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Country Reports

Kuwait Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

Kuwait is ruled by the Sunni al-Sabah family; the current emir Sabah al-Sabah has ruled since 2006. Although the emir's half-brother is currently crown prince, actual succession is likely to pass to the emir's eldest son, Nasser bin Sabah al-Ahmed, currently minister of defence and deputy prime minister. This is risk-positive for policy continuity, with Kuwaiti oil revenue being invested in large construction projects, including the Silk City and development of the Mubarak al-Kabeer port. Compared with its neighbours, Kuwait has an effective parliamentary opposition, which consistently impedes government attempts to implement economic austerity, oil services sector privatisation, and subsidy reforms. The opposition is frequently willing to stall the government's agenda through grilling sessions of ministers and no-confidence votes. Indicating this, the government has delayed the implementation of a 5% value-added tax until mid-2021, and announced a 12.4% increase in subsidies in the fiscal year 2018/19 budget to USD11.46 billion.Kuwait's real GDP is expected to grow 0.3% in 2019, owing to cuts in OPEC quotas. Regional conflict, limited structural reforms and private-sector development, and partial implementation of the current five-year (2015–20) development plan will limit non-oil economic growth to 2.5% in 2019. Although laws have been enacted in recent years to improve Kuwait's business environment, further reforms are needed to boost private-sector innovation and productivity.The government's rhetoric on prioritising fighting sectarianism and sentencing of predominantly Islamist opposition activists reflects low tolerance for political Islam. This is likely to appeal to the more powerful Saudis and Emiratis, and reduces the likelihood of external interference in Kuwait's domestic affairs. Extensive al-Sabah patronage networks mitigate the risk of prolonged mass protests. While the Islamic State will probably seek to exploit sectarianism, the erosion of the group's capabilities and resources in Iraq and Syria means attacks aimed at triggering sectarian conflict in Kuwait are likely aspirational.
Last update: June 6, 2019

Operational Outlook

The adversarial relationship between the government and the parliament presents a high risk of tit-for-tat stalling of reforms, as well as the revision and cancellation of contracts with foreign firms. The causes for the existing parliamentary deadlock – competition between rival branches of the ruling family and disagreement over austerity measures – are unlikely to abate. This undermines Kuwait's business environment despite the Foreign Investment Promotion Law 2013. Kuwaiti bureaucracy is notoriously slow, and corruption remains a problem. Kuwait's labour laws have seen reform in recent years, but enforcement is often lax.

Last update: October 25, 2018

Terrorism

Elevated

The risks of Islamic State-affiliated IED and shooting attacks on Shia targets are elevated. Successful attacks against Shia targets have the potential to be highly destabilising, given the political activism by Kuwaiti Shia. An escalation in government crackdown on individual financiers of terrorism would increase the risk of jihadist attacks on government targets. There is sustained moderate risk of jihadist attacks against US military personnel and other Western expatriates, most likely from shooting or vehicle-based attacks, particularly around military bases. The risks of attacks by Iran's proxies would increase in the event of US or Israeli strikes on Iran.

Last update: October 25, 2018

War Risks

The United States' more aggressive posture towards Iran and its opposition to the Iranian nuclear agreement have increased the risk of interstate war. Despite Kuwait's good relations with Iran, such a conflict would pose a severe risk of Iranian retaliatory missile strikes across the Gulf, given the concentration of military assets in this area, raising risks to energy and marine assets in Kuwait. The risks of war with Iraq have all but diminished following the removal of former president Saddam Hussein by the US in 2003.

Last update: June 1, 2019

Social Stability

Elevated

The extensive Al-Sabah patronage system and high standard of living among Kuwaitis reduce the risks of prolonged protests capable of challenging the emir's power. The opposition's parliamentary gains in November 2016 reduce the risk that it would resort to organising mass protests to express its grievances. The risk of economically motivated protests would increase should the government apply significant fiscal austerity measures, such as cutting public-sector wages across the board. In the event of sustained protests, an internal coup by the ruling family to ensure the survival of Al-Sabah dynasty would be the most likely outcome.

Last update: October 25, 2018

Health Risk

Elevated

Vaccinations required to enter the country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

Finally, summers in Kuwait can be extreme; temperatures occasionally rise above 50°C (120°F). Similarly, the country is occasionally affected by sand storms which reduce visibility and thus disrupt driving. Torrential rains are common from November to March and sometimes lead to flooding due to a lack of infrastructure, including proper drainage systems, to deal with excess water. In October 2015, violent flooding hit parts of the country leading to road and school closures, including in the capital, as well as flight delays and cancelations.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

Kuwait International Airport (KWI) is the only commercial airport in the country. Security is problematic, although security measures are improving.

Although Kuwait has a bus network, the car remains the main mode of transportation. Taxis are available at the entrance of major hotels and at the airport. Roads are in good condition but driving can be dangerous in Kuwait as locals drive fast and aggressively. According to a report by the Interior Ministry, about 500 people die on Kuwaiti roads each year. These accidents are less due to the state of the roads, which are well-maintained, and more to blame on reckless drivers and heavy traffic.

Desert excursions should be avoided due to the presence of unexploded mines left after the First Gulf War of 1990-1991 (Iraqi invasion of Kuwait).

In the case of an accident, contact the police, whose phone number is 112.

Surrounding waters are heavily militarized. Maritime boundaries are yet undetermined in the northern Persian Gulf (i.e., the area between Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait) and any boat in the area may be detained and/or searched at any time for security purposes.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Kuwait has an arid climate. Summers (May to October) are very hot (40°C) with high levels of humidity; during this time the Shamal, a violent and dusty wind, can provoke sandstorms. Winters (November to April) are milder (8°C to 19°C) with cool, even cold nights and low levels of rainfall.

Useful Numbers

Country Code:  +965
Emergency Services:  112
Police-Emergency:  538 20 00
Civil Defense:  539 51 31/32/33/34/35

Electricity

Voltage: 240 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019