Gulf Bank successfully concluded its lead sponsorship of the 8th Euromoney conference in Kuwait, which took place on 27 September 2016 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Kuwait. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Meeting the Challenge of Financial Innovation and Reform’ and it addressed the challenges and opportunities facing the Kuwaiti economy in an era of global uncertainties.
The opening session included keynote addresses from the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance – H.E. Dr. Khalifa Musaed Hamada; Governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait - H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al-Hashel; Director General of the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority – H.E. Sheikh Meshaal Jaber Al Sabah, and Head of Markets Sector at the Capital Markets Authority, Mr. Muthanna Al-Saleh.
Mr. Omar Kutayba Alghanim, Chairman of Gulf Bank and CEO Alghanim Industries, participated in the morning’s first interview session where he offered solutions to the challenges facing Kuwait.
Mr. Alghanim stressed that Kuwait is unlike any other country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); it was a leader in the region long before the discovery of oil. Kuwait’s rich history of trading and entrepreneurship are unique and provide an important framework to address the issues that are currently facing the country and the region. Mr. Alghanim said:” We are all entrepreneurs, it is in our roots, and we had a production economy and must return to that, we need to reawaken what is already in our DNA.”
The two major issues Mr. Alghanim cited facing Kuwait and the GCC are: oil and demographics. With regard to oil, he noted that it has been Kuwait’s single commodity and highlighted the need to move away from a single commodity market to a more diversified economy, an economy that shifts the focus from consumption to production. As for demographics, he noted the GCC region has the second youngest population in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically in Kuwait, more than half of our people are below the age of 25.
Mr. Alghanim said: “Since the birth of the oil industry, the government has employed the vast majority of our people. Today, the government employs over 85% of our people. But it can’t continue doing so in a low oil price environment. Who is going to give jobs to Kuwait’s young people? The solutions to these problems lie in fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, executing infrastructure projects, and implementing privatization”.
With regard to entrepreneurship, he said: “Young people need to be taught the skills the private sector requires such as critical thinking, problem solving, empathy, creativity, and flexibility. It is equally important that we embrace taking calculated and controllable risks because nothing in business can be achieved without taking risk”. He further added that companies must create environments where talent and innovation can thrive and where young people can flourish. He stressed the importance of reaching out to youth. “Through our work with INJAZ we offer educational programs on entrepreneurial and leadership skills to build successful careers for high school and university students. But we must start even earlier, in elementary school.”
Addressing infrastructure issues in Kuwait is also of great importance. Mr. Alghanim commented: “Infrastructure is vital for competitiveness as a country; we’ve seen good progress on this front recently, with some overdue mega-projects now underway. In order to maintain momentum, we should also allow the focus to be on bite-sized projects, because both the funding and the execution are easier.”
As for privatization, Mr. Alghanim noted:” Our private sector has had some tremendous success not only locally but also regionally. In Kuwait, we are in an excellent position because our banking system is one of the safest in the world in terms of liquidity and capital adequacy ratios and it stands ready to support privatization efforts.”
In conclusion, Mr. Alghanim said: “I am optimistic about the future, we have little national debt, wise and able leadership, and a strong banking sector. I am proud that Gulf Bank is playing a major role in this conference. It is an outstanding platform to discuss challenges and opportunities for Kuwait. I would also like to thank the organizers, the Central Bank of Kuwait, the Capital Markets Authority and all those involved in this conference.”
The annual Euromoney conference provides Gulf Bank an unparalleled platform to discuss Kuwait’s fiscal, monetary and economic diversification strategy. The participation of Kuwait’s leading financial professionals, along with the participation of regional and global experts, will provide in-depth insights into digitalisation, innovation and the future of Kuwaiti business, finance and governance. There is also a strong underlying theme in the programme which aims to explore the role of Kuwait in the international financial system.