Kuwait

Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

Kuwait has been elected to serve a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, beginning January 2018. During his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gulf Cooperation Council member states on countering the financing of terrorism. The Kuwaiti logistics company, Agilit, has agreed to pay a $95 million settlement fee to the United States government to settle a civil case of defrauding the government during the company’s time as the main food supplier to the US Army in the Middle East. The Gulf Cooperation Council has reaffirmed its support for the internationally-backed President Abd-rabbu Mansour Hadi of Yemen who has recently rejected the announcement of a transitional political council for the south of Yemen. The Kuwaiti coastguard prevented an Iraqi vessel from entering Kuwait waters on Thursday 18 May. Two people were injured in the process. OPEC agreed to extend its deal to cut oil production, which has been in place since January, for nine more months until March 2018. The high compliance of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia has led to the rise in overall compliance with the deal from 90 per cent to 95 per cent, despite a slight increase in overall OPEC oil production this month. Kuwait Energy Plc. Is intending to be the first Kuwaiti company to have its stock publically traded on the London Stock Exchange. 

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

A former Member of Parliament (Musallam al-Barrack) who was convicted in 2012 for insulting the Emir of Kuwait has been released from prison. This is likely to be a morale boost for opposition politicians. Kuwait has committed $100 million to the United Nation (UN)’s fundraising appeal to deal with the human consequences of the Yemen conflict. Kuwait has also pledged $100 million to help with the reconstruction of Iraq in the aftermath of the Islamic State (IS) insurgency. Kuwait is to reinstate military service. Kuwait has signalled that it wants to see Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cuts to oil production extended beyond their expiration date in June. 

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

President Rouhani of Iran, sent a letter to the Emir of Kuwait this month. Although the contents have not been revealed, it is thought that the letter represents another step in Kuwait’s efforts to reduce the tensions between Iran and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are reportedly pressing to have a free trade ready to sign with the United Kingdom once it leaves the European Union (EU). New Zealand has renewed efforts to revive a free trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council which stalled in 2009. Passengers on direct US bound flights departing from Kuwait International Airport Kuwait will be subject to the US ban on electronics larger than cell phones being carried in hand luggage. Kuwait has signalled its willingness to see the cuts in oil production under the 2016 Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreement continue after the agreement’s six month term expires. The US is expected to deploy 2,500 combat ground troops to a staging base in Kuwait in preparation for possibly deployment in Iraq and/or Syria. Kuwait had a very successful debut government bond auction in March. 

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

Opposition MPs elected in November are beginning to show their opposition to proposed austerity measures. MPs proposed a measure to give the National Assembly the right to regulate and approve any new fees for citizens. Kuwait has been attempting to thaw relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia through the Gulf Cooperation Council. On 25 January, Kuwait carried out its first mass execution since 2013, executing 7 people including a prince of the ruling AlSabah family. On 15 January, a Eurowings flight landed in Kuwait due to a bomb scare. A regional centre of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Istanbul Cooperation Initiative was opened in Kuwait this month. Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cuts have begun to take effect and a rise in the price of oil was observed in January. Kuwait’s stock market has been the best performer in the world for January, rising for eighteen consecutive days by 29 January. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth office updated its travel advice stating that attacks in Kuwait are “very likely”.

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

The effects of the low price of oil continue to be felt in Kuwait. The government faces a budget deficit of $31 billion for the current fiscal year. Earlier in the year the government reduced fuel subsidies by up to 83 per cent which sparked public discontent. Generous government welfare for citizens in return for political legitimacy is a key part of the social contract between citizens and the state. The dissatisfaction at the cuts to fuel subsidies and the perception that they may be the first step towards greater austerity were expressed in the parliamentary elections held at the end of November. The government has seen its majority reduced to one member of parliament after the opposition and its allies captured 24 of 50 seats. The opposition is a diverse group with some common demands, primarily resisting austerity, rather than a cohesive and coordinated bloc. The Gulf Cooperation Council met at the beginning of December and shows some level of policy agreement between members in relation to the situation in Syria and Yemen but economic matters are the main focus of the council’s discussions. A woman has been jailed for 10 years for supporting the Islamic State (IS). It is believed she was planning to carry out a suicide bombing in Kuwait. A German intelligence agency report has alleged that groups within Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have been supporting extremist Islamic groups as part of a long-term strategy to exert influence and spread the ideology. The government is making plans to sell up to $10 billion of US dollar-denominated assets to help plug the current budget deficit.

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Emir, dissolved the Kuwaiti parliament on 17 October. John Kerry, the United States’ Secretary of State, emphasised the strong bilateral relations between the United States (US) and Kuwait during the first round of the Kuwait-US Strategic Dialogue on 21 October. Seventeen agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed by Kuwaiti and Mexican officials during talks between the two nations on 26 October. Kuwait was selected as the Deputy President of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Arab World Heritage Committee on 25 October. The Kuwaiti government donated $5 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on 28 October. An Egyptian man was detained after attempting to attack a car carrying five Americans on 8 October. The US State Department approved the sale of military radar systems to Kuwait for $194 million on 14 October. Khaled Al-Jarellah, Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister, announced on 25 October that the Kuwaiti government is well prepared to tackle any threats from the Daesh terrorist group on Kuwaiti soil. The price of Kuwaiti oil decreased $0.31 this month and is now worth $46.42 per barrel. Crude oil exports from Kuwait to China have continued to rise and are now at record levels of 463,000 barrels per day. It was announced on 21 October that the new Arab commercial arbitration court will be situated in Kuwait.

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Kuwait by Alistair Galloway

During the 71st session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the Kuwaiti delegation gathered support for its campaign to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council in next year’s elections. A member of the Kuwaiti royal family was sentenced to three years in prison by a Kuwaiti court on 21 September after insulting the Emir on social media. The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the Costa Rican minister of foreign affairs on 22 September, regarding a visa waiver of diplomatic and private passport holders. Kuwait’s permanent delegate to the UN, Jamal Al-Ghneim, emphasised the need for increased discussion on the recurring human rights abuses taking places in the Occupied Palestinian Territories during the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council on 23 September. Tighter security restrictions were put in place in Kuwait this month in order to maintain security during the Islamic period of Murharram according to Kuwait’s interior ministry. Sara Al-Drees, an activist from Kuwait, was detained for 21 days for criticising the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, on Twitter on 26 September. Khaled Al Jarallah, Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister, announced on 27 September that the Kuwaiti government would be willing to hold further peace talks on the Yemeni conflict in the future. Kuwaiti politicians demanded an emergency session of parliament on 22 September to discuss the rise in petrol prices which came into effect on 1 September. Crude oil exports from Kuwait to China rose by 65 per cent compared to August stated Kuwait’s General Administration of Customs on 23 September. Kuwait’s finance undersecretary, Khalifa Hamada, emphasised the detrimental effect the current economic structure of the country is having on economic growth.

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Kuwait by Lewis McKinnon

The United Nations (UN) sponsored peace negotiations on the Yemeni conflict ended in Kuwait on 6 August with no agreement reached. On 16 August Kuwait’s ambassador to Australia, Najib Abdulrahman Al-Bader, concluded several meetings with Australian officials in the territory of Queensland. The World Bank praised the Kuwaiti government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies and implement new energy reforms as of September this year. The Interior Ministry of Kuwait announced that it arrested several hundred people during a series of security clampdowns between 3 and 10 August. A deal worth EUR 1.1 billion was signed between the French and Kuwaiti governments on 9 August concerning the sale of 30 French military helicopters to the Kuwaiti army and National Guard. Ten Iranian men were arrested by Kuwait’s coast guard on 14 August and accused of being infiltrators who intended to enter Kuwait illegally. The Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Khaled Al-Hamed Al-Sabah, emphasised the strong relationship between Kuwait and Iraq during a visit by the governor of the Iraqi city of Basra on 15 August. Kuwait’s oil prices fell by $1.04 in one day on 23 August according to the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. Kuwait and Bahrain signed two new financing agreements worth $1 billion on 23 August. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Electricity and Water announced on 24 August that it intends to scrap plans to build a nuclear power plant in Kuwait. 

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Kuwait by Lewis McKinnon

On 14 July, the Kuwaiti government passed a law to improve working conditions for domestic staff in Kuwait, including setting a minimum wage. Kuwaiti Member of Parliament, Abdulhameed Dashti, was sentenced to 14 years and six months incarceration in absentia on 27 July. The Kuwaiti ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Jamal Al-Ghunaim, announced Kuwait’s commitment to uphold international laws concerning torture and the maltreatment of human beings during a meeting with delegates from the UN Convention Against Torture on 26 July. An official spokesman for the Kuwait National Petroleum Company announced on 2 July that increased security measures will be enforced at oil installations throughout Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government gave the warring factions of the Yemeni conflict 15 days to negotiate an agreement on the conflict on 21 July. The Kuwaiti embassy in Tanzania announced on 23 July that closer security ties with the Republic of Tanzania will be developed in the near future. The Kuwait and Saudi Arabian governments have issued a formal complaint to the UN concerning repeated incursions into their sovereign waters by military vessels from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Kuwait’s ambassador to Kazakhstan, Tariq Al-Faraj, confirmed on 13 July that the two countries are looking to broaden cooperation in many fields and strengthen economic ties. The Kuwaiti government and the European Union (EU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 18 July. The National Bank of Kuwait released new figures on 23 July that highlighted the continued growth in Kuwait’s project market. The Kuwaiti government provided $4.4 billion to kick-start the construction of the new terminal of Kuwait International Airport on 23 July. 

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Kuwait by Lewis McKinnon

The Imam Sadiq mosque in Kuwait City reopened on 26 June, a year after the deadly terrorist attack on the mosque that killed 27 people. An amendment to the Kuwaiti election law banning those who have insulted religion or the Amir from contesting parliamentary election passed after approval by the national assembly and the Amir on 28 June. Large-scale reform of Kuwait’s national health care system began as the government sought to cut down on the number of Kuwaitis travelling abroad for medical care. On 29 June the United Nations (UN) announced a two-week suspension of the Yemeni peace talks taking place in Kuwait after fighting intensified across all fronts in the conflict. The Kuwaiti government confirmed a $523 million contract with the global arms firm Raytheon to upgrade its Patriot air missile defence system. Kuwait Airways announced on 26 June that its weekly flight to John F Kennedy Airport in New York will now have a stopover at Shannon Airport in the Republic of Ireland as part of new security measures. Four men were arrested by the Kuwaiti Security Information Department for possession of unlicensed firearms during a search by weapons inspectors on 29 June. An Emirati investment group confirmed the purchase of the Kuwaiti food company Americana on 18 June. Kuwait’s Finance Minister assured the Kuwaiti cabinet that Kuwait’s investments in the United Kingdom (UK) will not be adversely affected after the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU). The price of Kuwaiti oil rose from $42.87 to $44.12 per barrel on 30 June. 

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