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Kuwait.. a look through history
February 23, 2015, 12:03 pm

Kuwait with an area of less than 18,000 km2 and a population of 4.1 million is among the smallest countries in the world. Though a small country, it has a history of human habitation that goes back to the time of early civilization in the region. Kuwait’s recorded history goes back to the sixteenth century when it began existence as a small fishing village at the northern tip of the Arabian Gulf.

During the eighteenth century, regional geopolitical turmoil brought economic prosperity to Kuwait as it usurped Basra and Baghdad to become the principal commercial center for the transit of goods to and from the region. Kuwait became the entre port for goods from India to the Arabian hinterland all the way to Aleppo, the Mediterranean and beyond. Also the shifting of East India Company to Kuwait in 1792 helped secure the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa.

By late eighteenth century, Kuwait had established itself as a flourishing boat building and pearl diving center, as well as principal exporter of fine Arabian horses. At the height of its horse trade in the nineteenth century, Kuwait was reported to have sent over 800 Arabian steeds annually to India and the country’s sea-going vessels and seamen were reputed to be among the best in the Arabian Gulf region.

Discovery of Oil: But Kuwait’s economy took a downturn in the early twentieth century following changing geopolitics, a global economic depression and lengthy blockades imposed on its borders. It was only after the discovery of large oil reserves in the late 1930s by the joint US-British Kuwait Oil Company and the first export of oil in 1946 that Kuwait’s economic fortunes began to revive and shine again.

In the late 1950s, on the back of increasing oil revenues, a major public-work program began to enable Kuwaitis to enjoy a better standard of living. By the time of the country’s independence in 1961, Kuwait was the largest exporter of oil in the Arabian Gulf and this prosperity drew many foreign migrant workers especially from Indian subcontinent.

Independence of Kuwait: On 19 June, 1961 Kuwait gained independence after the then Amir, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, the eleventh ruler of Kuwait, signed the Declaration of Independence which abrogated its protectorate status with Great Britain. Although 19 June was the day of Kuwait’s Independence, starting from 1963 the celebration of Kuwait’s Independence was moved to the 25 February, and called the National Day, in commemoration of the day on which Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah came to power.

Invasion and Liberation: The gruesome and unprovoked cruel aggression of Kuwait by invading Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein on 2 August, 1990 marks an unforgettable event in the history of Kuwait.

The UN condemned the invasion and authorized the use of force to expel Iraq from Kuwait. The USA, led by President George Bush, created an Arabic-Western coalition of 35 countries which freed Kuwait on 26 February 1991.

The seven month occupation by Iraq left hundreds of Kuwaitis and third country nationals martyred, tortured and brutalized, in addition to properties being looted or damaged. Before liberation, markets, warehouses, factories, hospitals, colleges, offices, residences and many government buildings were stripped of content and burnt, museums and cultural centers were emptied of their valuable objects by the retreating Iraqi forces.

The environment was destroyed by the setting ablaze of over 700 oil-wells and resulted in loss of over US$75 billion. In addition, the ports were blocked and mined, and power and water distillation plants were rendered inoperative. But within 10 days one port was cleared, power was restored two months later, and the last oil fire was extinguished in November 1991.

Kuwait today: Today, Kuwait is a modern, constitutional monarchy with an elected parliamentary system. The country ranks highly in regional comparisons of national performance, including protection of civil liberties, press freedom and judicial independence. Kuwait is frequently ranked as having the freest press in the Arab world.

Efforts exerted for building the State since independence reflect the wisdom of the political leadership, and stand as indicators of a better and brighter future horizon for the country.

The government has announced its revamped new five-year development plan (2015-2020), which focuses on economic reform and the implementation of several long-stalled mega strategic projects.

The two-pronged objective of the plan is to address a range of challenges and imbalances facing the socio-economic development process and to realize the country’s strategic vision through the implementation of mega projects. Both decision-makers and the man in the street are looking forward to this process making tangible achievements that could live up to their aspirations and the huge resources of the country.

The 2015-2020 plan will recommend many of the projects that have long been held up due to disagreements between the legislative and executive branches of the government. These mega projects include the construction of an approximately KD1 billion metro project and KD8 billion trans-Gulf rail project to link the five partners of the Gulf Cooperation Council; privatization of some public schools and cooperatives and university; further development of the Mubarak Al Kabeer Port on Boubiyan Island. Other major projects like a new business hub (Silk City) in Subiya; the new Jaber Bridge linking Subiya region to the capital, a new airport, several hospitals and additional oil sector investments are also on the anvil.




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