Kuwait urges more investment from Japan

Kuwait on Thursday called for more investment from Japanese businesses in areas such as infrastructure, renewable energy and metro projects, at a seminar focusing on investment climate and opportunities in Kuwait . The seminar gathered 160 representatives from both economies, including 130 Japanese people from banks, trading houses, construction, engineering, manufacturers, and other sectors. In his opening remarks addressing the Kuwait Investment Seminar, Co-Chairman of the Kuwaiti-Japanese Businessmen's Committee Khaled Al-Sager emphasized Kuwaiti companies' desire to cooperate with the Japanese counterparts in new projects.
Al-Sager noted that bilateral trade value between Kuwait and Japan reached USD 13.44 billion in 2010 and the figure has redoubled four times since the inception of the committee 15 years ago. He commended the role played by the committee in the development of commercial and economic relations with Japan. However, Al-Sager, who also serves as Kuwait Chamber of Commerce Industry (KCCI) Deputy Chairman, pointed out the weakness of the Japanese investments in Kuwait . The current level does not reflect the real economic relations between the two countries and should be elevated. He also expressed hope that a double-taxation avoidance pact signed by the two governments last year will further spur bilateral economic exchanges and investments. The one-day seminar was organized by the Japanese Cooperation Center for the Middle East (JCCME) in connection with the 16th Kuwaiti-Japanese Businessmen's Committee on Wednesday.
Secretary General at Supreme Council for Planning and Development Dr. Adel Al-Wugayan provided an overview of Kuwait 's five-year development plan, calling on Japanese entities and businessmen to take part in key projects. He mentioned the establishment of a new business hub called Madinat Al-Hareer (Silk City), a major container harbor, a 25-km causeway, railway, and metro system, infrastructure, hospitals, institutes, and universities projects.
Al-Wugayan also revealed that the government will implement 1,370 projects in the next fiscal year starting from April 2012. The ambitious development plan, in which the government will spend more than USD 104 billion through 2014, would pave the way for Kuwait to become a regional trade and financial hub through sustaining economic development, economic diversification, and GDP growth. Kuwait Foreign Investment Bureau representatives explained recent regulations on foreign investment in the country and the Partnerships Technical Bureau outlined upcoming mega projects.
According to bureau President Adel Al-Roumi, Kuwait's development plan calls on a greater role for the private sector in the economy and the government seeks to increase economic diversification through the promotion of key non-oil related sectors, such as healthcare, education, financial institutions, transport, and real estate. Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) Director General Dr. Naji Al-Mutairi for his part said KISR is currently focusing on exploring alliances with international organizations for collaboration in the field of renewable and alternative energy. According to Dr. Al-Mutairi, as of 2008, average daily fuel consumption by power plants in Kuwait exceeded KD 1.4 billion (USD 5 billion).
The seminar also covered infrastructure projects by the Ministry of Public Works, which plans to tender 48 contracts for construction projects by January 2014.
Meanwhile, Kuwait Metro Rapid Transport Co. said the pre-qualification for the rail project is expected to be released late 2012, while that for a metro project to be released in the first quarter of the next year. The railway and metro network would be linked to a broader network that covers all Gulf Cooperation Council member states and have great impacts on the development of Kuwait and solve the problem of overpopulation in many areas. In an interview with Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) and Kuwait TV, JCCME President Tadatsuna Koda said the seminar was held in response to requests from the Kuwaiti side, which believes the Japanese investment should be increased. Koda also said Japanese participants came from a wide range of industries, reflecting Japan's keen interest in a new type of business cooperation with Kuwait . He also voiced expectation of enhanced ties between the two countries' private sectors. First Secretary at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Japan Mohammed Al-Mutairi also attended the seminar.
Established in 1973 under the sponsorship of the Japanese government, the JCCME has been promoting Japan's investment and transfer of technology to the Middle East . It also has a Japan Desk in Kuwait , which plays a bridging role between private companies of Kuwait and Japan to help them establish joint ventures