The Private Sector

For over two centuries, Kuwaitis have been traders. It is because of this historical background and the presence of an active merchant community that trading plays an important role in the private sector today.

The older generation remember the shipment of timber from Africa and drinking water from the upper regions of the Gulf by the traditional Kuwaiti dhow. Today, private company trade is mainly the importation of automobiles, white and brown goods and foodstuffs by container ships or roll-on-roll-off vessels.

There are very few manufacturing companies in Kuwait, although this could change as there is a move by the Government to attract large scale downstream oil projects and plans for an aluminum smelter are well developed. The private sector mainly comprises construction automotive importers, business equipment importers, hotels, restaurants and retail outlets. A small number of major trading houses owned by prominent Kuwaiti families control the sector.

A number of waterfront developments are in the process of being developed by the private sector on a BOT (build-operate-transfer) basis, some of which involve the provision of housing for the National Housing Authority. These BOT projects are for twenty-year periods from the end of construction after which the projects revert to the Municipality. In addition to the Sharq Waterfront Project which opened in late 1998 and built at a cost of over $50 million, there are two further projects that will commence construction in 1999 which will involve the provision of housing or public buildings. First, a stretch of 4.5 kilometers. along the Shaab waterfront at a cost exceeding $125 million and providing accommodation for 250 families. Secondly, a 3 kilometer stretch in Salmiya involving the construction of a number of public building including a public library at a cost of about $80 million.

A number of areas in the private sector have achieved very good growth rates in recent years. There are a number of new fast food outlets planned especially to cater for the growing younger generation. Also, mobile telephone system and the provision of internet services have been a rapid growth market in recent years. At present, one private company dominates the provision of mobile phone services but another company has been established which will make this area very competitive in the light of the growing demand. Also, there are presently only two internet service providers but again a number of new providers will ensure a competitive rate structure for this growing area of the market.