Kuwaiti lawmakers unanimously approved Monday, March 12, all 22 clauses of a draft bill aimed at opening up the oil-rich emirate to foreign investments in a bid to boost the sagging national economy. The first vote by roll call on the bill itself will be held on Tuesday while the second and final vote is expected in two weeks time.
The legislation provides potential foreign investors tax holidays for up to 10 years, exemption from customs and charges on raw materials, and long-term protection against nationalization. The bill also allows foreign investors to establish companies in the emirate without a Kuwaiti sponsor or partner currently needed for any business venture.
MPs said the bill would help bring advanced technology and modern management, besides billions of dollars of investment needed to revitalize the local economy. But they insisted that the legislation must guarantee Kuwait's interests and its wealth. "The bill is tailored for Kuwait's interests, and for its development. We must upgrade ourselves to the level of countries which protect foreign investments," State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Mohammad Sharar said.
A number of MPs, however, insisted that no foreign investors would come to Kuwait as long as bureaucracy and administrative corruption was widespread. "No foreign investors would risk their funds by coming to Kuwait because of administrative corruption and government bureaucracy," liberal MP Mishari al-Ossaimi said.
"If we really want to lure foreign investors, we must first convince our investors to come back. Private investments outside Kuwait are estimated at between $50 to $150 billion," MP Mohammad al-Saqer said.
Total foreign investments in Kuwait over the past 20 years amounted to just $550 million. —(AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)