so as to deepen the private sector’s contribution to the country’s economic growth and spur job creation.
In line with this assertive development plan, the government is planning on revamping and reforming the healthcare sector, including encouraging greater Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in this sector. Currently, the government accounts for 80 percent of expenditure in the healthcare sector with the private share being around 15 to 20 percent. The new health strategy places greater emphasis on improving the quality of healthcare facilities in the country and boosting preventive health care by encouraging healthier lifestyle choices and better health screenings. These reforms are expected to lower the burden on health budgets and produce significant savings over time.
For instance, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), nearly 400,000 cases of diabetes were reported from Kuwait in 2015, which is equivalent to nearly 10 percent of the total population. With the IDF estimating an average annual cost of KD600 for treating each diabetic patient, the overall cost to the State last year was a staggering KD240 billion.
According to diabetes experts, a good diet, physical activity, diabetes-related counseling and timely interventions such as educational outreach can all play a valuable role in mitigating the burden of diabetes. Furthermore, a recent study showed that educating patients about diabetes could increase life expectancy by 17 percent, and reduce the costs associated with treatment by 8 percent.
New state-of-the-art hospital complexes being constructed, as well as cooperation and accreditation agreements signed with leading international medical institutions and universities, are aimed at improving the excellence of health care services in the country and reducing the number of patients sent abroad for treatment each year.
The number of Kuwaitis traveling abroad annually for treatment, the duration of their stay and the daily allowances they receive during their period of hospitalization and recuperation, have long been contentious topics. The government’s determination to address this issue, by strictly scrutinizing patients’ need to travel abroad for treatment, as well as reducing the daily allowances of patients and their companions during their foreign sojourn, is clearly making headway. Latest figures show that in 2015 the number of Kuwaitis being sent abroad for treatment fell by over 50 percent from the previous year. The 520 patients that were sent abroad for treatment in 2015 is a far cry from the 2,580 patients who were sent overseas in 2012 at a cost of over KD250 million.
As part of the KDP framework, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is building new hospitals as well as replacing or expanding nine of the existing15 generalized and specialized hospitals in the country. With a budget of more than a billion dinars, the new hospitals and expansions are expected to add nearly 5,400 new beds to the existing 7,000 beds and create employment for more than 15,000 medical and support staff.
Among the major new hospitals being built is the KD300 million Jaber Al-Ahmad Hospital complex in South Surra and the 500-bed Police Hospital project. Designed to be the largest medical center in the country, the Jaber Al-Ahmad Hospital will be the biggest center for injuries in the Middle-East. With a total area of 469,370 square meters and 1,168 beds, the Jaber Hospital will have cutting-edge equipment and qualified staff to offer a comprehensive range of medical services to enhance health and well-being of residents in the country.