Kuwaiti lawmakers approved a draft law Tuesday, March 27, aimed at opening up the oil-rich emirate to foreign investments in a bid to attract much-needed capital and advanced technology. The second and final reading of the bill was adopted by a vote of 34 to seven with one abstention. All cabinet ministers present voted for the bill which now requires only the emir's signature to become law.
The bill provides foreign investors: tax holidays of up to 10 years; exemption from customs duties on raw materials; and long-term protection against the nationalization of companies with investments. It also allows foreigners to establish companies in the emirate without a Kuwaiti sponsor or partner, currently needed to launch any business venture, and grants investors the right to transfer profits out of Kuwait with no restriction.
But Kuwait's cabinet has reserved the right to determine what economic sectors that foreigners can invest in. MPs, who voted for the bill, said it would help bring the advanced technology and modern management, besides billions of dollars investment, that are necessary to revitalize the economy. Total foreign investments in Kuwait over the past 20 years amount to just $550 million.
But a number of MPs, however, criticized the bill as an attempt to allow foreign investors to control the national economy. "This draft bill allows (foreigner investors) to expropriate the Kuwaiti economy," said MP Waleed al-Jari.
Last May, parliament passed a bill allowing foreigners to trade and own shares on the Kuwait Stock Exchange. Several other economic bills, including legislation on privatization, are also under review. —(AFP)
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