Official Name: State of Kuwait
Internet Domain: .kw
International Dialing Code: +965
Time Zone: UTC +3
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Kuwait is a very small, rich Middle Eastern country at the top of the Persian Gulf, flanked by large, powerful neighbors – Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. The country is slightly smaller than the U.S. State of New Jersey.
Constitutional hereditary emirate, gaining independence from the United Kingdom on June 19, 1961.
- Executive: Amir SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (head of state); Crown Prince NAWAF al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah. Prime Minister His Highness JABIR AL-MUBARAK al-Hamad al-Sabah (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet)
- Legislative: Unicameral National Assembly
- Judicial: High Court of Appeal
Kuwait was the first Arab country in the Gulf to have an elected parliament. Moves to change the male-dominated political structure culminated in the granting of full political rights to women in 2005.
Civil law system with Islamic law significant in personal matters. Has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction.
Judicial Power in Kuwait is not really independent. The Emir appoints all judges and the Executive branch approves their promotions and renewals of their functions.
Over 90% of the population lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Kuwait’s 93.3% literacy rate, one of the Arab world’s highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system
- Population: 2,916,467 (including 69.5% non-nationals) (July 2019 est.)
- Population growth rate: 1.38%
- Languages: Arabic (official), English widely spoken (used in business and is a compulsory second language in schools)
- Literacy: 96%
- Ethnic Make-up: Kuwaiti 30.4%, other Arab 27.4%, Asian 40.3%, African 1%
- Religions: Muslim 74.6%, Christian 18.2%, Other 7.2% (2013 est.)
Kuwait has a small, relatively open economy dominated by the oil industry and government sector. The government sector accounts for more than three-quarters of gross domestic product (GDP). Approximately 90% of the Kuwaiti citizen labor force works in the public sector, and 90% of private sector workers are non-Kuwaitis. Kuwait’s proven crude oil reserves of about 100 billion barrels – 9% of world reserves – account for nearly 95% of export revenues, and 90%-95% of government income. Kuwait puts 10% of its annual oil revenue in a Fund for Future Generations in preparation for the transition to the period after its oil resources are depleted.
The financial crisis emanating from the United States and the slowdown of the world economy began to affect the non-oil sector (mainly financial services and properties) in 2008. The sector nonetheless continued to achieve strong growth, estimated at 6.5 percent, albeit sharply down from 9.5 percent the previous year. The oil sector, meanwhile, could only manage a modest expansion, around one percent, limited notably by the slowdown of foreign demand in the second half of the year.
Even if its financial assets abroad suffered from the collapse of the markets, Kuwait is nonetheless starting from a solid financial position and will likely be able to cope with the downturn. The pursuit of a proactive monetary policy by the Central Bank of Kuwait has been credited with ensuring that Kuwait has been shielded from the worst affects of the global financial and economic crisis.
Currency: Kuwaiti dinars (KWD)
Leading Markets (2019): South Korea 18.3%, China 17.4%, Japan 11.5%, India 11.2%, Singapore 6.3%, US 5.7%
Leading Exports – Commodities: Oil and refined products, fertilizers
Leading Suppliers (2019): China 13.5%, US 13.3%, UAE 9.5%, Saudi Arabia 5.8%, Germany 5.4%, Japan 5%, India 4.7%, Italy 4.5%
Leading Imports – Commodities: Food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing
Top Industries: Petroleum, petrochemicals, cement, shipbuilding and repair, water desalination, food processing, construction materials
Top Agricultural Products: Practically no crops; fish
|Population growth rate* (%)||1.38||1.63||2.50||1.19||-3.13||2.19|
|GDP* (USD billion)||289.7||1,775.0||649.3||1,640.0||88.25||71.17|
|GDP per capita** (USD)||65,800||54,500||16,700||20,100||19,600||49,000|
|Economic growth (%)||-3.3%||-0.9%||-2.1%||3.7%||1.5%||3.8%|
|Unemployment rate (%)||
|Exports (USD billions)||55.17||221.1||61.4||101.4||3.52||15.38|
|Imports (USD billions)||29.53||119.3||39.47||76.39||18.34||16.08|
|Foreign debt (% of GDP)||47.24||2051||73.02||7.99||39.30||52.15|
(per USD) on 6/18/9
(per EUR) on 6/18/19
* 2019 estimates
** PPP ” Purchasing Power Parity
The Foreign Investment Law stipulates that Kuwaiti courts alone are responsible for adjudicating any disputes involving a foreign investor and other parties. Although arbitration is permitted, few contracts in Kuwait contain clauses specifying recourse to traditional commercial and political arbitration. According to the Central Bank of Kuwait, the Kuwaiti judicial system recognizes and enforces foreign judgments only when reciprocal arrangements are in place.
There have been no investment disputes involving American firms in Kuwait in more than five years; commercial disputes are more common. In both cases, the slow pace of Kuwait’s legal system often frustrates American claimants.
Coface Country Rating: A3 ” The political and economic situation is good. A basically stable and efficient business environment nonetheless leaves room for improvement. Corporate default probability is low on average.
Coface Business Climate Rating: A4 ” The business environment is in need of improvement. Although not always available, corporate financial information is usually reliable. Debt collection and the institutional framework may have some shortcomings. Inter-company transactions may run into occasional difficulties. Location in a region of geopolitical tensions, specifically regarding its proximity to Iran and Iraq, lend to Kuwait’s rating of A4 in the otherwise secure environment.
Kuwait is actively promoting itself as a base for foreign investors in the region, although with limited success so far. The Government is also looking at wider economic reform, including moving some of the 95% of Kuwaitis who work in the state sector to the private sector.
Economic Freedom: According to the 2019 Index of Economic Freedom, Kuwait’s economic freedom score is 65.6, making its economy the 50th freest in the 2019 Index. Kuwait is ranked 5th out of 17 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, and its overall score is well above the world average.
Transparency of Regulatory System: Kuwait has not developed effective antitrust laws to foster competition, and its bureaucracy often resembles that of a developing country. Kuwait’s open economy has generally promoted a competitive market. When government intervention occurs, however, it is usually to the benefit of Kuwaiti citizens and Kuwaiti-owned firms.
Patents and Trademarks: In Kuwait, patents and trademarks must be registered in the Trademark Control and Patents Office in the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).
Conversion and Transfer Policies: There are no restrictions on current or capital account transactions in Kuwait beyond the requirement that all foreign exchange purchases be made through a bank or licensed foreign exchange dealer. Equity, loan capital, interest, dividends, profits, royalties, fees and personal savings can all be transferred in or out of Kuwait without hindrance. Under the current Foreign Investment Law, investors are also permitted to transfer all or part of their investment to another foreign or domestic investor.
Corruption: Corruption and bribery is perceived to be increasing in Kuwait according to the 2009 Global Corruption Barometer, a study conducted by Transparency International.
Crime, Violence and Terrorism: Kuwait has faced a recent spate of militant violence. Security forces have clashed with Islamist militants, some of whom are alleged to have links with al-Qaeda. The authorities say extremist groups have plotted attacks on Western targets.
For more detailed information on these topics, visit the 2019 Investment Climate Statement ” Kuwait, of the U.S. Department of State.
Since Kuwaitis prefer to do business with those with whom they have a personal relationship, they spend a great deal of time on the getting-to-know-you process.
Business Cards: Business cards are given to everyone you meet. Have one side of your card translated into Arabic.
Business Attire: Kuwaitis judge others based on appearances, so dress and present yourself well. Business attire is conservative. Men should wear lightweight, good quality, conservative suits, at least to the initial meeting. Women should avoid giving offence and refrain from wearing revealing or tight fitting clothing. Although they do not need to wear skirts that reach the ground, skirts should cover the knee and sleeves should cover the elbow and fasten at the neck.
Names and Titles: Titles are important. Use the honorific “Mister” and any academic or political title and the first name. Do not use only the first name until expressly invited to do so. The title “Sheikh” denotes that someone is a member of the royal family. It is also used for old men. Personal naming convention ex: The name of Suleyman Al-Ahmed Al- Mustafa Al-Sabah means Suleyman, son of Ahmed, grandson of Mustafa of the Sabah family/tribe.
Conversation: Kuwaitis respect education, so carefully mention if you have an advanced degree, especially if it is from a prestigious university.
Greetings: Physical greetings (handshaking, hugging) should only be between members of the same sex.
Meetings: You must be patient since impatience is viewed as criticism of the culture. Meetings are generally not private unless there is a need to discuss matters confidentially. Expect frequent interruptions. Others may wander into the room and start a different discussion. Do not try to bring the topic back to the original discussion until the new person leaves. Kuwaitis are event rather than time-driven. The event of getting together is more important than the timeliness of the meeting or the outcome. Decisions are reached slowly. If you try to rush things, you will give offence and risk your business relationship.
Negotiations: Business will only be discussed once an atmosphere of trust and friendship has been established. Kuwaitis are shrewd negotiators who are especially interested in price. High-pressure sales tactics will work against you.
Contracts: Although negotiating is done in English, contracts are written in Arabic. If there is both an English and Arabic version, the Arabic will be the one followed.
The Arab Investment & Export Credit Guarantee Corporation ” Export Credit Insurance (site is in English and Arabic)
Doing Business 2019, Country Profile for Kuwait ” World Bank Group
Embassy of the United States, Kuwait City, Kuwait
This information is provided by ABC-Amega Inc. Providing international receivable management and debt collection services for exporters to more than 200 countries including Kuwait. For further information, contact [email protected].
This report represents a compilation of information from a wide variety of reputable sources.
Economic Indicators: Variety of sources including the CIA World Factbook, Federation of International Trade Associations (FITA) Country Profiles and the Belgian credit insurance company Credendo.
Historical Exchange Rates: OANDA.com The Currency Site.