Oil giant spreads its wealth

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 February, 2011, 12:00am

Kuwait is one of the most economically powerful countries in the Middle East, providing a beacon to the Arab world. Its influence around the globe has grown considerably in recent decades, and one of the main reasons is the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, commonly known as the Kuwait Fund.

Asia has been a major beneficiary of the Kuwait Fund, which has distributed its largesse among many projects in countries as far apart as Afghanistan and Vietnam, and the Philippines and Bangladesh. The Kuwait Fund has also operated with particular success in China.

Relations between the mainland and Kuwait go back many years, starting in 1964 when the late emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, then Kuwait's minister of finance, made an official visit to the mainland.

Ties were strengthened in 1982 with the Kuwait Fund's first foray into the mainland when it made a US$46 million loan to assist in financing the Ningguo Cement Factory.

For nearly 30 years, the Kuwait Fund has continued to operate in China, financing more than 30 major projects, with concessionary loans valued at about US$826 million. Recipients have included the transport, energy, agriculture and industry sectors.

In addition to the Kuwait Fund, amicable ties between the mainland and Kuwait have developed in other spheres, such as increased trade and economic relations, and many Chinese companies have taken on projects in Kuwait itself.

Kuwait's Consul General in Hong Kong, Bader Saleh al-Tunaib, says: 'The Kuwait Fund is a force for good in the developing world and has already helped thousands of people in many different countries.

'Kuwait is glad to share its wealth with developing nations and thereby foster good relations with them for the future.

'Whatever the scale of the project aided by the Kuwait Fund, the resultant benefits are countless. We are especially glad to be working with the People's Republic of China, with whom Kuwait has long been good friends.

'Projects such as road and hospital construction are of great value to everyone concerned, and we look forward to continued co-operation in the future.'

The relationship between Kuwait and Hong Kong has developed in years since the Kuwait consulate opened in 1999. Many agreements have been signed between the two sides. Both parties have witnessed more visits by business and official delegations in recent years. The consul general expects relations will continue to strengthen.

According to statistics for last year, Hong Kong's exports to Kuwait included watches, clothes, jewellery, toys and furniture. Kuwaiti exports to Hong Kong included petroleum products, spare car parts and plastic products.

Kuwait is trying to diversify its investments. The state's main sovereign wealth fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), holds assets in excess of US$200 billion. KIA is investing in many countries around the world.

It recently established an office in Beijing to handle its large investment on the mainland and in Hong Kong.

Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy ruled by the al-Sabah family. The country has gone through major developments after discovering oil in the 1920s. It has advanced rapidly in every aspect of life. Kuwait largely depends on oil revenue as its main source of income.

For such a small country, with a population of less than four million, Kuwait has made an enormous impact on the world, particularly in the field of development, largely thanks to the vision and financial clout of its sovereign fund, which has helped development in the Middle East.

Its operations over the past half-century have brought great benefit to numerous countries and will do so for the next 50 years.