Kuwait celebrates its 51st National Day

Traditionally India and Kuwait enjoy friendly relationship. The trade and cultural exchange between the two nations have stood the test of time and has prospered. On the occasion of 51st National Day of Kuwait we throw some light on Kuwait’s growth and how this country has evolved as a key trading partner across the world, especially India...

business Updated: Feb 23, 2012 22:19 IST
Hindustan Times

Traditionally India and Kuwait enjoy friendly relationship. The trade and cultural exchange between the two nations have stood the test of time and has prospered. On the occasion of 51st National Day of Kuwait we throw some light on Kuwait’s growth and how this country has evolved as a key trading partner across the world, especially India...

Kuwait is celebrating its 51st anniversary of its National Day on February 25 and 21st anniversary of its Liberation Day on February 26 this year. Although Kuwait gained full sovereignty and independence from the British Protectorate on June 19, 1961 but it celebrates its National Day on February 25 every year to commemorate the accession of H.H. Shaikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah as he is considered the architect of modern Kuwait. Under his expert guidance and astute statesmanship, the State of Kuwait adopted a constitution in 1962 which was ratified in 1963. It established a democratic system with a National Assembly holding legislative authority and the Amir and his Council of Ministers maintaining executive powers.

The Kuwaiti constitution guarantees a broad range of freedoms and rights, including freedom of conscience and religion, personal liberty, the sanctity of private property, equality before law, and the right to legal process and above all, the complete freedom of press.

Kuwait had voted on 14 occasions since its independence in 1961. The National Assembly that includes 50 directly elected members represents the legislative power. The cabinet is appointed by HH the Amir which represents the executive power and is answerable to parliament.

There are 400,296 eligible voters among Kuwait’s 1.17 million native populations. The voting age is 21 and servicemen in police and army are barred from voting. More than 50% of Kuwait's population is under 20 years of age.

After a long history of constant struggle the Kuwaiti parliament approved the granting of political rights to women in 2005. Women didn't have the chance to be elected but in 2009 the history of Kuwaiti parliament took a new turn when four women with a Ph.D degree from US, won the election. Women voters make up 54% of the electorate in recent election, but only 23 women candidates were in the fray among 286 candidates running for the 50 seat legislative assembly.

Kuwait went for parliamentary election on February 2, this year. The results were announced next day on Friday the February 3, 2012 and thus commenced the formation of the 14th National Assembly. The first, third and the fifth constituencies registered the highest ratio of change i.e. 60%.

The newly elected National Assembly includes 13 doctorates, seven master degree holders, 22 bachelor degree holders and eight candidates with lower degrees. There were 300 volunteers who were deployed at 105 polling stations to monitor the election process. In a press conference held at the Kuwaiti Transparency Society, Chairman of the Arab NGO Network for Development hailed the elections as real success and there was a noticeable cooperation and coordination between ministries of justice and interior and all members of election commission.

The observers also applauded the Ministry of Information for giving all candidates equal time to canvass to voters through official media and provided all the logistics for the media to do its job in covering the whole electoral process. The observers noted that Kuwaiti police did not interfere in the election process and there were no reports about any attempt to influence the voters by police officers in polling booths. They extolled the good and professional organisation of the elections despite the high turnout.

The Kuwaiti election campaign focused on calls for true economic reforms and fighting corruption besides a large number of issues like housing, development plan, increasing salaries and finding jobs for Kuwaitis expected to enter the job market in the coming years.

Even though the results of the Kuwaiti election clearly indicates a strong desire to youth-led reforms in terms of economic development and transparent government, it has been expressed within the methods stipulated by the Constitution and used in daily practice in Kuwait.

Kuwaiti democracy and constitutional life that guarantees civil rights and stability of citizens is a “model” in the Arab Spring that swept the region recently. The “effective stability” that Kuwait enjoys allows Kuwait to maintain a responsible role at the international and regional levels. Therefore the validity of the democratic experience in Kuwait as a model within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is to play an important role in building and consolidating stability in the post Arab Spring revolutions.The inception of the State of Kuwait since independence half a century ago is on democratic foundations in the framework of a modern constitutional system. It has regulated relationship between the authorities to guarantee the rights of the citizen and the establishment of a genuine parliamentary life.

The Iran-Iraq war in 1980 and Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 were a political, social and economic set back for the region. Many economic and social programmes had to be deferred but Kuwait has rebounded spectacularly. The economy is still strong and social and political progress is well back on track. The oil resources guarantee its strength for future years, although efforts are being made to diversify the economy.

Kuwait was instrumental in the formation of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981 through which all the six GCC countries maintain regional security, stability and progress.

The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) is active throughout the Arab world and beyond. Kuwait independently supports projects in non-Arab and secular nations as well. It has given as much as eight per cent in foreign aid out of its annual gross national product which is 59.12 billion dollars.

The Kuwaiti private sector represents a unique model amongst the countries of the region, as a result of what has been achieved over more than 50 years. The fifties and sixties of the last century are considered the most important period in the history of the Kuwaiti private sector. It took on the task of setting up a large group of private companies and institutions, and taking the risk to invest in entirely new areas not only in the region but also worldwide.

The focus in recent years for Kuwaiti private sector has been in key areas, such as finance, insurance, real estate, transportation, communication, the wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels. As classified by World Economic Forum Rating for 2009, Kuwait was ranked 54 in the world and ranked first among Arab countries for its use of technology in the workplace and at home.

Since its emergence, Kuwait has adopted a policy of openness and intercommunication with international organisations like UNDP and the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC). Kuwait was the first Arab country that joined the GATT convention in 1963. In January 1995, it joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Kuwait encourages foreign investment and it has accepted free trade in principle by signing agreements with various countries of the region, like Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Algeria and Syria.

Kuwaiti law authorises foreign majority ownership and 100 % foreign ownership in certain industries like infrastructure projects (water, power, waste water treatment or communication); investment and exchange companies; information technology and software development; hospitals and pharmaceuticals; air, land and sea freight; tourism; hotel and entertainment; housing projects and urban development.

Projects involving oil discovery or oil and gas production are not authorised for foreign investment and must be approved by a separate law.

The Direct Foreign Capital Investment law promotes foreign investment in Kuwait. It authorises tax holidays of up to 10 years for new foreign investors; facilitates the entry of expatriate labour; authorises land grants and duty free import of equipment; provides guarantees against expropriation without compensation; ensures the right to repatriate profits; and protects the confidentiality of proprietary information in investment applications, with penalties for government officials who reveal such data to unauthorised persons. New investors are protected against any future changes in the law. Full benefit of these incentives, however, is linked to the %age of Kuwaiti labour employed by the new venture.

First Published: Feb 23, 2012 22:15 IST