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Kuwait

KUWAIT

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS KUWAITIS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

State of Kuwait

Dawlat al-Kuwayt

CAPITAL: Kuwait (Al-Kuwayt)

FLAG: The flag, adopted in 1961, is a rectangle divided equally into green, white, and red horizontal stripes, with a black trapezoid whose longer base is against the staff and equal to the breadth of the flag, and whose shorter base is equal to the breadth of the white stripe.

ANTHEM: National Anthem, melody only; no words.

MONETARY UNIT: The Kuwaiti dinar (kd) has 1,000 fils. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 fils, and notes of 250 and 500 fils and of 1, 5, 10, and 20 Kuwaiti dinars. kd1 = $3.44828 (or $1 = kd0.29) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but imperial weights and measures also are in use, and some US measures are recognized.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Emir's Accession Day, 25 February. Movable religious holidays include Muslim New Year (1st of Muharram); Laylat al-Miraj; Milad an-Nabi; 'Id al-Fitr; and 'Id al-'Adha'.

TIME: 3 pm = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Kuwait is situated at the western head of the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf. Its area is estimated at 17,820 sq km (6,880 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Kuwait is slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. Kuwait extends 205 km (127 mi) senw and 176 km (109 mi) nesw. Islands that form part of Kuwait include Faylakah (an archaeological site that is the only inhabited island), Bubiyan, Maskan, 'Auha, Al-Warbah, Al-Kubr, Umm al-Maradim, Umm al-Nami, and Qaruh. Bounded on the e by the Persian Gulf, on the s and w by Saudi Arabia, and on the nw and n by Iraq, Kuwait has a total land boundary length of 462 km (287 mi) and a coastline of 499 km (310 mi).

Kuwait's boundary with Iraq remains unsettled. Following Kuwait's declaration of independence in June 1961, the emir requested assistance from the United Kingdom to ward off an Iraqi invasion; the British forces were later replaced by troops from Arab League states. The United Nations upheld Kuwait's sovereignty, and in October 1963, Iraq formally recognized Kuwait's independence. In March 1973, there were armed clashes on the IraqKuwait border, but a settlement was announced in June 1975; negotiations to demarcate the border have continued intermittently. Again in August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, asserting their right to reclaim it as their territory. US-led international forces responded with a massive air attack in January 1991, and Iraq was defeated. Some Iraqi officials continued to assert their claim to Kuwait, and relations between the two countries remained tense. On 27 May 1993, the UN Security Council reaffirmed the established border between the two nations. In 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border but continues to periodically challenge the rhetoric of the agreement.

Kuwait's capital, Kuwait City, is located on the Persian Gulf coast.

TOPOGRAPHY

Kuwait consists almost entirely of flat rolling desert and mud flats. There is a 1,137-m (450-ft) ridge at Mina' al-Ahmadi and a 290-m (951-ft) prominence in the southwest corner. There are no permanent rivers or lakes, but there are some desert wadis that collect water during the rains.

CLIMATE

During the summer, which lasts roughly from May to October, the air generally is dry, but southeasterly winds often raise day-time humidity to 90% for a few weeks in August or September. Between November and April, the climate is pleasant, with cool nights and warm sunny days. In December and January, night temperatures occasionally touch the freezing point. Summer temperatures range from 29°c (84°f) in the morning to more than 49°c (120°f) in the shade at noon. Frost, almost unknown on the coast, is common in the interior. Annual rainfall, which averages less than 25 cm (10 in), comes in the form of showers or storms between October and April. Cloudbursts have amounted to as much as 6.4 cm (2.5 in) of rain in one day, and can heavily damage roads and houses. The prevailing northwest wind (shamal) is a cooling breeze in summer.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Plants and animals are those common to the arid parts of Arabia. There is little vegetation except camel thorn in the desert and some shrubs along the coastal strip. Between October and March, however, when sufficient rain falls at intervals, the desert is transformed: Grass and foliage are plentiful, flowers and plants appear in great variety, and in the spring truffles and mushrooms can be found.

The fox and jackal have decreased in numbers; other mammals found in Kuwait include gerbils, jerboas, and desert hares. Reptile species include various lizards, geckos, and snakes. Fish are plentiful. Among the species of migratory birds are swallows, wagtails, chiffchaff, skylarks, wrens, eagles, cormorants, hoopoes, and terns.

As of 2002, there were at least 21 species of mammals, 35 species of birds, and over 200 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

The Persian Gulf War of 1991 and its aftermath caused severe environmental problems for Kuwait, releasing large quantities of oil into the environment and threatening the water supply. Kuwait has no renewable water resources and must rely on wells and desalination of sea water. The nation has some of the largest and most advanced desalination plants in the world, which provide much of its water.

In 2003, only about 1.5% of the total land area was protected by the state. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species include 1 type of mammal, 12 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, and 6 species of fish. the slender-billed curlew and hawksbill turtle are on the endangered list. the Saudi gazelle has become extinct in the wild.

POPULATION

The population of Kuwait in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 2,589,000, which placed it at number 136 in population among the 193 nations of the world. This number includes over one million nonnationals who live and work in the country. In 2005, approximately 2% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 26% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 150 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.7%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 4,610,000. The population density was 145 per sq km (376 per sq mi). the vast majority of the population resides along the coast.

The UN estimated that 96% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005 and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.67%. The capital city, Kuwait (Al-Kuwayt), had a population of 1,222,000 in that year.

MIGRATION

With the discovery of oil and the consequent rise in living standards, Kuwait acquired a large immigrant population, attracted by jobs, free education for their children, and free medical care. The number of foreign residents more than doubled during the 1970s, and in 1994 they accounted for an estimated 56.4% of the population. After the Persian Gulf war, Kuwait deported tens of thousands of foreign workers from countries whose leaders had backed Iraq in the conflict. Of the estimated 400,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait before the 199091 Gulf War, reportedly only about one-sixth were allowed to remain. Only about 120,000 of the 220,000 prewar Bedouins (mostly nomads from Syria, Jordan, and Iraq) were allowed to stay. These stateless Arabs had remained in Kuwait under Iraqi occupation and were suspected of collaboration. Most other foreign workers were able to return to their home countries. By 1996, however, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, and others had filled the void that the previous foreign workers had left behind. Kuwait carried out amnesty plans for illegal foreigners in 1988, 1996, and 2002.

In 2000, there were 1,108,000 migrants living in Kuwait. This accounted for 57.9% of the population. The number of refugees that year was 2,800. In 2004, there were 1,519 refugees and 157 asylum seekers. The number of persons of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was 102,676, made up of 80,000 stateless Bedouins, 13,000 Iraqis, 6,000 Palestinians, and 2,000 Somalis. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated 14.96 migrants per 1,000 population. the government views the immigration level as too high.

ETHNIC GROUPS

Ethnic Kuwaitis are mostly descendants of the tribes of Najd (central Arabia) but some descend from Iraqi Arabs. Still others are of Iranian origin. The number of non-Kuwaitis are divided roughly in half between Arabs and non-Arabs such as Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos. According to the latest estimates, about 45% of the population are Kuwaiti, 35% are other Arab, 9% South Asian, 4% Iranian, and 7% other. It has also been estimated that over 100,000 people are considered to be bidoon residents, that is Arabs who have long-standing residency in the nation but no documented proof of nationality.

LANGUAGES

Arabic is the official language. The Arabic spoken in Kuwait is closer to classical Arabic than to the colloquial Arabic spoken in many other parts of the Middle East. English is generally used by businesspeople, employees of oil companies, foreign residents, and students, and it is the second language taught in the schools.

RELIGIONS

Islam is the state religion. According 2004 figures, Muslims represented about 64% of the total population, with a majority believed to be Sunni Muslim. About 3035% of Muslim citizens were of the Shia branch. The Christian population includes between 250,000 and 500,000 people. Catholic groups include Roman Catholic, Maronite, Coptic, Armenian, Greek, Malabar, and Malankara congregations. Orthodox groups include the Greek, Armenian, Coptic, and the Indian Orthodox Syrian Church. the National Evangelical Church (Protestant) has about 20,000 members. Other Protestant groups include the Anglicans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, and Marthoma. Other religious groups include Hindus, Baha'is, Sikhs, and Buddhists.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but this right is limited in some cases by the government, in that religious practices are not permitted to conflict with public policy or morals. Blasphemy, apostasy (of Muslims), and proselytizing are illegal, with the exception of the Islam Presentation Committee, which encourages the conversion on non-Muslims to Islam. Family law is administered through the Islamic court system. Religious affairs are overseen by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. Only four non-Muslim groups have the full legal recognition in the government: the Roman Catholic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, and the National Evangelical Church. While these groups are offered a certain amount of freedom, there are quotas in place that limit the number of clergy and staff each group can have. Other groups are generally allowed to worship freely in private homes. Certain Muslim holidays are celebrated as national holidays.

TRANSPORTATION

Kuwait has a modern network of roads, with all-weather highways running north to Iraq and south to Saudi Arabia. Roadways extended 4,450 km (2,777 mi) in 2002, including 3,590 km (2,230 mi) of paved roads. In 2003, there were some 770,375 passenger cars and 200,315 commercial vehicles in use. Land transport accounts for a significant share of Kuwait's imports and exports. There are no railways.

Kuwait has five ports, including a cargo port at Ash-Shuwaykh, on Kuwait Bay, and an oil port at Mina' al-Ahmadi that is equipped with a huge pier at which eight large tankers can be loaded simultaneously. In 2005, Kuwait had 39 merchant ships in service of 1,000 GRT or more, with a capacity of 2,319,082 GRT. Kuwait has regular calls from ocean shipping, and local sailing craft carry goods between Kuwait and the neighboring sheikhdoms, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Sea transport accounts for most of Kuwait's foreign trade.

In 2004, there were an estimated seven airports. As of 2005, a total of four had paved runways, and there were also four heliports. The principal airport, Kuwait International Airport, is located south of the city of Kuwait. Air transportation is highly advanced, with Kuwait Airways providing service to and from the major Middle Eastern and European cities. In 2003, the airline carried about 2.198 million passengers on domestic and international flights.

HISTORY

The historical records of the Arab coast of the Persian Gulf are meager. Archaeological discoveries on Faylakah Island reveal an ancient civilization about 2800 bc that had trade links with the Sumerians. By the 6th century bc, this part of the Gulf was a principal supply route for trade with India. There is evidence of early migrations to the East African coast by the seafaring inhabitants. The historical turning point for the entire Arabian Peninsula was the conversion of the people to Islam in the 7th century ad, during the lifetime of Muhammad.

Kuwait's recent history starts in 1716, when several clans of the tribe of Aniza migrated from the interior of the Arabian Desert to a tiny Gulf coastal locality, later to be called Kuwait (a diminutive of the word kut, meaning "fort"). In 1756, the settled tribesmen rallied around the As-Sabah family and chose as their ruler Sheikh Sabah 'Abd ar-Rahim, founder of the present ruling dynasty. During the latter part of the century, raids by land and by sea resulted in the decline of Kuwait, but after the British suppression of piracy in the region, trading and shipbuilding prospered.

During the period in which Sheikh 'Abdallah as-Sabah ruled Kuwait (186692), a dynastic battle raged in Arabia between the rival houses of Ar-Rashid and As-Sa'ud. The Ottoman Turks, supporting Ibn Rashid, sought to extend their control over the coastal area to the south of Kuwait. Fearing that his territory would be lost to the Turks who considered it part of their province of Basra, Sheikh Mubarak as-Sabah (r.18961915) asked to be taken under British protection. The British were concerned not only because of the Turkish claims but also because the Russians were seeking to set up a coaling station in Kuwait, and both the Germans and the Turks had planned to make it a terminus of the BerlinBaghdād railroad. In 1899, Sheikh Mubarak agreed not to alienate any of his territory or to receive representatives of any foreign power without British consent. In return, the British offered their services as well as an annual subsidy to support the sheikh and his heirs.

On 19 June 1961, the protective treaty relations with the United Kingdom were terminated by mutual consent, and Kuwait declared itself fully sovereign and independent. By this time, the sheikhdom had already become a major oil producer and had acquired a controlling interest in the petroleum industry. Iraq refused to recognize Kuwait's independence, asserting it had inherited the Ottoman claim to the territory. Baghdād's threat of an invasion was foiled by the dispatch of British troops and later the support of the Arab League for Kuwait. Iraq then appeared to acquiesce in Kuwait's sovereignty, although border issues were never definitely resolved. During the next two decades, Kuwait succeeded in establishing an open and prosperous economy, based in large part on foreign, especially Palestinian and Egyptian, labor.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Kuwait, albeit technically neutral, rendered important assistance to Baghdād, including the transshipment of goods and the provision of over $6 billion in loans. As a response, members of Kuwait's large Shia minority and other radical dissidents waged a war of terrorism against the government. Throughout the 1980s, there were bombings, assassination attempts, hijackings, and sabotage against oil facilities.

In 1987, Iranian attacks on Persian Gulf shipping led Kuwait to request US protection for its supertankers. Washington agreed, and when a "reflagged" Kuwaiti vessel was attacked, American forces retaliated against an Iranian offshore oil rig.

With the end of the war, IraqKuwait relations were stable until 1990, when Saddam Hussein accused his neighbor of waging economic warfare against Iraq by illegally drilling oil from the shared Rumailia field, overproducing oil to drive down prices and unfairly demanding repayment of wartime loans. Tensions could not be defused by negotiations or mediation and on 2 August 1990, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, asserting that they were rightfully reclaiming their territory. Kuwaiti defense forces offered little resistance and most senior officials fled the country.

The United States led an international coalition of Arab and other nations to demand the withdrawal of Iraqi forces. After a lengthy buildup of forces, Iraq was assaulted by massive air and land forces; after six weeks, its defenses collapsed and Kuwait was liberated in February 1991. Kuwait's leaders returned to find a disgruntled population that resented their abandonment and demanded greater political participation. Enormous physical damage had been inflicted on the country, including over 700 oil well fires that did serious ecological damage before being extinguished after almost nine months' effort.

The regime, and many Kuwaitis, turned harshly against those suspected of collaboration with Iraq. As a consequence, much of the large Palestinian community was ejected from the country. Relations with Iraq naturally remained tense, with some Baghdād officials continuing to assert their claim to Kuwait. On 27 May 1993, the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed the decision of a Boundary Demarcation Commission establishing the border between the two nations. Kuwait's vulnerability to possible attack from Iraq or Iran drew the nation closer to the United States, which has been willing to offer enhanced security collaboration.

In October 1994, Iraq began moving 60,000 troops to within 32 km (20 mi) of the Kuwaiti border. The UN Security Council voted unanimously to condemn Iraq's actions, and the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries came to Kuwait's assistance. Kuwait agreed to allow the United States to station a squadron of 24 warplanes there as part of a broad effort to curb Iraqi military power. The plan kept reserves of American warplanes and a division's worth of tanks and armor stationed in the region. On 10 November 1994, Iraq agreed to recognize the independence and current borders of Kuwait, a major step apparently aimed at allowing at least some UN sanctions against Iraq to be lifted. However, in August 1995, Iraqi troop movements along the Kuwaiti border caused alarm again, and the United States began sending ships carrying equipment and supplies to the Persian Gulf. In April 1996, an international military exercise (involving forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Italy, and other Arab nations) was held in Kuwait. The UN also renewed its multi-national force of border observers in April 1996 to oversee the 14-km (9-mi) demilitarized zone that separates Kuwait from Iraq.

Although some of its neighbors in the Persian Gulf began to pursue a rapprochement with Iraq over the following years, Kuwait maintained its vigilance against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Early in 1998, it granted expanded staging areas to the United States in anticipation of possible military action in response to Iraq's failure to cooperate with UN weapons inspections. At the end of 1998, it supported NATO air strikes against Iraq over the same issue. In January 1999, Kuwait placed its military on full alert in response to renewed threats from Iraq. As of 2000, a special UN commission had awarded $15.7 billion in reparations for damages suffered in Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. In January 2003, Iraqi and Kuwaiti officials resumed talks on the fate of people who had gone missing during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 199091. Kuwait claims Iraq must account for more than 600 Kuwaitis who disappeared during the occupation. Iraq insists it holds no such detainees, and accuses Kuwait of failing to account for more than 1,000 Iraqis.

On 8 November 2002, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441, calling on Iraq to disarm itself immediately of weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons), to abide by all former UN resolutions regarding the country since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, and to allow for the reintroduction of UN and IAEA weapons inspectors (they were expelled from the country in 1998). The United States adopted a firm position toward Iraq's disarmament, which it disputed, and by March 2003, was preparing for war. Since Kuwait's liberation from Iraq in 1991, it has become the world's largest per capita defense spender. As of 2003, Kuwait had purchased Patriot antimissile batteries, F/A-18 warplanes, and Apache attack helicopters for a military force estimated at 15,500, with 23,700 in reserves. However, Kuwait was not expected to take part in the expected US-led invasion of Iraq; instead, its forces were to defend the country from retaliation or other forms of attack by Iraq. By early March 2003, nearly 140,000 US and British military personnel had arrived in Kuwait.

On 21 January 2003, a civilian contractor for the US military was killed and another wounded when their car was fired upon outside Kuwait City. A Kuwaiti man was arrested and claimed responsibility for the shooting, expressing support for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization. Kuwait is concerned about a rise in Islamic fundamentalism and anti-American sentiment.

On 19 March 2003, the United States launched air strikes on Baghdād, and the war in Iraq began. Iraq fired a number of missiles at Kuwait, and one struck a mall in Kuwait City but resulted in no deaths. Most of the missiles were destroyed by defensive Patriot missiles. The regime of Saddam Hussein was toppled on 9 April, and the military stage of the war ended soon after. Plans for the reconstruction of Iraq and for the establishment of a legitimate government were in the making in April, but it was acknowledged such progress could take years.

In May 1999, the emir of Kuwait dissolved the National Assembly in the wake of a long-standing political deadlock between government and opposition forces. However, the opposition gained even more ground in national elections held in July, with both Islamists and liberals gaining additional seats. Among the matters awaiting parliamentary consideration was a controversial decree by the emir that would allow women to vote and run for office by the next election, scheduled for 2003. Parliament on 23 November 1999 voted against the emir's decree to grant full political rights to women.

Traditionally, the emir has appointed the crown prince as prime minister. In July 2003, he appointed Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah prime minister, separating the post from the role of heir to the throne for first time since independence. In the legislative elections on 5 July 2003, 148 candidates ran for 50 places. Voter turnout was 81%, electing new candidates to half of the Assembly seats: procabinet, 20 seats; Islamist, 16 seats; independents, 12 seats; and liberals, 2 seats. In May 2005, parliament approved constitutional amendments to give women full political rights. In June, the first woman cabinet minister was appointed. Women will be able to take part in parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in 2007 and local elections in 2009.

In January 2005, lethal gun battles erupted between suspected Islamist militants and police. In October 2005, the future leadership of Kuwait was brought into question as the aging leadership of the royal family, all in their late seventies, suffered from debilitating illnesses.

GOVERNMENT

According to the constitution of 16 November 1962, Kuwait is an independent sovereign Arab state under a constitutional monarch. Executive power is vested in the emir, who exercises it through a Council of Ministers. Succession is restricted to descendants of Mubarak as-Sabah; an heir apparent must be appointed within one year of the accession of a new ruler. The emir appoints a prime minister after traditional consultations and appoints ministers on the prime minister's recommendation. Emir Sabah as-Salim as-Sabah died in December 1977 after a reign of 12 years and was succeeded by Emir Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah. the as-Sabah family, advised by wealthy merchants and other community leaders, dominates the government.

The National Assembly (Majlis) consists of 50 elected representatives. Elections are held every four years among adult literate males who resided in Kuwait before 1920 and their descendants; candidates must be Kuwaiti males at least 21 years of age. As a result, the electorate only accounts for about 10% of Kuwait's total population. In 1996, naturalized citizens who did not meet the pre-1920 qualification but had been naturalized for 30 years became eligible to vote. The assembly may be dissolved at any time by the emir. It was dissolved in 1976, as part of a political crackdown that followed the government's announced support of Syrian intervention in Lebanon. Elections were held in February 1981 and a new assembly was convened after elections in 1985; it was dissolved once again in 1986 as a result of national tensions over the Iran-Iraq War. It remained suspended until elections in October 1992. In 1993, the new Assembly actively produced new legislation, including a national budget. The emir suspended the Assembly once again in 1999, but new elections were held within two months.

POLITICAL PARTIES

Political parties are prohibited, but opposition groups are active in the nation's political life. Several political groups act as de facto parties: Bedouins, merchants, Sunni and Shiite activists, and secular leftists and nationalists. Political opinions are freely expressed in informal gatherings in the homes of government officials and leading citizens.

Progovernment forces gained ground over Muslim fundamentalist candidates in the elections of 8 October 1996. Following the 1999 elections, the Assembly was split almost evenly among pro-government, liberal, and Islamic members. Progovernment forces held 13 seats, with the rest held by Islamic and liberal parties and unaffiliated independents.

The Islamists are divided between the Ikhwan, which traces its political antecedents to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, and two Salafigroups that draw inspiration from Saudi Arabia. Current political groupings include the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM) and the Islamic Popular Group (of the Salafitendency), two Sunni organizations; the Islamic National Alliance, the main faction for Shia Muslims; the Kuwait Democratic Forum (KDF), a loose association of groups with Nassarist and pan-Arabist foundations; and the National Democratic Group, composed of generally secular progressives with liberal tendencies. The rest are independents or are tribal confederations.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

There are five governorates (Ahmadi, Al-Jahrah, Al-Kuwayt, Hawalli, and Al-Farwaniyah), but political authority is highly centralized in the capital. A tradition of diwaniyya, or family or tribal gatherings, serves as a forum for debate in society, largely oriented around the proceedings of parliament.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The system of Muslim law (Shariah) was augmented by 1959 legislation that established courts of law, regulated the judicial system, and adopted modern legal codes. In each administrative district of Kuwait, there is a summary court composed of one or more divisions, each presided over by one judge. The summary courts deal with civil and commercial cases and leases. A tribunal of first instance has jurisdiction over matters involving personal status, civil and commercial cases, and criminal cases, except those of a religious nature and cases in which the amount involved exceeds kd1,000. The High Court of Appeals is divided into two chambers, one with jurisdiction over appeals involving personal status and civil cases, the other over appeals involving commercial and criminal cases. State security court decisions may be appealed to the Court of Cassation. Ordinary criminal cases may be appealed to the High Court of Appeals. the five-member Superior Constitutional Court is the highest level of the Kuwaiti judiciary. the Superior Constitutional Court interprets the constitution and deals with disputes related to the constitutionality of laws, statutes, and by-laws. A military court handles offenses committed by members of the security forces. Religious courts, Sunni and Shia, decide family law matters, but there is also a separate domestic court for non-Muslims. There is no Shia appellate court. Shia cases are adjudicated by Sunni courts of appeals.

While the 1962 constitution guarantees an independent judiciary, the executive branch retains control over its administration and budget. the emir, after recommendation of the Justice Ministry, appoints judges in the regular courts. Kuwaiti nationals receive lifetime appointments; non-Kuwaiti judges receive renewable terms of one to three years.

The constitution gives the authority to pardon and commute sentences to the emir. The Special State Security Court was abolished in 1995.

ARMED FORCES

Kuwait's all-volunteer armed forces totaled 15,500 active personnel in 2005. The Army had 11,000 personnel and was equipped with 368 main battle tanks, up to 450 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 321 armored personnel carriers, and 218 artillery pieces. The Air Force numbered an estimated 2,500 and had 50 combat-capable aircraft, including 39 fighter ground attack aircraft, in addition to 16 attack helicopters. The Navy had an estimated 2,000 personnel, with major naval units including 40 patrol/coastal vessels. Paramilitary forces consisted of an estimated 6,600-member National Guard. The UN provided troops and observers in Kuwait. In addition, the United States maintained a military presence with 25,250 troops stationed in the country. The defense budget in 2005 was estimated at $4.27 billion.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Kuwait was admitted to the United Nations (UN) on 14 May 1963 and is a member of ESCWA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as UNESCO, UNIDO, IAEA, FAO, IFC, IMF, the World Bank, ILO, and WHO. It belongs to the Arab League, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the African Development Bank, the Arab Monetary Union, the Council of Arab Economic Unity, the Central African States Development Bank (BDEAC), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), G-77, OPEC, WTO, and OAPEC; in 1981, it was a leader in forming the Gulf Cooperation Council with Saudi Arabia and four other Gulf states.

Kuwait played a key role in Operation Iraqi Freedom (200203) by offering land use and finances for the US-led coalition forces. The nation has also continued to support reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Kuwait is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Kuwait is part of the Basel Convention, the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.

ECONOMY

The discovery of oil in 1934 transformed the economy. Kuwait's enormous oil reserve of 94 billion barrels and huge quantities of natural gas have provided the base for an economic presence of worldwide significance. The Kuwaiti standard of living was among the highest in the Middle East and in the world by the early 1980s. Oil wealth has stimulated trade, fishery development, and service industries. The government has used its oil revenues to build ports, roads, an international airport, a seawater distillation plant, and modern government and office buildings. The public has also been served by the large-scale construction of public works, free public services, and highly subsidized public utilities, transforming Kuwait into a fully developed welfare state. Prudent management of budgetary allocations and development priorities, as well as substantial interest from overseas investment, helped cushion the adverse impact of the collapse of the Souk al-Manakhan unregulated curbside securities marketin 1982, the collapse in world oil prices during the mid-1980s, and the 198088 Iran-Iraq War. In addition, acquisition of 5,000 retail outlets in Western Europe (marketed under the name "Q-8") and expansion into the manufacture and sale of refined oil products have bolstered the Kuwaiti economy.

Oil extraction and processing accounts for about 50% of GDP, 95% of export earnings, and 75% of government revenues. Kuwait's economy suffered enormously from the effects of the Gulf War and the Iraqi occupation, which ended in February 1991 with the destruction of much of Kuwait's oil production capacity and other economic infrastructure. The damage inflicted on the economy was estimated at $20 billion. Real growth in GDP was estimated at 9% in 1994. Economic improvement from 1994 to 1997 came largely from growth in the industrial and financial sectors. the Difficult Debts Law, which aided investors with losses incurred during the Iraqi invasion and an informal stock crash in the early 1980s, significantly improved investor confidence. Reversing this trend, GDP shrank 16% due to a large decline in world oil prices. The loss was more than restored by the recovery of oil prices beginning in the second half of 1999. GDP rose 17.22% in 1999, and then an extraordinary 26.88% in 2000. Inflation rose to 4.7% in 1999, but declined to 2.7% in 2000. GDP growth in 2001 was 5.43% and inflation was down to 2%. From 1999 to 2001, per capita GDP rose from $13,082 to $17,880. Kuwait's portfolio investments have generally served to double the income it receives from its basic oil industry.

While the GDP growth rate slumped in the negatives in 2001 and 2002 (-1.0% and0.4% respectively), it quickly recovered, jumping to 9.9% in 2003, and 7.2% in 2004; in 2005, the economy was expected to expand by 4.0%. As a result of this boom, income per capita has also improved, reaching $20,088 in 2004, and an estimated $23,347 in 2005. Inflation and unemployment have been kept under control (reaching 1.2% and 2.2%, respectively, in 2004) and do not pose a major problem to the economy. Although Kuwait is a country with a high standard of living, it is still dependent on food and water imports. In the future, it plans to open up oil exploitations in the northern part of the country.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005, Kuwait's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $51.6 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $22,100. the annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.5%. the average inflation rate in 2005 was 3.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 0.5% of GDP, industry 52.1%, and services 47.4%.

Foreign aid receipts amounted to $4 million or about $2 per capita.

The World Bank reports that in 2003, household consumption in Kuwait totaled $20.70 billion or about $8,637 per capita based on a GDP of $41.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1980 to 1990, household consumption grew at an average annual rate of -1.4%.

LABOR

In 2005, Kuwait's labor force was estimated at 1.67 million workers, approximately 80% of whom were not Kuwaiti nationals. Although there was no data available on the occupational breakdown of the country's workforce, as of 2002, Kuwaiti nationals accounted for 93% those employed in the public/government sector. The government-owned oil industry dominates the economy. The unemployment rate was estimated at 2.2% in 2004.

Although workers are legally permitted to join unions, less than 5% of the labor force are union members. Virtually all are affiliated with the Kuwait Trade Union Federation, the only trade federation allowed by law. The government performs a pervasive supervisory role of all unions, both subsidizing union expenses and carefully monitoring union activities. The right to strike is severely limited, and strikes rarely occur. About 10% of union members are foreign workers, but foreign workers must be in Kuwait for five years before they can join a union and then may not vote in elections or hold official positions. The right to strike is limited.

In general, all workers are entitled to a 48-hour workweek, compensation for overtime, sick leave, termination pay, and access to arbitration for settlement of disputes. However, many laborers from developing countries are willing to tolerate poor or unhealthy working conditions in order to earn a wage that is significantly higher than in their own countries. the minimum working age is 18, although children who are at least 16 may work limited hours in nonhazardous occupations. Foreign workers must be at least 18 to work in Kuwait. In 2002, the public-sector minimum wage was about $742 per month for citizens and $296 per month for noncitizens. Health and safety standards are lax in regard to foreign workers.

AGRICULTURE

Only 1% of the total land area is utilized for the cultivation of crops; permanent pasture land amounts to 7.6% of total land area. Despite the absence of rivers and streams and the paucity of rain, the development of agriculture has been actively pursued. the government apportions arable land at nominal prices on a long-term basis among farmers to stimulate production of vegetables and other crops. It also provides farmers with long-term loans and low-cost irrigation. The state has supplied extension services and demonstration centers for new farming techniques in an attempt to increase agricultural production. Nevertheless, farming contributes less than 1% of the non-oil GDP. Agricultural output in 2004 included 185,620 tons of vegetables and melons and 16,900 tons of fruit.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

When the desert is green (from the middle of March to the end of April), about one-fourth of Kuwait's meat supply is provided locally. The 2005 livestock population included: cattle, 28,000; sheep, 900,000; goats, 150,000; and chickens, 32,500,000. Kuwait's poultry production has recovered from damages inflicted during the 1990 invasion. Production in 2005 was estimated at 80,535 tons, exceeding the previous high of 21,000 tons in 1989. A small number of Bedouins raise camels, goats, and sheep for meat and milk.

FISHING

Small boats catch enough fish to satisfy local demand. Species caught include sardines, mackerel, tuna, shark (for the fins exported to China), barracuda, and mullet. Crabs, crayfish, and oysters are plentiful, and undik and zubaidi (butterfish) are both tasty and very popular. Shrimp are produced for a growing export market. the fish catch in 2003 totaled 6,095 tons, down from 8,466 in 1993 but up from the low of 2,034 in 1991, the year of the Iraqi invasion.

FORESTRY

There are no natural forests in Kuwait. The government's afforestation projects cover an area of about 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres). Imports of forest products totaled $108 million in 2004.

MINING

In addition to petroleum and natural gas, the country's main commodities, Kuwait produced caustic soda, chlorine, cement, clays, clay products, fertilizer, lime, salt, and sand and gravel. the cement and fertilizer production plants were damaged by retreating Iraqi troops during the 1991 Gulf War. Cement production in 2004 was estimated at 1.6 million metric tons, unchanged from 2003. Ammonia production (nitrogen content) in 2004 was 413,400 metric tons, and output of urea (nitrogen content) was 320,000 tons metric tons.

ENERGY AND POWER

The Persian Gulf is geologically unique. Sedimentary deposits are combined with large, relatively unbroken folding that results in underground oil reservoirs 16 to 240 km (10150 mi) long, containing billions of barrels of oil. Kuwait's known petroleum deposits are among the worlds largest. As of 1 January 2005, Kuwait's proven oil reserves came to an estimated 99 billion barrels. However, another 2.5 billion barrels are held in the SaudiKuwaiti neutral zone or "divided zone," thus putting Kuwait's proven oil reserves at 101.5 billion barrels. The neutral zone covers an area of 6,200 sq mi and holds an estimated 5 billion barrels of oil and 1 trillion cu ft of natural gas. Kuwait possesses about 8% of the known global resources of petroleum.

Although Kuwait's crude oil production capacity in 2005 was estimated at 2.5 million barrels per day (includes half of the neutral zone), as a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Kuwait's crude oil output is limited by a production quota. As of March 16, 2005, that quota was set at 2.207 million barrels per day. However, for the period January through May 2005, oil output was estimated at an average of 2.6 billion barrels per day, of which 2.5 billion barrels per day was crude oil. Domestic demand for oil was estimated for 2005 at 293,000 barrels per day. Crude oil refining capacity, as of 1 January 2005, was estimated at 889,200 barrels per day. Kuwait's cost of production is perhaps the lowest in the world because its vast pools of oil lie fairly close to the surface and conveniently near tidewater. the oil rises to the surface under its own pressure and, owing to a natural gradient, flows downhill to dockside without pumping. Kuwait exports more than 60% of its oil to Asian countries, although exports are also sent to Europe and the United States.

Kuwait also has large reserves of natural gas. As of 1 January 2005, Kuwait's natural gas reserves were estimated at 55.5 trillion cu ft, which included 0.5 trillion cu ft in the neutral zone. In spite of its large natural gas reserves, production and domestic consumption are relatively modest. In 2002, output and demand for natural gas by Kuwait came to an estimated 293 billion cu ft each. the vast amount of this gas is found and produced along with oil. However, Kuwait is looking to expand its production and consumption of natural gas so as to free up more oil for export. The country is also hoping to cut the flaring or burning-off of natural gas.

All electric power is produced thermally from oil or natural gas. Generating capacity has grown dramatically during the past two decades and is estimated to have reached 9.4 million kW in 2002. Electric power production increased from 30.6 billion kWh in 2000, to an estimated 32.4 billion kWh in 2002. All electric power is generated by burning fossil fuels. Most of the country is provided with electrical service; electric refrigeration and air conditioning are widely available. An extensive diesel power generating system serves outlying villages.

INDUSTRY

Although oil extraction continues to be the economic mainstay, Kuwait has diversified its industry. Small-scale manufacturing plants produce ammonia, fertilizer, paper products, processed foods, and other consumer goods. In 2002, the food processing industry was expanding, with growth sectors including vegetable oils, beverage bases, breakfast cereals, poultry parts, cheese, frozen vegetables, and snack foods. In 2002, Kuwait had three oil refineries with a total refining capacity of 828,000 barrels a day, including 773,000 barrels per day of crude oil distillation, 41,000 barrels per day of catalytic cracking capacity, and 14,000 barrels per day of reforming capacity. The major refinery products were fuel oil, gas oil, naphtha, kerosene, and diesel fuel. Industrial products include desalinated water, chemical detergents, chlorine, caustic soda, urea, concrete pipes, soap, flour, cleansers, asbestos, and bricks. The construction industry is highly developed.

Manufacturing all but stopped during the Iraqi invasion due to shortages of inputs and looting of equipment. After liberation, the sector was hard hit by the departure of Palestinian skilled labor. Low international oil prices have cut down on the value of industrial exports, but increases from the latter half of 1999 have produced windfall returns. In 2000, industry accounted for 60% of GDP.

The share of the industry in the GDP remained relatively stable in subsequent years (although the industrial production growth rate slumped at -5% in 2002), reaching 60.5% in 2004; agriculture is virtually nonexistent in Kuwait, accounting for only 0.4% of the economy in 2004; services came in second with a 39.1% share in the GDP. Around 80% of the 1.42 million working people are represented by non-Kuwaitis.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

High technology in Kuwait has been largely confined to the oil industry and has been imported, along with the scientists and technicians needed to install and operate oil refineries and related facilities.

The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, founded in 1967 at Safat, promotes and conducts scientific research in the fields of food resources, water resources, oil-sector support, and environmental studies. The Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources Authority has an experimental research station in Safat.

Kuwait University, founded in 1962 at Safat, has colleges of science, engineering and petroleum, medicine, and allied health sciences and nursing. The College of Technological Studies, in Shuwaikh, was founded in 1976. The Telecommunications and Navigation Institute, at Safat, was founded in 1966.

In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 29% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, research and development spending totaled $73.448 million, or 0.19% of GDP. Of that total, 80% came from government sources, with the rest from business. In that same year, there were 73 researchers and 180 technicians per million people.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Until the early 1960s, the traditional small shop or market stall dominated retail trade. In recent decades, however, modern business centers with hundreds of new shops and offices have opened, and some smaller villages have developed retail stores with impressive stocks of foreign goods. Franchising is also becoming well established, though most of the franchise market is currently held by American fast-food and restaurant firms. The city of Kuwait is the distribution center for the emirate and serves the transit trade of nearby states.

Usual business hours in summer (May to October) are from 6 am to 12 noon and from 4 pm to 6 pm; and during the rest of the year, from 7 am to 12 noon and from 3 pm to 6 pm. Stores are closed Fridays.

FOREIGN TRADE

For many years, Kuwait maintained a boycott of imports from Israel. However, after liberation from Iraqi occupation in 1991, Kuwait relaxed its trade policies so that Israeli companies previously subject to boycott were permitted to do business in Kuwait. Kuwait also announced a trade embargo against the countries it regarded as having supported Iraq during the occupationJordan, Yemen, Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria, and Mauritania. Major export partners in 1997 were Japan (24%), India (16%), the United States (13%), South Korea (11%), and Singapore (8%). Imports came primarily from the United States (22%), Japan (15%), the United Kingdom (13%), Germany (8%), and Italy (6%).

The export of fuels sustains Kuwait, accounting for the vast majority of commodity exports (91%). Kuwait is the source of 3.3% of the world's crude petroleum exports. Polymers are another important export (4.8% of Kuwait's exports).

In 2004, Kuwait's exports grew to $27.4 billion (FOBFree on Board), while its imports were more than half that, at $11.1 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Japan (20.5%), South Korea (13.7%), the United States (12.4%), Singapore (11.3%), Taiwan

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 16,164.5 7,869.0 8,295.5
Areas nes 7,358.6 7,358.6
Japan 3,275.6 752.2 2,523.4
United States 1,777.1 834.6 942.5
Netherlands 895.0 125.7 769.3
Other Asia nes 621.7 91.1 530.6
Singapore 351.7 64.7 287.0
Korea, Republic of 330.4 215.1 115.3
Sa'udi Arabia 163.9 508.7 -344.8
France-Monaco 159.1 282.8 -123.7
United Arab Emirates 129.6 282.1 -152.5
() data not available or not significant.

(9.9%), Pakistan (3.3%), and the Netherlands (3.3%). Imports included food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, and clothing and mainly came from the United States (12.9%), Germany (11.9%), Japan (7.9%), the United Kingdom (5.5%), Saudi Arabia (5.5%), Italy (5%), France (4.5%), and China (4.1%).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Kuwait enjoys a highly favorable payments position because of its huge trade surpluses. The Kuwaiti dinar is completely covered by the country's reserve fund, 50% of which must be in gold.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001, the purchasing power parity of Kuwait's exports was $16.2 billion, while imports totaled $7.4 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $8.8 billion.

Current Account 7,567.0
     Balance on goods 11,261.0
         Imports -9,698.0
         Exports 20,959.0
     Balance on services -4,641.0
     Balance on income 3,326.0
     Current transfers -2,379.0
Capital Account 1,429.0
Financial Account -11,332.0
     Direct investment abroad 4,990.0
     Direct investment in Kuwait -67.0
     Portfolio investment assets -13,379.0
     Portfolio investment liabilities 336.0
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -2,812.0
     Other investment liabilities -399.0
Net Errors and Omissions 511.0
Reserves and Related Items 1,824.0
() data not available or not significant.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001, Kuwait had exports of goods totaling $16.2 billion and imports totaling $6.93 billion. The services credit totaled $1.79 billion and debit $5.34 billion.

Exports of goods reached $30.2 billion in 2004 and were expected to grow to $43.4 billion in 2005. Imports were expected to reach $11.8 billion in 2005, up from $10.9 billion in 2004. Kuwait has thus managed to keep both a positive resource balance ($19.3 billion, and $31.6 billion, respectively), and a positive current account balance ($18.8 billion in 2004, and an expected $31.1 billion in 2005). Foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) reached $8.2 billion in 2004, covering almost 10 months of imports.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Central Bank of Kuwait, established in 1969, formulates and implements the nation's monetary policy, regulates the currency, and controls the banking system. There are seven commercial banks with 96 branches in Kuwait, of which one is a single-branch operation belonging to a joint-venture bank (the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait). Apart from this special case, foreign banks are not permitted to operate within Kuwait or to own shares in Kuwaiti banks. Kuwaiti bank shares are typically closely held, either by the government and its agencies or by the merchant families who founded them. The preeminent bank is the National Bank of Kuwait, which at the end of 1999 accounted for one-third of all Kuwaiti bank branch assets.

The Central Bank of Kuwait only took on a serious regulatory role in 1984, after a debt crisis engulfed commercial banks, all of which had exposure to the collapsed informal stock market. However, the Central Bank's powers are limited, and, although it considers some of the banks to be too weak to be competitive, so far it has been unable to force mergers.

There are three specialized banks, one of which, Kuwait Finance House, operates as a commercial bank restricted to Islamic financial transactions. The other two, Industrial Bank of Kuwait and Kuwait Real Estate Bank, were created to provide long-term credit at a time when the supply of fresh capital from the public sector was not constrained. In the more austere environment since the war, they function like a US investment bank. The idea of establishing more Islamic banks has been welcomed. the International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $5.4 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $30.0 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 4.62%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 4.25%.

Kuwait's official securities exchange, the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE), first introduced in 1962, was founded in 1977 and handles only government bonds and securities of Kuwaiti companies. An unofficial and unregulated securities exchange, the Souk al-Manakh, listing the stocks of 45 Gulf companies outside Kuwait and considered highly speculative, collapsed suddenly in August 1982. At the time of the crash, some 6,000 investors and $94 billion in postdated checks drawn in anticipation of future stock price increases were said to be involved. In order to limit the effect of the collapse on the Kuwaiti economy, the government created a special rescue fund to pay compensation to small investors for validated claims. All trading operations of the KSE were suspended on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990. the KSE recommenced trading on 28 September 1992. On the exchange, 1995 was a banner year. The combined effect of rapidly expanding credit and privatization resulted in a 36% increase in the stock price index and a 226% increase in trading volume. By the end of 2001, 88 companies were listed with a total capitalization of kd26.7 billion ($86.9 billion) and a trading value of kd11.7 billion ($38 billion). Only Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens are permitted to buy shares in Kuwaiti companies.

INSURANCE

The insurance sector is closed to foreign institutions. As of 2000, the insurance sector was dominated by three companies: Ahlia Insurance, Gulf Insurance, and Kuwait Insurance Co. Marine, fire, accident, and life insurance policies constitute the bulk of all policies issued. Third-party liability insurance for motor vehicles is compulsory. In 2003, the value of all direct premiums written totaled $320 million, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $240 million. In 2002, Al-Ahleia was the top nonlife insurer, with gross written nonlife premiums of $45.9 million. In that same year, Gulf was the country's top life insurer, with gross written life premiums of $35.6 million.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Much of the recent improvement in public finances has been the result of higher oil prices and production rather than government reforms. In 1994, the Kuwaiti government began to consider various austerity measures, which became a source of debate in parliament. Several plans called for reductions in government subsidies and welfare benefits, increases in taxes, privatization of state-owned businesses, and banking-sector reforms. Subsidies are one of the most contentious and politicized austerity measures; in 1995, the Ministry of Finance stated that the country annually spent $1.8 billion on utility subsidies and free health care. the Kuwaiti cabinet passed a reform package in 1999, including a reduction in subsidies and increasing taxes on luxury goods. A government surplus of about 15% if GDP in 2000 was reduced to a deficit of over 2% in 2001 as a result of soft world oil prices.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Kuwait's central government took in revenues of approximately $47.2 billion and had expenditures of $20.7 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $26.4 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 17.6% of GDP. Total external debt was $14.93 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1999, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were kd3,063 million and expenditures were kd3,930 million. The value of revenues was us$9,324 million and expenditures us$11,963 million, based on a official exchange rate for 1999 of us$1 = kd0.32850 as reported by the IMF. Government out-lays by function were as follows: general public services, 13.2%; defense, 17.3%; public order and safety, 9.4%; economic affairs, 9.9%; housing and community amenities, 4.8%; health, 7.2%; recreation, culture, and religion, 3.1%; education, 14.8%; and social protection, 20.4%.

Revenue and Grants 3,063 100.0%
     Tax revenue 116 3.8%
     Social contributions 189 6.2%
     Grants
     Other revenue 2,758 90.0%
Expenditures 3,930 100.0%
     General public services 518 13.2%
     Defense 679 17.3%
     Public order and safety 369 9.4%
     Economic affairs 390 9.9%
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities 187 4.8%
     Health 281 7.2%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 123 3.1%
     Education 582 14.8%
     Social protection 801 20.4%
() data not available or not significant.

TAXATION

Companies that are registered in Kuwait or in countries that are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and are wholly owned by Kuwaiti and/or citizens of GCC countries are not subject to income tax. However, foreign companies carrying on trade or business in Kuwait are subject to varying corporate tax rates based on defined income levels and where the operations are located. Operations on the Kuwaiti mainland are subject to tax rates contained in the Amiri Decree No. 3 of 1955, which range from 055%, covering 11 income levels. Operations located on the islands of Kubr, Qaru, and Umm Al Maradim are subject to the tax rates contained in Law No. 23 of 1961, which has two income levels and rates of 20% and 57%. Foreign companies doing business in the portion of the offshore area of the partitioned neutral zone that is under Saudi Arabian administration are subject to a tax of 50% of what they would pay under Amiri Decree No. 3 of 1955. Capital gains derived from the sale of assets and shares are treated as normal business profits subject to the appropriate tax rate. Other taxes include social security levies of 10.5% on employers; a 1% levy on a shareholding company's profit, payable to the Kuwait Foundation for Scientific Research; and a 2.5% employment tax on net annual distributable profits. Kuwaiti citizens are exempt from paying taxes. The government passed a law to introduce limited taxation in 2000, in the form of sales taxes.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Customs duties are generally 5% ad valorem, but many goods are admitted duty free. the tariff on cigarettes was increased to 100% (from 70%) as of July 1997. Imports of liquor are prohibited by law. Protective tariffs may be levied at up to 25%.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Through tax concessions, Kuwait welcomes foreign investment in heavy and light industries but continues to resist foreign investment in the oil sector. In May 2000, the government passed the Indirect Foreign Investment Law, allowing the purchase of up to 100% of the stock of companies listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange, except for banks. In March 2001 the government passed a liberalized Foreign Investment Law that, together with a five-year privatization plan announced July 2001, expected to substantially increase foreign investment in Kuwait. Previously, foreign investment was not permitted in certain sectors, such as banking or insurance, and was restricted to less than 49% of ownership shares in permitted areas. Foreign investors are no longer required to have a Kuwaiti sponsor but are subject to a 55% corporate tax that Kuwaiti companies do not pay. Major foreign investors in Kuwait as of 2001 included Japan's Arabian Oil Co. and US-owned Texaco. In July 1995, the Union Carbide Corp. and Kuwait's Petrochemical Industries Co. began construction of a $2 billion petrochemical plant, the biggest joint venture involving a foreign company to date in Kuwait. Foreign investment totaled $110 million in 1995. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has historically been low and not encouraged by a government concerned with the "Kuwaitization" of the economy. In 1997, FDI was reported at $20 million, rising to $59.1 million in 1998, and reaching $72.3 million in 1999. However, FDI inflow fell to $16.3 million in 2000, and then in 2001 turned into a net outflow of -$39 million.

Low inward investment contrasts with remarkably high outward investment, though the government does not publish any statistics for these activities. Kuwaiti outward investment consists of portfolio investments held by the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), other direct investments by other government entities, and outward investments by private citizens. The KIA portfolio was estimated to have reached about $60 billion in 2002. Entities like the Kuwait Petroleum Corp. have sizeable investments in production, refining and marketing activities abroad, but only the roughest estimates as to their value can be made. Investments by private citizens are thought to at least equal the government's holdings.

New estimates place outward public investments at around $80 billion. At the same time, investments made outside Kuwait by the private sector are estimated to have grown to around $100 billion.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Since the mid-1970s, Kuwait has restrained its spending on economic development and fostered a policy of controlled growth. From 1977 to 1982, allocations for development projects remained steady at $1.72.5 billion annually, of which 76% was spent on public works, electric power plants, and desalination and irrigation projects. Development plans for the 1980s, stressing industrial diversification, included the expansion of local oil refineries and major projects in petrochemicals, electricity, water supply, highway construction, and telecommunications. Overseas, refining and marketing operations were stepped up.

Postwar economic planning was hampered by the expulsion of the mainly Palestinian middle-ranking civil servants in various government departments. The Industrial Bank of Kuwait played a major role in the industrial redevelopment of the emirate following the war. Diversification and privatization continue to be the strategic goals of the government to increase employment and counter the abrupt swings in the economy due to the heavy dependence on the oil sector. Increased foreign investment has come to be seen as essential to these goals. In May 2000, the government passed the Foreign Investment Law, allowing foreign investors to buy up to 100% of companies listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE), except for banks. The government, however, controls which companies are publicly traded. In March 2001, the Foreign Direct Investment Law was passed, allowing up to 100% ownership of a company operating in Kuwait, although with the disincentive that the profits of the foreign company would be subject to a 55% tax. In July 2001, the government announced a five-year privatization program.

Toward the end of 2005, plans were made to build one of the largest refineries in the region. The project, financed by state-owned Kuwait National Petroleum Co. (KNPC), will cost around $6 billion and when completed will refine 615,000 barrels per day. The economy as a whole is expected to grow at steady rates in coming years (around 3.5% in 2006 and 2007), despite slumping government expenditures and possible constraints in the rate of expansion of the oil industry.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Kuwait has a widespread system of social welfare that is operated on a paternalistic basis and financed by government oil revenues. Social insurance legislation provides for old-age, disability, and survivor pensions, for which the worker pays 5% of earnings, the employer pays 11% of payroll, and the government provides a subsidy. Retirement benefits ranged from 6595% of earnings, depending upon the length of employment. The government pays for medical care in case of work injury.

Women are denied equal rights and legal protection under Kuwaiti law and do not have the right to vote. Women must first obtain their husband's permission before applying for a passport. Kuwaiti women married to foreign men suffer legal discrimination, are not entitled to government housing subsidies, and are required to pay a residency fee. Women (including foreign women) who wear Western clothing are often subject to harassment. Domestic abuse is common. Rape and abuse of foreign domestic workers is widespread. In 2004, it was still common for employers to confiscate and withhold the passports of domestic servants preventing them from leaving the country.

Bedouin minorities face considerable legal discrimination. They are not entitled to citizenship, but beginning in 2004, they were able to enroll their children in school, and health care became available in 2005.

HEALTH

Kuwait has a highly advanced public health service that is extended to all Kuwaiti residents, regardless of citizenship. the entire population has access to health care services. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 3.3% of GDP. the urban population has access to safe water and adequate sanitation. As of 2004, there were an estimated 153 physicians, 391 nurses, 32 pharmacists, and 29 dentists per 100,000 people.

The incidence of typhoid fever and most infectious diseases is comparatively low; however, influenza is common and measles has resulted in a high fatality rate among children up to age five. Immunization rates for children up to one year of age were as follows: tuberculosis, 93%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 98%; polio, 98%; and measles, 97%. The rates for DPT and measles were 94% and 95%, respectively. Common diseases were malaria and measles.

Life expectancy in 2005 was 77.03 years, and infant mortality was estimated at 9.95 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, 21.8 and 2.5 per 1,000 people, respectively. The total fertility rate in 2000 was 2.7 children per woman during childbearing years. In 2001, the HIV prevalence was estimated at 0.12 per 100 adults.

HOUSING

For centuries, housing in Kuwait consisted primarily of small cottages, mud huts, and a few larger dwellings built of coral and plastered with cement and limestone. However, improved housing for the general population has been a main government objective since 1970, and many of the traditional Arab houses have been replaced with new government model housing.

The National Housing Authority built about 50,000 dwelling units in 197785. Between 1989 and 1994, 25,213 applications were presented for the housing distribution program. According to the 1995 census, there were 255,477 households in Kuwait. the total number of dwellings that year was 251,682, of which 234,153 were private and 17,529 were collective dwellings. Including vacant dwellings and those under construction, the total number was 287,574 in 1995. About 50% of all housing units were apartments, 19% were villas, 15% were traditional dwellings, 10% were annexes, and 4% were shacks and other marginal dwellings. In 200001 there were 8,875 government housing projects and 3,118 new dwellings constructed.

EDUCATION

Kuwait offers its citizens free education, including free food, clothing, books, stationery, and transportation from kindergarten through the fourth year of college. Schools below university level are segregated by sex. Four years of primary school are compulsory. Students may then move on to four years of intermediate school and four years of secondary school. For the last two years of schooling, students may choose a specialized curriculum in science, arts, or religious studies. The Ministry of Education oversees all aspects of secondary education, both public and private, for general and Islamic schools. The school year runs from September to June.

In 2001, about 73% of children between the ages of four and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 83% of age-eligible students. In 2001, secondary school enrollment was about 79% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 96% of all students complete their primary education. the student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 13:1 in 2003.

Kuwait University (opened in 1966) is the only university in the country. There are several colleges offering programs, as well as a Cadet Academy sponsored by the military. Kuwaiti students who complete their secondary school science courses in the upper 80% of their class and arts courses in the upper 70% are eligible to study abroad at government expense. In 1999, about 21% of the tertiary-age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program: 12% men and 32% women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 82.9%, with 84.7% for men and 81% for women.

As of 1999, public expenditures on education were estimated at 6.5% of GDP.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The National Library of Kuwait has over 150,000 volumes, 90% of them in Arabic; it has established 22 branches throughout the country. The Kuwait University Library system has over 294,000 volumes. The Arab Planning Institute in Safat has a library of about 48,000 volumes. Other schools and oil companies maintain special libraries.

The Kuwait National Museum in Kuwait City displays ancient Kuwaiti artifacts (recovered from excavations on Faylakah Island), as well as exhibits concerning Islamic art, and local plant, bird, and animal life. The Kuwait Museum of Islamic Art in Kuwait City was founded in 1983. The Educational Science in Safat Museum was established in 1972 and features sections on natural history, space, oil, health, and meteorology.

MEDIA

The government administers telephone, television, radio, postal, and telegraph services. In 2003, there were an estimated 198 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 578 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Government-controlled Kuwait Television operates three networks and Radio Kuwait offers one station, with programs in English, Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. There are private stations for both radio and television, including a private satellite television channel launched in 2004. In 2003, there were an estimated 570 radios and 418 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 162.8 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 228 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 52 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

As of 2002, Kuwait had eight daily newspapers. Major Arabic dailies (with estimated 2002 circulation) include Al-Anbaa (the News, 106,830), Al-Rai al-'Amm (Public Opinion, 86,900), Al Jameheer (83,000), Al-Qabas (Firebrand, 79,700), Al-Seyassa (Policy, 70,000), and Al-Watan (the Homeland, 59,940). English-language dailies include the Arab Times (41,920), and Kuwait Times (28,000). The popular monthly magazine Al-'Arabi (350,000 in 1995), similar to the Reader's Digest, is widely read in Kuwait.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and with a few exceptions, citizens are said to freely criticize the government in all media. A Press Law, revised in 2003, prohibits the publication of any materials that criticizes the emir or is deemed an insult to God or Islam.

ORGANIZATIONS

There is a chamber of commerce and industry in the capital. Workers are represented through a number of associations, including the Kuwait Trade Union Federation. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor encourages and supports cultural and recreational organizations and sponsors theatrical activities for youth. the Kuwait National Commission for Education, Science, and Culture is the primary organization for the advancement of science, art, and culture. Organizations such as the Kuwait Medical Association promote research and education in specialized fields. the multi-national Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences and the Arab Center for Medical Literature are in Kuwait. National youth organizations include the National Union of Kuwaiti Students and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts Associations. There is a national chapter of the Red Crescent Society.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

By 1992, the second anniversary of the Iraqi invasion, many of the physical scars of war and occupation had already been erased. the government has restored many of the country's extensive prewar accommodations and amenities. Kuwait City offers gardens and parks, along with landmarks such as the Kuwait Towers; Seif Palace was built in 1896 and boasts original Islamic mosaic tilework. A valid passport and visa are required of all visitors.

In 2001, a total of 2,069,051 foreign visitors arrived in Kuwait. Tourist receipts totaled $328 million in 2003. Hotel rooms numbered 1,988 with 2,857 beds.

According to the US Department of State, the estimated cost of staying in Kuwait in 2004 was $344 per day.

FAMOUS KUWAITIS

During the reign of Emir Sir 'Abdallah as-Salim as-Sabah (18701965), Kuwait attained a prominent position among the great oil-producing nations of the world, and the state adopted a social welfare program founded on a unique patriarchal system; the emir was revered as a man of simplicity, devotion, and deep concern for his people. He was succeeded as emir by Sabah as-Salim as-Sabah (191377), from 1965 to 1977; Jabir al-Ahmad al-Sabah (19262006), from 1977 to 2006; and Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (b.1929), who became emir in 2006.

DEPENDENCIES

Kuwait has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cordesman, Anthony H. Kuwait: Recovery and Security After the Gulf War. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.

Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock (ed.). Remembering Childhood in the Middle East: Memoirs from a Century of Change. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Hourani, Albert Habib. A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002.

Isiorho, S.A. Kuwait. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.

Kennedy, Paul D. Doing Business with Kuwait. 2nd ed. Sterling, Va.: Kogan Page, 2004.

Khadduri, Majid. War in the Gulf, 1990-91: the Iraq-Kuwait Conflict and its Implications. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Marcovitz, Hal. Kuwait. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.

The Middle East. Washington, DC.: CQ Press, 2005.

Moore, Pete W. Doing Business in the Middle East: Politics and Economic Crisis in Jordan and Kuwait. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Tétreault, Mary Ann. Stories of Democracy: Politics and Society in Contemporary Kuwait. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

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Kuwait

Kuwait

Basic Data
Official Country Name: State of Kuwait
Region: Middle East
Population: 1,973,572
Language(s): Arabic, English
Literacy Rate: 78.6%
Number of Primary Schools: 286
Compulsory Schooling: 8 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 5.0%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 2,694
Libraries: 18
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 142,308
  Secondary: 224,293
  Higher: 29,509
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 77%
  Secondary: 65%
  Higher: 19%
Teachers: Primary: 10,798
  Secondary: 21,187
  Higher: 1,691
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 13:1
  Secondary: 11:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 77%
  Secondary: 65%
  Higher: 24%

History & Background


The modern State of Kuwait lies at the northwestern end of the Persian Gulf, or the Arabian Gulfas the Arabs prefer to call the body of water separating the Arabian Peninsula from Iran. In ancient times Iran was known as the Kingdom of Persia, from which the descriptor Persian came to be used in the West as the proper adjective for describing the Gulf. But to the Arabs, it is the Arabian Gulf, and to avoid causing offense on either side, the Persian/Arabian Gulf is usually referred to as merely the Gulf.


Flanked to the north and northwest by Iraq, and bordering Saudi Arabia to the south and southwest, Kuwait occupies a position of strategic importance in the Gulf region. The land area of Kuwait amounts to 17,818 square kilometers (6,969 square miles). With a coastline of 195 km, Kuwait's access to the waters of the Gulf is a coveted asset. The ease of oil-export enjoyed by the Gulf littoral states is an added bonus for the petroleum producing nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). From the west, the desert plain of Kuwait slopes from 300 meters above sea level to the shores of the Gulf. The southern regions of Kuwait are generally flat, although there are a number of depressions, sand dunes, and escarpments in the northwest. Off the coast of the mainland are nine islands belonging to Kuwait: Failaka, Bubiyan, Miskan, Warba, Auhha, Umm al-Maradim, Umm al-Naml, Kubbar, and Qaruh.

Kuwait's head of state is HH (His Highness) Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah. Arabic is the official language, and Islam is the state religion, although there are a very few non-Muslim Kuwaitis, Christians originally of Iraqi or Lebanese origin. There are also Christians, Hindus, and Parsees among the expatriate communities who are allowed to practice their religious faiths with a fair degree of freedom. The population of Kuwait as of 1997 was 2,152,775, and at 3.35 percent, Kuwait has one of the highest population growth rates in the world. But of the total population in 1997, only 745,189 were Kuwaiti nationals, the rest being expatriate workers residing in the country, providing their services in areas such as banking and commerce, or providing the manual labor needed in areas such as construction and cleaning. The exact population statistics are hard to determine due to factors such as illegal entry of foreign workers and a large number of stateless Arabs collectively referred to as bidoon, or "without [nationality]." These stateless Arabs are a mix of descendants of desert Bedouin who never registered as citizens in the 1960s, as well as immigrants from surrounding countries. Asian and foreign Arab workers comprise by some estimates around 90 percent of the labor force in Kuwait. More conservative estimates place the foreign labor population at around 70 percent of the total populace.

Foreign laborers have quite literally built modern Kuwait, including the ultramodern city buildings and the country's infrastructure of roads, communications networks, and industrial operations. Without foreign workers, Gulf states such as Kuwait would not enjoy the level of prosperity that they do. Foreign workers provide the hard labor needed in the Gulf region for any profit to be realized from the geological stroke of fortune that has placed more than half of the world's known oil reserves in the hands of the Gulf states. But the harsh treatment of foreign laborers has drawn increasing international attention. Gulf states have been known to violate workers rights, housing them in squalid labor camps, withholding pay, providing dismally low wages for grueling and dangerous work in what might be described as a modern form of slavery or indentured servitude. Rioting in Kuwait by enraged laborers in the late 1990s shocked Kuwait, particularly because it is the only Gulf country where trade unions are legal.

In a tense, war-torn region of the world, the security of the Gulf region's extremely affluent oil states has been threatened in recent times by the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), by the hegemonic designs of Iraq and the Gulf War (1990-91), and by serious social problems hidden beneath an outward appearance of prosperity, Westernization, and modernization. The purported historical claims to Kuwait that Iraq resurrected periodically throughout the twentieth century, most dangerously in the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, constitutes a repeated serious threats to Kuwaiti sovereignty. Even since the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait by coalition forces, the saber-rattling of Kuwait's aggressive northern neighbor continues. For example, Baghdad labeled Kuwait's celebration of Liberation Day on February 26, 2001, as "provocative." Without the U.S.-led intervention and eventual expulsion of Iraqi forces, Kuwait would have been annexed as the de facto nineteenth province of Iraq. If past history is an indicator of future actions, Kuwait may face further challenges to state sovereignty in the early years of the twenty-first century.

In its past history Kuwait was but a small town with a wall around it, referred to as Qurain (or also Grane ) in the 1600s. Qurain is derived from the Arabic word qarn, meaning a high hill. The name Kuwait is derived from the Arabic kout, meaning a fortified house built next to water. The plural of kout, or akwat, is the source of Kuwait, and the term was used to refer to towns comprising a number of castles and fortified homes surrounded by walls. Thus, the historical description of Qurain (Grane) or Kuwait (kout/akwat) as a fortified town adjacent to water came to be used as the proper name of not only the city of Kuwait, but also the state of Kuwait itself.

The country has benefited from the oil revenues generated since the discovery of oil in 1938. Other areas of economic development in Kuwait in addition to oil exports have included manufacturing industries, petrochemicals, foodstuffs, building materials, trade, real estate, communications, and transport. Although Kuwait has generally recovered, economically speaking, from the Iraqi invasion and occupation of 1990-91, the rebuilding and the financing of the war effort drained hundreds of billions of dollars from Kuwaiti financial reserves, a serious blow to what had been an extremely comfortable state of existence.

It was on June 19, 1961 that Kuwait transitioned from its status as a British protectorate since 1897 to become an independent, sovereign state. A draft constitution was approved on November 11, 1961, outlining Kuwait's system of governance as a "fully independent Arab State with a democratic style of government, where sovereignty rests with the nation, which is the source of power." In the Amir, or national head of state, is vested the legislative authority in combination with the elected National Assembly. Executive power resides exclusively with the Amir, his cabinet, and his ministers.

In this context of a constitutional democracy, with the super affluence brought about through oil revenues, Kuwait was transformed from a poor city-state dependent upon fishing, pearling, and trade for subsistence, into an ultramodern nation-state able to provide the highest level of social services and welfare benefits that money can buy for its citizensnot to mention a comfortable level of living for about 1.5 million expatriates living and working in Kuwait. The early development and independence in relation to other Gulf states resulted in the states of the lower Gulf looking to Kuwait as a model for their own social welfare systems, particularly education. Social development has been a priority of the Kuwaiti government, and oil wealth has made possible the use of the latest technologies and resources in education and the social services sectors. However, that wealth has also created uniqueand even enviable, from the developing world's vantage pointchallenges for the government and citizens of Kuwait. In education, at the outset of the twenty-first century, the challenge has been one of reforming the educational institutions and training centers in order to align them with the needs of the labor market in the process of moving young, educated nationals into gainful and productive employment.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The Constitution of Kuwait, adopted on November 11, 1962, outlines the system of governance as a constitutional, democratic monarchy. As an emirate (analogous to a state or province), Kuwait has as its head the amir, who according to the constitution must be of the al-Sabah family descended from the late Mubarak al-Sabah. Islam is the state religion, and Shari'a (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation. As an Arab nation, the official language is Arabic, and the country is a part of the greater Arab nation and Islamic umma (Islamic nation/community). By a fortunate turn of events, Kuwait's status as a democracy came to be a valuable asset during the course of the Iraqi occupation. Kuwait garnered American support through a public relations drive and "free Kuwait" education campaign. During the Gulf War some journalists asked why the United States should support a nondemocratic form of monarchical rule. Kuwaiti representatives were able to respond with an explanation of the constitutionally affirmed status of Kuwait as a democracy.

In the constitution of Kuwait, in line with the Islamic principles of societal governance as decreed by the Quran, the state is seen as holding the responsibility for educating and protecting the Kuwaiti youth. Article 10 summarizes the protective duties of the state with regard to morals, physical well-being, and spiritual well being: "The State cares for the young and protects them from exploitation and from moral, physical, and spiritual neglect."

Articles 13 and 14 specifically state the government's commitment to provide education, and to promote the arts and sciences. Article 13 states that "education is a fundamental requisite for the progress of society, assured and promoted by the State." Article 14 continues by saying that "the State shall promote science, letters, and the arts and encourage scientific research therein."

Further on in the constitution, Article 40 outlines the right of every Kuwaiti citizen to obtain an education. Also highlighted are the commitments to eradicating illiteracy. The exact text of Article 40 reads as follows:

  1. Education is a right for Kuwaitis, guaranteed by the State in accordance with law and within the limits of public policy and morals. Education in its preliminary stages is compulsory and free in accordance with the law.
  2. The law lays down the necessary plan to eliminate illiteracy.
  3. The State devotes particular care to the physical, moral, and mental development of the youth.

The Kuwaiti government's role as benefactor to artistic and scientific endeavor, protector of youth, and provider of educational and training services, has transformed the social services sector of Kuwait into one of the most generous welfare systems in the world. For Kuwaiti citizens, education is not just a privilege, but a guaranteed constitutional right.


Educational SystemOverview

Since the oil boom that began in the 1950s the social changes in Kuwait have accelerated rapidly. Before the super affluence caused by oil, Kuwait was a poor sheikdom, economically and technologically undeveloped, a state with people eking out a living through fishing, pearling, herding, and trading. The developments of the 1950s and decades following attracted many Arabs from poorer countries of the Middle East, so that by 1970 less than half of the 738,662 residents were national Kuwaitis. Times were changing fast, and Kuwait was moving toward a comfortable, sedentary urban lifestyle, leaving the "grunt" work to the foreign laborers.


Early Educational Foundations: From having only a few Quranic schools providing religious instruction and basic Arabic literacy tutelage at the onset of the twentieth century, Kuwait entered the twenty-first century with one of the most generous, comprehensive, and technologically sophisticated educational infrastructures in the Middle East. In 1912 the Al Mubarakiyya school was founded as Kuwait's first modern educational institution. Al Mubarakiyya was funded by merchants to supply clerks who had a basic foundation in commerce, good arithmetic skills, and letter drafting skills. Later, subjects such as history, geography, and art courses were introduced to the curriculum. The first school in Kuwait to offer English began in 1921, the Al Ahmadia School, and shortly after that the first girls' school was founded, offering instruction in Arabic, home economics, and Islamic studies.

In the 1930s, after the devastation of the pearlingbased Kuwaiti economy, the modern period of education in Kuwait was underway. Education was placed under state control in 1935, marking the beginning of public education. Teachers from Palestine founded an educational mission, students were sent abroad to receive an education, and new schools were founded. Four primary schools opened their doors. Three of these schools had a combined total of some 600 boys, and the other primary school was for girls with 140 pupils. A national education department was instituted in 1936 to oversee the government schools, and teachers from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine initiated the development of a program for secondary education in Kuwait. By 1945 there were 17 schools in the country.

Development continued intermittently until the rapid changes of the 1950s. From then rapid acceleration of educational development ensued with the founding of special education facilities, the founding of the first kindergarten schools, and the opening of the first technical college in academic year 1954-55. There were 80 students enrolled in the first year, and the program grew quickly to accommodate an increasing number of fields of study. In 1956 the Institute for the Blind was inaugurated with the enrollment of 36 children. By 1973 approximately 1,644 special needs studentsdeaf, blind, or otherwise handicappedwere enrolled in 11 institutes of special education. In 1963 Kuwait started adult education programs for women, following similar programs begun for men in 1958. By 1960, their education system had enrolled 45,000 students, 18,000 of which were girls. The education department officially became the Ministry of Education in 1962, and the ministry was to chart the directions for educational development over the course of the decades ahead.


State Education: Looking back 20 years from the turn of the millennium to analyze the involvement of Kuwaiti nationals in the educational process is a reminder of the progress that has been made, especially in terms of the ratio of national to expatriate teachers. In 1982, there were 24,367 teachers of whom 6,478 were Kuwaiti. By academic year 1997-98 there were a total of 27,359 teachers in state schools (excluding another estimated 10,000 more teaching in private schools), of whom 17,357 were Kuwaiti. From an approximate ratio of 1:3.76 (Kuwaiti to expatriate) in 1982, the ratio changed to approximately 1.7:1. The state succeeded in promoting the Kuwaitization of the educational process in terms of more than doubling the number of Kuwaiti teachers from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. The dependence on foreign professional educators was reduced, but as will be demonstrated shortly, the Kuwaitis' greater involvement in the teaching profession occurred mainly at the lower levels of education, particularly in the primary schools of Kuwait, and the entry of men especially into the teaching profession was strictly at the lower levels of schooling.

The transformation of Kuwait into a modern society replete with a dazzling variety of educational institutions results from the government's early decision to distribute the oil revenues among the citizenry through investments in education as well as healthcare, social welfare, and housing. By the late 1990s there were 300,000 students in state schools in an education system to which the government devoted 5.5 percent of the GNP, 8.9 percent of the total yearly government expenditure.

Education is offered to all Kuwaitis free of charge, and as it has been since 1966, education is compulsory for ages 6-14. Today, educational development represents the foundation of the Kuwaiti government's commitment to utilizing the country's human resource base and meeting the social developmental challenges of the new millennium. The state guarantees an educational slotat every level of educationfor every citizen of Kuwait who wishes to pursue an education. And the number of schools alone testifies to the government's willingness to accommodate the educational needs of its people.

General education in Kuwait comprises elementary, intermediate, and secondary school instruction. In 1995 there were 861 state and private schools and institutions falling into these three categories. Of these schools and institutions, 586 were government schools enrolling 280,709 students (140,979 female, 139,730 male). In the private schools there were 113,857 students (52,991 female, 60,866 male). Beyond the general level of education, institutions such as Kuwait University, applied educational centers, and colleges offer training in fields such as technology, education, commerce, health studies, communications, surveying, electrical and hydroengineering, industry, and nursing. As of academic year 1995-96, 4,355 students were enrolled in these applied educational facilities, 4,248 of whom were Kuwaiti.

At the university level, Kuwait University, established in 1966, has evolved to the point where it offers a range of academic courses. Students can choose from academic courses such as studies in the humanities, scientific and educational specializations, or specializations in the social sciences. In the academic year 1995-96, 16,691 students registered for studies at Kuwait University, and of these students, 15,163 were Kuwaiti while 906 students came from neighboring Gulf countries. The teaching staff comprised 845 educational professionals from various Arab and foreign countries.


Private Education: Private education is an important component of the education system in Kuwait. Private schools are subsidized by the government, and they enroll roughly one third of the school age children in Kuwait at the elementary, intermediate, and secondary levels. The following sampling of the relevant enrollment data with regard to private schooling in Kuwait for the 1998-99 school year was obtained from Kuwait Information Office Education Statistics.

  • Grades N-12 at the Al-Bayan Bilingual School had an enrollment of 1,131 students.
  • Grades pre-K-12 at the Fawzia Sultan International School had an enrollment of 48 students.
  • Grades K-U6 at the New English School had an enrollment of 1,750 students.
  • Grades K-12 at the American International School in Kuwait had an enrollment of 1,155 students.
  • Grades pre K-12 at the American School in Kuwait had an enrollment of 1,270 students.
  • Grades K-A level at the British School in Kuwait had an enrollment of 1,300 students.
  • Grades N-12 at the Universal American School had an enrollment of 1,200 students.

Other private schooling alternatives exist such as the Gulf English School, the American Academy for Girls, and the Kuwait French School. Parents who wish to enroll their children in private schools have the option of choosing from schools using various curricula and languages of instruction.


Outlook for the Twenty-First Century: As much as the prosperity of the Gulf oil states has enabled rapid development and a high level of social services, it has also created a great number of serious challenges to the stability of the Gulf states. The external appearance of wealth and modern development in Gulf states is deceptive in certain respects. While it is true that Kuwait possesses 9.5 percent of the world's proven oil reserves (out of the 64.9 percent of all the Gulf states combined) and many of its residents are fabulously wealthy, the revenues from oil are very modest when compared to the GDPs of the developed world. The fluctuating price of oil inhibits the reliability of long-term planning and development, especially when the price per barrel bottoms out on the world market as it did in the 1980s and 1990s. Gary G. Sick points out that the Gulf states have operated on a deficit budget since the mid-1980s due to low oil prices. He also states that the combined GDP of the Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain) is scarcely the size of Switzerland's, a country of just more than 6 million people. What gives the Gulf states their illusion of wealth is the fact that a relatively small number of people control substantial petroleum reserves and easy access to world markets via Gulf shipping. The Gulf states have had to deal with the budgetary uncertainties accompanying the vagaries of the oil market; they have had to grapple with problems created by the dominance of the public sector; the dominance of foreign labor; unemployment both visible and hidden; inadequate revenues for burgeoning populations; and an absence of popular participation in the governing process with the notable exception of Kuwait, which as a constitutional democracy has an elected representative body.

The public sector continues to dominate the job market, stifling productivity and efficiency. With the oil revenues and the influx of foreign workers in the 1970s, government jobs became little more than sinecures: "It was common knowledge that most Kuwaiti civil servants did practically no work in their jobs" (Nath 1978). In the 1970s the Kuwaitis, as other Gulf nationals in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for example, were well on their way to becoming sedentary, content to live off the social welfare provisions of the state, relying overwhelmingly on the labor and services of the highly motivated expatriates who in turn remitted most of their earnings back to their home countries.

The Arab Gulf states' citizens have thus come to a unique and socially troublesome place of becoming minorities in their own countries, depending on imported labor in both the private and public sectors. In 1995, an estimated 82 percent of the Kuwaiti workforce were expatriates, on a par with other Arab Gulf nations (UAE 90 percent; Qatar 83 percent; Saudi Arabia 69 percent; Bahrain 60 percent). Unemployed and nominally employed nationals who have come to depend on the state for easy jobs and comprehensive welfare are a dangerous variable in the social equation, especially when changes could come to force a reduction in benefits. There are also the dangers of the dominant foreign worker population being seen as adversely affecting the Arab Gulf cultures and traditions, and the attraction of the fundamentalist Islamic movements offering an alternative to the perceived Western "evils" which might also be blamed for bringing on social and other problems. There is also the possibility of real employment being desired yet unattainable due to a social system that has not provided nationals with skills to match the actual needs of the labor market, but instead has acclimated them to a comfortable lifestyle with little work required.

In the last decades of the twentieth century, Arab Gulf states saw an astounding rise in their populations due to an official policy of promoting population growth through incentives such as marriage funds and stipends for each child. There were also tremendous opportunities for obtaining a high-quality, high-technology education in state-of-the-art facilities, and going abroad for further training was an option for both graduates and undergraduates. But the new waves of graduates, having received from their state schools a nominal college or university education, were unmotivated to enter private sector employment. And just as unmotivated as graduates were to take up private sector jobs, employers were equally unmotivatedif not actually more soto hire Gulf nationals. They could hire Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, and other nationalities for much less cost and hassle. A Gulf national wanted a higher salary, costly benefits, short and flexible work hours, and a "cushy" work atmosphere. For such a dilemma, "[t]he solution was as clear as it was painful: higher standards and more practical educational training for national students to make them more competitive; unrelenting reduction in the number of work visas awarded to foreign laborers; and a leveling of the wage/benefit disparity between nationals and nonnationals... the short-term effects would be sectoral labor shortages, inflation, and outrage from the powerful commercial interests. None of the governments were willing to pay that price" (Sick 1997).

The social unpopularity of such decisions meant that none of the Arab Gulf states were willing to take such measures. Hence, conferences addressing education in GCC countries cite the mismatch between education and training in their countries with the labor force markets. Little correlation existed in the first years of the twenty-first century between the actual needs of the labor market and the preparatory educational and training programs of the state. Calls for reform have resulted in a shift in focus from university education to training in technical colleges and institutions. Technological innovations and stiff competition in the international markets are forcing governments to upgrade the vocational and technical qualifications of the workforce, as is particularly evident in the Gulf.

The upgrading of educational and training systems is a priority at the beginning of the twenty-first century, but the challenges of doing so are enormous. How will traditional attitudes, socioreligious values, and societal norms be accounted for? Despite school enrollment rates being high, and despite a general education being freely available as a basic right of citizens, will the actual quality of that education be improved in the near future? Will students be receptive to the training and education received so as to obtain skills and qualifications rendering them as competitive candidates in an expatriate dominated job market? More importantly, will they want to work in the private sector as opposed to the bureaucratized, state-controlled government sectors? And will schools be able to graduate high-achieving workers who are more than functionally literate, and more than merely nominal college or university graduates? These are some important questions which must be addressed in reforming and upgrading the educational and training systems of the Arab Gulf states.

Privatization of schools is an option for escaping the stifling control of government bureaucracy. In a bureaucratic system, with students who are not concerned about eventually obtaining a job that they will not even really needand who will be given a job regardless of their educational performanceteachers themselves can lose motivation and the sense of dignity in their profession. Education is more than filling up school buildings with students and teachers, and creating jobs entails much more than filling up large office buildings with workers. But it seems sometimes that this is what is happening when the motivation to work and to learn is absent. Bureaucratic state-control is a great problem when there is little, if any, external accountability and quality assurance. Instead, student results on highly subjective and unreliable national examinations are used to evaluate the quality of educational services. The all encompassing State may be a benevolent provider, but critics have noted what might be called the "spoiled child syndrome" in the demeanor of many Gulf students and citizens at large. When everything is free in an "easy come, easy go" way, and when the amount of work or the efficiency of performance are not correlated with an increase in benefit, then the self-motivation of students and teachers is generally low.

But in a state such as Kuwait, that faces the threat of an aggressive, covetous Iraq, a sort of collective motivation to exist and retain sovereignty seems to have arisen. Sitting back comfortably on the cushion of petrol-wealth ease is no longer an option when serious threats to national sovereignty and regional stability exist. How such motivation will be expressed in the education sector in the early twenty-first century remains to be seen.


Preprimary & Primary Education


According to the Kuwait Information Office Education Statistics, in the 1997-1998 school year there were 144 male and female preschool-kindergarten schools, which provided a total of 1,387 classrooms. The total number of students (both male and female) attending pre-school-kindergarten was 42,226. The total number of pre-school-kindergarten teachers was 2,871. Of this number 2,720 were Kuwaiti and 151 were non-Kuwaiti. There were 1,608 male elementary school classrooms and 1,593 female elementary school classrooms. Of this student population 39,621 were Kuwaiti and 2,605 were non-Kuwaiti. In elementary schools, the total number of male students was 47,388; most of these were Kuwaiti, numbering 39,970. The number of non-Kuwaiti male students was 7,418. There was a total of 3,396 elementary school teachers for male students. Of these 3,016 were Kuwaiti and 380 were non-Kuwaiti. The total number of female student in elementary schools was 47,064. As with the male student population most of these were Kuwaiti, numbering 39,872. The number of female non-Kuwaiti students was 7,192. There was a total of 4,165 elementary school teachers for female students. Of these, 3,801 were Kuwaiti and 364 were non-Kuwaiti.

Significantly, teachers at the lower levels of education in government schools are mainly Kuwaiti, but at the higher levels of education this trend is reversed among male Kuwaiti educators and evened out with regard to the ratio of foreign female teachers to female Kuwaiti educators. It seems that Kuwaiti women have more of a predilection for the teaching profession than Kuwaiti men at higher levels of education.

For women in Kuwait, teaching has been, and continues to be, a more acceptable line of work than other professions, because schools offer a gender-segregated environment conducive to the Arab Gulf tradition of cloistering females away at home behind veils of socio-religious propriety. In the early days of the 1970s oil revenue increase, educated women were more a sign of modernization and wealth than an indicator of economic need. But the shift in emphasis now is on moving qualified, educated professionalsincluding womeninto the expatriate dominated workforce. Teaching is still seen in many ways as the most suitable profession for women in the Arab Gulf states.

Outside of government schools, governmentsubsidized private schools in Kuwait fill an important role in providing educational services, educating about one-third of the school-age children of Kuwait. The private schools provide an alternative to the state-controlled educational sector for those parents who desire a particular educational track for their children, for example, an American, British, Indian, Pakistani, or Filipino/school curriculum. Many expatriates living in Kuwait with their families have the option of placing a child in a school that follows a curriculum much the same as schools in their own countries. So when expatriates return home, their children will be able to easily make the transition to their own national schools. For Kuwaiti parents, enrolling their children in an English medium school not only carries prestige, but it is a way of ensuring early exposure to and fluency in the language that has become the common language of international communication.


Secondary Education

According to the Kuwait Information Office Education Statistics, in the 1997-1998 school year there were 79 male and 85 female middle schools, which provided 1,488 male and 1,453 female classrooms. The total number of male students attending middle school was 45,689. Of this student population 38,389 were Kuwaiti and 7,300 were non-Kuwaiti. The total number of middle school teachers for males was 3,464. Of these 771 were Kuwaiti and 2,693 non-Kuwaiti. In comparison, the total number of female students attending middle school was 45,000. Of this student population 37,894 were Kuwaiti and 7,106 were non-Kuwaiti. The total number of middle school teachers for females was 4,881. Of these 3,759 were Kuwaiti and 1,122 were non-Kuwaiti. Additionally, there were 57 male and 59 female high schools, which provided 571 male and 671 female classrooms. The total number of male students attending high school was 33,810. Of this student population 29,106 were Kuwaiti and 4,704 were non-Kuwaiti. The total number of high school teachers for males was 3,876; of these 666 were Kuwaiti and 3,210 were non-Kuwaiti. In comparison, the total number of female students attending high school was 36,844, of which 31,759 were Kuwaiti and 5,085 were non-Kuwaiti. The total number of high school teachers for females was 4,706, of which 2,624 were Kuwaiti and 2,082 were non-Kuwaiti.

The trend higher up the educational system is one of increasing dependence on expatriate educational professionals, particularly male teachers, whereas among Kuwaiti educators the trend is clearly one favoring female educators.


Higher Education

Kuwait University is the major institution of higher education with programs and courses of study in the arts and sciences, education, law, Shari'a, commerce and economics, engineering and petroleum, and medicine. The university was founded in 1966 with an enrollment of 418 (242 male, 176 female). In the early 1980s there were just over 10,000 students enrolled for study at the university, and by the late 1990s Kuwait University's enrollment was nearly 18,000. The university today comprises a coeducational system of education effected through the delivery of instruction at five different campuses. In the academic year 1996-97 the university faculty comprised 942 professors and instructors, 796 of whom were male, and 146 female.

The following summarizes some of the relevant data with regard to the students enrolled in Kuwait University in the academic year 1996-97. The data were obtained from Kuwait Information Office Education Statistics. In science, there were 1,778 Kuwaiti students and 289 non-Kuwaiti students enrolled. In the arts, the numbers were 2,368 Kuwaiti students and 215 non-Kuwaiti students. Numbers for other disciplines include the following:

  • Education: 2,505 Kuwaiti students and 356 non-Kuwaiti students.
  • Law: 764 Kuwaiti students and 34 non-Kuwaiti students.
  • Shari'a: 1,071 Kuwaiti students and 100 non-Kuwaiti students.
  • Commerce and Economics:2,182 Kuwaiti students and 159 non-Kuwaiti students.
  • Engineering & Petroleum: 1,845 Kuwaiti students and 148 non-Kuwaiti students.
  • Medicine: 425 Kuwaiti students and 15 non-Kuwaiti students.
  • Allied Medicine: 223 Kuwaiti students and 81 non-Kuwaiti students.
  • Total Students for All Subjects: 13,261 Kuwaiti students and 1,397 non-Kuwaiti students.

There are twice as many Kuwaiti women studying at the university level as men. For the women, education represents the preferred major, followed by majors in the arts and sciences as well as commerce and economics. For Kuwaiti men, the preferred major is engineering and petroleum, followed by commerce and economics, the arts and sciences, and Shari'a. The low enrollment for men in education holds out little hope for more Kuwaiti men entering the educational profession in the near future, meaning the dependence on foreign male teachers will likely continue.


Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Kuwait belongs to the Arab GCC, founded in 1981, and whose other members include Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The objectives of the GCC call for "coordination, integration and unity between the member states in all fields." This cooperation occurs in economic and financial affairs, commerce, customs, communications, education, and culture among other areas. Joint organization relating to education includes the Arabian Gulf University and the GCC Education Bureau. The ministers of education from GCC countries hold regular sessions as do the ministers and officials from other government departments.

Thus, in the administration of education in GCC countries such as Kuwait, emphasis is given to the coordination and calibration of educational systems with other GCC members. Arab Gulf states have a common heritage in terms of background and governmental style, and in terms of similar solutions to the similar social and economic challenges that they face. All Arab Gulf states depend heavily on foreign labor, and they all have been focusing in recent years on indigenization and nationalization of their workforce. Hence, the Kuwaitization of Kuwait's workforce is emphasized and effected through a reforming of the educational and training systems to align better with labor market needs, an alignment which is needed in other GCC states as well.

The following statistics show the education level of the Kuwaiti workforce. The data was obtained from Kuwait Information Office Education Statistics.

  • No Formal Schooling: 9,564 Kuwaitis and 495,159 non-Kuwaitis have no formal schooling, which is 40.7 percent of the total labor force.
  • Below High School: 81,432 Kuwaitis and 278,079 non-Kuwaitis have a below high school education, which is 28.9 percent of the total labor force.
  • High School: 39,373 Kuwaitis and 142,518 non-Kuwaitis have a high school education, which is 14.6 percent of the labor force.
  • University/Professional: 79,003 Kuwaitis and 116,191 non-Kuwaitis have obtained a university/professional education, which is 15.8 percent of the total labor force.
  • Labor Force Totals: the entire Kuwaiti labor force consists of 209,836 Kuwaitis and 1,033,740 non-Kuwaitis, for a total of 1,243,126 workers.

With 8.9 percent of the government budget directed toward education, educators are well financed in the initiative to address the disparity between education and other sectors of Kuwaiti society. The low achievement standards, stifling bureaucratic controls, high levels of dropouts, and student failure are problems that the wise use of financial resources should be able to address. There exists no consensus among GCC states as to how to best address some of the common challenges in education, but research suggests privatization, development of relevant curricula, and better correlation of education with input from employers as potential ways to begin addressing some of the common educational issues in GCC member states.


Nonformal Education

A 1998 article in the Economist entitled "High in the Gulf" described young Kuwaitis as a "drug dealer's delight: rich, westernized and bored." The problem of drug use in Kuwait has received increasing attention from public officials who are responding through the initiation of a public education campaign. The government has a drug rehabilitation clinic operated by a British company, and the clinic reportedly has about 1,000 regular Kuwaiti patients with an average of 15 new drug addiction cases reported each month. The frankness and openness with which this conservative Islamic nation is addressing the drug use of its youth is remarkable, and other Gulf countries seem to be taking notefor example, the United Arab Emirates, which also has major problems with drug addiction among young people.

Other notable nonformal education projects and programs in Kuwait include a number of religious schools, the Institute for the Blind, institutes for the deaf and hearing-impaired, and centers for special needs and handicapped children. Also, there are adult education and illiteracy eradication centers that provide courses for illiterate adults and handicapped people. There are also eight youth centers that in 1995-96 accommodated 8,297 young men and women, and there were also 36 training centers enrolling 8,297 students, managed by the government offices overseeing youth and education related affairs. Additionally, there are sport federations, sport clubs, and specialized youth centers such as rehabilitation centers, various sport, medical, and health awareness centers, and a Boy Scout chapter with 2,600 members.


Teaching Profession


Some of the trends that characterize the teaching profession in Kuwait have already been mentioned based on the educational statistical data available for 1997-98, namely the tendency for Kuwaiti women to prefer educational vocations and the reliance on foreign teachers. Fewer Kuwaiti men are employed as teachers, and there are relatively small numbers of men enrolled in Kuwait University as education majors. The higher up the educational ladder, the less the participation of Kuwaiti nationals appears as another general trend that emerges from the educational statistics. But viewed diachronically, from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, the greater trend has been nearly a threefold increase in the number of Kuwaiti educators, a definite success in the plan to involve more nationals in the education system.

If Kuwaitization of the educational sector is to progress further in the near future efforts must be made to attract more male nationals to obtain educational qualifications and enter the teaching profession. Otherwise, the need for qualified teachers will continue to be filled by qualified nonnationals. This is not a bad situation for the nonnationals because the pay is generally good and the standard of living high. Also, Kuwaiti men who do not enroll as education majors are freed for service in other sectors such as the military, the police, or the commercial sectors. Why certain patterns and trends in Kuwaiti education have emerged from the statistical data are areas for further inquiry, and comprehensive explanation of such patterns and trends will be very useful for educational planning in Kuwait as well as other GCC member states.


Summary


The security of Kuwait in the twenty-first century has social dimensions of which education and other social services are important components. Oil revenues have enabled GCC states such as Kuwait to provide a range of social services, but with the accelerated development and modernization have come new challenges and alterations to longstanding sociocultural and religious traditions. Tangible declines in the level of welfare services for people who have come to hold high expectations from their government could be disastrous for the social stability of Gulf states. A generous welfare system may keep citizens happy and comfortable, but it can also reinforce negative attitudes toward work. Educating citizens with regard to choices, options, and challenges is needed, particularly with regard to the needed alignment of the educational and training programs with labor market needs. Some Arab Gulf states, Kuwait and Bahrain for example, have taken steps to involve citizens in the political decision-making processes, and this will be a stimulus to hopefully even greater involvement in areas such as education.

Although the expatriate dominated workforce seems likely to continue in the near future, education can help resolve some of the frictions resulting from perceived social and cultural changes. Kuwait has had the good fortune to benefit from rapid development due to oil revenues, and the financial resources exist to meet the educational challenges of the day with a technologically advanced educational infrastructure, with qualified teaching professionals, and with an increasingly involved citizenry.

Training and educational quality assurance, integration of training and educational systems with labor market needs, a reduction in the bureaucracy of educational management, curriculum reform, review of testing procedures, and coordination between schools and employers are suggested reforms that may help Kuwaiti and other Arab Gulf nationals to free themselves from the dangerous dependence on foreign labor and the dangerous disillusionment with the comfort level provided by a benevolent state. There are some positive signs that Kuwait may be more willing than other GCC states to take some of the necessaryyet difficult and unpopularmoves needed to ensure a greater degree of social stability. Although some of the excellent traditional qualities of the Gulf Arabs seem to have been assimilated by modernization, a degree of Westernization, and a high standard of living in the age of oil super affluence, the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait testify to a resolve and spirit of resistance in the face of adversity that bodes well for Kuwait's ability to grapple with social challenges of the future.


Bibliography

Al-Sulayti, Hamad. "Education and Training in GCC Countries: Some Issues of Concern." In Education and the Arab World: Challenges of the Next Millennium, 271-278. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 1999.

"High in the Gulf." The Economist 346 (February 28, 1998).

"Kuwait." In Arab Gulf Cooperation Council: The 19th GCC Summit, 44-69. London: Trident Press, 1998.

Levins, John. Days of Fear: The Inside Story of the Iraqi Invasion and Occupation of Kuwait. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Motivate Publishing, 1997.

Nath, Kamla. "Education and Employment among Kuwaiti Women." In Women in the Muslim World, eds. Lois Beck and Nikki Keddie, 172-188. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1978.

Sick, Gary. G. "The Coming Crisis in the Persian Gulf." In The Persian Gulf at the Millennium: Essays in Politics, Economy, Security, and Religion, eds. Gary G. Sick and Lawrence G. Potter, 11-30. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

Yamani, Mai. "Health, Education, Gender, and the Security of the Gulf in the Twenty-first Century." In Gulf Security in the Twenty-first Century, eds. David E. Long and Christian Koch, 265-279. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 1997.


John P. Lesko

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Kuwait

KUWAIT

State of Kuwait

Major City:
Kuwait City

Other Cities:
Ahmadi, Al-Khiran, Jahra

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated August 1994. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

Modern KUWAIT was settled early in the 18th century by desert nomads from Saudi Arabia, but archaeological evidence suggests habitation for more than 3,000 years. Its name is derived from the word "kut," meaning small fortress, which was built by the Sheikh of the Bani Khalid in 1672. Today, the country is one of the wealthiest and most progressive in the Middle East. It has been fully independent since 1961, when the British ended a six-decade protectorate sought by the Kuwaitis, who had spent a century under the threat of Turkish and Arabian tribal domination.

Oil, first exported in 1946, is the mainstay of the economy. Oil pays for free medical care, education, and social security; there are no taxes, except customs duties.

The 1990 Iraqi invasion and subsequent Persian Gulf War brought Kuwait into the world's spotlight. The seven-month occupation by the Iraqis left the country with destruction and rebuilding costs in the billions of dollars. Buildings were not only damaged but also looted by Iraqis; oil wells bombed; and communication, power, and water supply connections severed. Up to a decade will be needed to rebuild and repair the damage.

MAJOR CITY

Kuwait City

Greater Kuwait City extends 15 miles along the Bay of Kuwait and a similar distance down the coast of the Arabian Gulf, where a succession of smaller towns comprise with it a growing metropolitan area where most Kuwaitis live. It is the most important city in the State of Kuwait. The old city outgrew its mud walls with the advent of the country's oil prosperity in the late 1950s, though a few gates have been preserved as historical monuments. The city has continued to expand along the coast, and new suburban communities have grown up adjacent to it. In contrast to the flat, arid countryside are ever-changing colors of the sea and green areas of trees, flowers, and grass in the city and the older suburbs. It's population in 2000 was estimated at 1,187,000.

Food

Subject to seasonal variations and occasional shortages, a wide variety of foods is readily available in Kuwait. Good fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables are available on the local market. Canned and frozen vegetables from the U.S., Europe, and Australia are sold. Frozen meat and poultry are imported from Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, or the U.S. Pork products are prohibited. The Kuwait Danish Dairy offers a large selection of ice cream, yogurt, cream, sour cream, and milk with different degrees of fat content. All items are reconstituted and quality is good. Soft drinks are available.

Each district of Kuwait has grocery stores and a larger cooperative shopping center complex. One American-type supermarket also exists.

The sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in Kuwait.

Clothing

Although summers are long and hot in Kuwait, winters are chilly and occasionally rainy. The same type of clothing worn in Washington, D.C. (without snowsuits and snow boots) is suitable. Summer clothing is worn for about 7 months of the year. You will need more than the usual amount of clothing necessary in the U.S. Wash-and-wear clothes do not last as long as in the U.S. since they must be washed frequently in the summer. (Water tanks on the roof produce hot water during summer.) During November-March, fall, winter, and spring clothing, including topcoats and rainwear, is worn.

A wide variety of fabric is available at reasonable cost. Local dressmakers and tailors have been used with varying degrees of success, but good tailors are expensive.

Lightweight summer suits for office and evening wear, and slacks and sport shirts for casual wear, will meet summer dress requirements. Acceptable dry-cleaners can be found. Tails and morning dress are not worn in Kuwait. Medium to lightweight American fall, spring, and winter suits are appropriate for cooler months. English and continental men's shoes, underwear, shirts, neckties, socks, and ready-made suits are available, but they can be expensive, and the selection of sizes, styles, and quality varies.

Conservative dress is the rule. Bring summer cotton dresses, slacks, skirts and blouses, and pant-suits for all occasions. Shorts are not worn publicly but can be worn at poolside or on private beaches. Sleeveless dresses or blouses are not suitable for street wear; wear short jackets or shawls to cover bare shoulders. For evening wear, cocktail dresses with sleeves are appropriate. Kuwaiti women are fashion conscious, and London and Paris designs and skirt lengths will be seen at most evening parties. In winter, pantsuits, slacks, dresses, skirts, blouses, and coats are worn. Stores selling women's clothing offer a variety of European-made dresses, skirts, and suits at medium to high prices.

Lingerie (some American-made) is available at reasonable prices, but selection is limited. Most women prefer to wear cotton or cotton blends. Stockings are available at reasonable prices. Formal hats and gloves are seldom worn. European shoes are available at varying prices. Dress or casual sandals do not last long, but reasonably priced local replacements are available.

Clothing for children and babies is available at reasonable prices. Shoes for children are available but are extremely expensive and tend to be of inferior quality. Narrow sizes are almost impossible to find, and shoe repair is substandard. Winter coats, jackets, or windbreakers are needed. Mandatory school uniforms (navy blue slacks or skirts with blue or white shirts) must be purchased locally. No slipovers or T-shirts can be worn in Kuwaiti schools. Navy blue cardigan sweaters are accepted for in-class wear during cooler months. For outdoors, a lightweight, flannel-lined windbreaker for fall and spring and a heavier jacket/coat of your choice for winter is sufficient to get through the year. Physical education uniforms are white shorts and plain white T-shirts for boys, and navy blue shorts and white blouses for girls. These must be purchased locally and are worn for gym only.

Supplies and Services

It is said that everything is available in Kuwait, if you look long and hard enough, but supplies are often limited, and particular items may be out of stock at any given time. Despite minimal import duties, prices are high, as overhead and profit margins are large and transportation costs great. Adequate stocks of toiletries, cosmetics, shaving supplies, medicines, and household entertainment needs are available.

Most common brands of American and British cigarettes and some American brands of cigars, pipe tobacco, and smoking accessories are available at prices comparable to, or lower than, U.S. prices.

Several satisfactory women's beauty shops exist. A shampoo and set costs $15 and up. Haircuts range from $15 to $42. Men's haircuts cost from $10 to $20, and styling is about $25.

Religious Activities

Both Roman Catholic and Protestant church services are conducted in Kuwait City and in the oil town of Ahmadi, a 45-minute drive south. In Kuwait City, interdenominational Protestant services are held at the National Evangelical Church on Sunday evenings. The Roman Catholic Church, with daily services, is located near the Sheraton Hotel. St. Paul's Church (Anglican) is located in Ahmadi. Its rector holds monthly services in various homes in Kuwait City.

Education

American children attend the American School of Kuwait (ASK), established in September 1964 as a joint Embassy and American business effort. Enrollment (K-12) has exceeded 900. The student body, which represents 35 countries, is about 30% American. Virtually all teachers except Arabic language and Islamic studies teachers are certified American teachers. The school provides instruction for kindergarten through grade 12. The curriculum is that of a U.S. general academic, college preparatory public school. It does not offer separate classes for native and nonnative speakers of English. Religious instruction is offered for Muslim students. Arabic, French, and Spanish are taught as foreign languages with Arabic being mandatory from grade 4. French is an elective from grade 9. High school Advanced Placement courses are offered. Most graduates go on to colleges and universities in the U.S. or other countries.

ASK is housed in two campuses, one for grades K-5 and one for grades 6-12. It has a gymnasium, theaters, a playground, a swimming pool, and labs for art, computers, ESL, music, reading, science, and special education. The school sponsors an activities program for students of all ages for the payment of an additional activities fee. The school year is divided into two semesters of 18 weeks each. The school year begins in August/September and ends in June.

Some American children also attend the Universal American School (UAS). UAS received full accreditation in November 1985 and like ASK is a member of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The school provides instruction for kindergarten through grade 12. The curriculum is also that of a U.S. general academic, college preparatory public school. Approximately 85 percent of the faculty is American. Enrollment exceeds 600 students. The school does not offer separate classes for native and nonnative speakers of English. Religious instruction is offered for Muslim students. Advanced Placement courses are available for juniors and seniors.

UAS has a media center (audiovisual), laboratories, a playground, art room, and a gymnasium. The school year is divided into two semesters of 18 weeks each. The school year begins in September and ends in June.

The American International School, a private independent college preparatory day school, offers education from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The International Baccalaureate program and the Advanced Placement program are available for students in grades eleven and twelve. The current enrollment of over 800 students is served by a faculty 80 percent recruited from North America.

Among Kuwait's numerous private schools are several on the British model and a French school. Several private English-speaking pre-schools are also available.

Special Educational Opportunities

No special facilities exist for advanced or for emotionally, physically, or mentally handicapped American children. Limited help exists for children with learning disabilities. Tutors for catchup work are hard to find. Courses at Kuwait University are taught in Arabic and English depending on the faculty. The Voltaire Institute, attached to the French Embassy, offers instruction in French.

Sports

Soccer and basketball are the only major sports in which Kuwaitis participate regularly. Competition in soccer is between Kuwaiti and other national teams, and is not open to U.S. employees and their families. Ice hockey teams have been formed and include skaters from the U.S., Sweden, and Canada. Activities that one can enjoy are swimming, fishing, snorkeling, tennis, horseshoes, squash, darts, scuba, golf, water skiing, and sailing, although care must still be taken in water sports due to unexploded ordnance. Many people play tennis, even in midsummer. Bowling leagues function during most of the year. Softball teams have games scheduled from September to April. An ice skating rink is available, and horseback riding is popular.

If foreigners are discreet, photographs can be taken in Kuwait. Some Kuwaitis, especially women, object to being photographed. Local police might warn against picture-taking in the suq (market). In certain areas, including military compounds and ports, photography is prohibited, and in a few cases, film has been confiscated. Muslims regard all things pertaining to their religion as sacred; this applies to mosques, and you should therefore seek permission to enter or take photos of Kuwait's many mosques. No objections arise when photographing at private parties or outings where only friends are present.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Many touring and outdoor activities were curtailed after the Gulf War because of the presence of unexploded ordnance throughout the country.

The Tareq Rajab collection is privately owned and open to the public at the Rajab Museum in Jabriya. This collection is Islamic with emphasis on ceramics, early Korans and historical documents, and the tracing of the trade routes through jewelry. The Bedouin jewelry collection (mainly silver) is one of the most extensive in the world.

One of the most unique cultural places in Kuwait is the Sadu House, the center for traditional Kuwaiti bedouin weavings. On certain days visitors can watch the women weave. The house also offers a short film on the history of bedouin weaving, a research lab, and a number of exhibition rooms.

Green Island, enclosing a large lagoon, is constructed out into the sea. A fun place to bring children, it features an observation point, paddleboats, and a scaled-down ruined castle surrounded by a moat. Another fun place for children is the recently reopened Kuwait Zoo.

Khiran Resort, about 45 minutes outside of Kuwait City, also reopened recently. A typical beach resort, it offers bungalows and villas for rent, a swimming pool, a playground, a cafeteria, beachfront, recreation areas, and special bicycles for rent.

The Kuwait Towers, Kuwait's most identifiable landmark, serve as an excellent vantage point overlooking the rest of the city. The top sphere has a snack bar with a revolving observation area; there is also a fancy (non-revolving) restaurant.

Three of Kuwait City's gates and a section of the mud wall remain as a reminder of the Wahhabi and Saudi invasion of Kuwait over 65 years ago. The wall, constructed in 1920, remained standing until 1957.

About a half-hour drive from Kuwait City is a group of private shipbuilding establishments on the edge of Kuwait Bay. Here wooden dhows are still constructed with simple tools by skilled craftsmen.

Al Jahra lies about 78 miles west of Kuwait City and was the scene of a famous 1920 battle between Kuwait and Bedouin forces. On Fridays a large and active camel market is held in the center of town. Nearby is the Red Palace, an old fortress of the village.

Another popular Friday activity is the Friday suq, a Kuwaiti-style flea market with a traditional open market flavor.

Indoor gardening is a satisfying outlet for apartment dwellers. Most have found that anything that will grow and flourish in the ground can be coaxed to thrive indoors as well. Nurseries and flower shops are abundant. Potting soil is expensive. Prudent care and programming can assure continuous enjoyment of some kind of flowering plant year round. Limits to indoor gardening are dictated only by light available within a given area and your imagination and perseverance. Excellent investments for the prospective outdoor and indoor gardener are the Sunset books of Desert Gardening, Gardening in Containers, and House Plants.

Outdoor gardening is practical during winter since the weather is cooler and damper.

Entertainment

Kuwait has few indigenous cultural activities accessible to non-Arabic speakers. Musical and artistic groups periodically come to give performances to residents of all nationalities. Public lectures in English are provided occasionally by guest lecturers at Kuwait University. Most cultural activities are do-it-yourself. An amateur theater group performs about four times a year; an amateur choir meets weekly and performs occasional concerts.

Kuwait has no professional orchestra. Many public movie houses in Kuwait show mostly Indian and edited English-language films. Bridge is a popular pastime.

Eating out is also a popular form of recreation and entertainment in Kuwait. Restaurants are expensive. All international hotels (Sheraton, Kuwait International Hotel, Holiday Inn, SAS Hotel, and Meridien) have dining rooms plus coffee shops. These establishments regularly offer specials on food from foreign countries.

Many people find that various fast food places (Kentucky Fried Chicken, Arby's, Baskin Robbins, Wendy's, Hardee's, Pizza Hut) are excellent and maintain good food and health standards.

Social Activities

The American Women's League is an association of women who are U.S. citizens or are married to U.S. citizens. Social in nature, since fund-raising for charitable causes is not deemed necessary by the Kuwaiti Government, the league holds monthly meetings throughout fall, winter, and spring and features general-interest programs. Occasionally, it organizes barbecues, outings, fashion shows, and other similar activities.

Kuwait is an excellent place to begin or continue tennis instruction; prices are comparable to those in the U.S. Bike riding is limited because paved areas on the compound are minimal, and traffic is hazardous on public roads.

Younger children have few adjustment problems in Kuwait, even though the range of activities for them is limited. There is, however, an active Little League, as well as scouting for both girls and boys. Teenagers find life more confining. The school provides limited non-coed social and extracurricular outlets. On weekends and evenings, social life is limited to shopping, movies, video, TV, and swimming (in season). TV programs include a few hours of English-language shows; 30 minutes of cartoons each evening are the high point of the sunset hour for the younger set. Sesame Street, in Arabic, appears daily. The swimming season, however, extends from the beginning of April through October, and the compound swimming pool is a social and recreational center for dependents of all ages during summer.

Most entertaining is informal. Buffets are the most common form of dinner party. Sit-down dinners are a hazard unless you know your guests, as Arabs are casual about accepting invitations or sending regrets. The formally set table frequently may have several empty placesor may be squeezed to add two moreby the time dinner is served. Cocktail buffets are a common way of handling large groups.

Kuwait's traditionally family-oriented, cosmopolitan society offers opportunities to form excellent professional and personal relationships. In addition, both Arab and other expatriate communities are active socially.

Special Information

Kuwait is a modern, progressive, and in many ways a Western-appearing country. The religious heritage of Islam, however, has given Arabs a different culture and a strict code of ethics. Although they differ from those in the West in many respects, the rules of common sense and politeness will enable a visitor to enjoy Kuwait.

Hospitality is the basic rule of life in the desert, and this custom has been carried forward. Avoid overly admiring or praising the private belongings of your host, or the host may feel compelled by the dictates of his culture to make a gift of the object you admire. You should not refuse an offer of food or drink unless it is necessary. Shopkeepers sometimes offer tea or coffee to shoppers while they are browsing.

Males should not inquire or appear curious about women members of an Arab family. Western women should dress modestly and be discreet whenever they go outside their homes.

During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset. During the day, it is not permissible for anyone (including non-Muslims) to eat, drink, or smoke in public.

OTHER CITIES

AHMADI , situated in eastern Kuwait off the Persian Gulf, offers a contrast to the dry regions of the nation. The pleasant gardens, villas, and tree-lined avenues lure Kuwaitis here to enjoy its peace and tranquility. An industrial and self-sufficient city of 305,000 residents (1985 census), Ahmadi was established as Kuwait's oil town. It developed around the oil industry which provided houses and other facilities for its employees. Crude oil is shipped from Ahmadi's port. Due to rapid growth, Ahmadi will more than likely be merged with the nearby capital in the future.

Situated about 50 miles south of Kuwait City, AL-KHIRAN was once an uninhabited desert area visited only by a few swimmers fond of its clear waters. In 1981 urbanization of the city began and its sandy coast was revamped into a modern tourist resort offering a wide range of facilities. This new town has been designed to eventually accommodate 115,000 residents.

One of Kuwait's oldest towns, JAHRA (Al-Jahra) is situated eight miles west of the capital. Archaeo-logical findings in Jahra suggest that it flourished during pre-Islamic times. Traditionally an agricultural city, Jahra's urban development has replaced most of its farm land with modern buildings. Some farms may still be found in the eastern part of the city, but new projects and commercial endeavors are being developed by the government. One of Kuwait's most outstanding tourist landmarks is the Qasr Al-Ahmar (Red Palace). It commemorates the 1920 battle of Jahra. The palace serves as a exhibition center as well as hosting festivals. The city has an approximate population of 280,000 (1985 census).

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Kuwait is located in the northeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bounded on the north and west by Iraq, on the South by Saudi Arabia, and on the east by the Arabian Gulf. With an area of about 7,780 square miles, it is slightly smaller than New Jersey.

The country is a sandy, riverless desert interspersed with small hills. Vegetation is sparse. Kuwait's climate is typical of the region. Summer (April-October) temperatures often exceed 120°F, although daytime temperatures of 110°-115° 120°F are more common. Mean annual rainfall is 4-5 inches and occurs mostly during December and January. Short autumn and spring seasons (November, February, and March) are delightful. During winter (December and January), clear, sunny days are common, but it is often cold enough to require a light winter coat in the mornings and evenings. In the early morning the frost point is occasionally reached. Sand and dust storms occur throughout the year, especially between March and August. Periods of high humidity occur, but during the hottest months (June, July, and August), humidity levels range between 45 percent and 50 percent.

Population

Foreign nationals comprise approximately 55% of Kuwait's population of 2 million (2001 est.). The largest foreign groups are Egyptians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, Syrians, Lebanese, and Filipinos. The largest Western community is Americans (about 6,200), followed by British. French, Germans, and Canadians are also represented. Kuwaiti citizens include recently settled Bedouin and long-established townspeople with antecedents in central Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. This variety of origins is reflected in religion: about 45% of Kuwaitis are Sunni Muslims; about 40% are Shi'ite Muslims. Although Sunnis comprise the ruling elite, many Shi'a have acquired great wealth and the influence money brings. Other religions practiced include Christianity, Hindi and Parsi.

Arabic is the official language, but English is widely understood and spoken. The literacy rate, estimated at more than 78%, is one of the highest in the Arab world, and exceeds Population growth is 3.5%.

Kuwait's standard of living approaches that of the most developed Western states in many respects. Most families own a car. Homes of wealthy Kuwaitis are large and, in some cases, palatial. While there are pockets of relative poverty, Kuwait's generous system of government social programs guarantees a minimum standard of living that is high by Third World standards.

Public Institutions

Kuwait, independent since 1961, is a constitutional hereditary emirate, ruled by emir's drawn form the al-Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait since 1756. Succession as emir is restricted by the 1962 constitution to descendants of the late Mubarak al-Sabah "the Great." The emir selects the prime minister in consultation with senior members of the ruling family. By tradition, the emir's successor, the crown prince, also serves as prime minister. The ruling family's selection of a crown prince is subject to parliamentary approval. Kuwait's emirs have traditionally governed in consultation with members of several commercially powerful families and other influential community leaders. With the emergence of Kuwait as an economically wealthy state, based initially on its vast oil resources and subsequently on its overseas investments, actual power was increasingly centered in the hands of the ruling Al-Sabah family.

Kuwait's National Assembly, the seat of Kuwaiti legislative power, has served both to institutionalize traditional consultative participation with the ruling family and to act as an outlet for popular expression. Its 50 popularly elected deputies are chosen by an electorate composed of the approximately 82,000 adult male Kuwaiti citizens who can trace their Kuwaiti ancestry back to 1920. (Kuwait has not granted suffrage to females or "second class" male Kuwaiti citizens.) The entire Cabinet sits in the Assembly ex officio.

The judicial system includes courts of the first degree (magistrates, civil, domestic and commercial courts), a Misdemeanors Court of Appeal, a High Court of Appeal and a Court of Cassation. Kuwait has a civil law system with Islamic law playing a significant role in personal matters. According to the Kuwait constitution, however, Islamic law is not the only source of Kuwaiti law.

Officially, political parties are banned. Nonetheless, political activity finds an outlet in social clubs and religious societies as well as through family or neighborhood fora, known as "diwaniyyas." A number of political "groupings," both secular and Islamic, act as political parties during elections and in the National Assembly. Labor unions are permitted in several sectors but, since they are financed by the Government, seldom act independently.

The government has recently begun to advocate extending the right to vote and hold public office to women. However, in 1999, the Assembly rejected an emiri decree granting women's rights.

Kuwait's democracy, albeit limited, is much more open and participa-tory than are the regimes of its neighbors. In a single generation, oil-related wealth has brought vast change to the once poor, isolated members of the society. The large expatriate population has also exposed Kuwaitis to numerous social and cultural forces. With its high per capita income, Kuwait has distributed its wealth among the population through education, medical care, housing, and guaranteed employment for citizens.

Arts, Science, and Education

A traditional Arab sheikhdom, Kuwait has a cultural life of its own. Kuwait has several artists who work in their own homes or in government-sponsored art studios and who give occasional public showings.

Arab and Western music is heard on radio and TV and in public settings in connection with special events. Western music is also presented at various times during the year, primarily by performers sponsored by Western embassies, cultural centers, or major international hotels.

Kuwait has made great strides in its pursuit of scientific knowledge. Most scientific subjects are offered at the undergraduate level at Kuwait University, while research is carried on at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) and in projects funded by the Kuwait Fund for the Advancement of Science (KFAS).

Education is free for all Kuwaiti children. Most foreign dependents attend private schools that charge rates approved by the Ministry of Education. At the university level, Kuwaiti nationals attend Kuwait University free, while other nationalities pay a fee. Scholarships are available for many students from other Islamic and Arab countries. Kuwaiti students scoring in the upper *)% in sciences and upper 70% in arts courses during their secondary schooling years are eligible to study abroad at the governments expense, and many other Kuwaitis do so at their own expense. In 1995, over 12,000 students were enrolled at Kuwait University. In 1992, about 4,000 were studying in the U.S. on scholarship or privately funded programs.

Commerce and Industry

Modern Kuwait was founded about 1740 by desert nomads from Saudi Arabia, but archaeological evidence indicates habitation for over 3,000 years. Because of its Gulf location, fishing, pearl diving, and trading became the most important occupations. Oil was discovered in 1938, but production was insignificant until after World War II. Since 1950, the country has developed rapidly. Today, Kuwait's prosperity depends on oil and income generated by oil revenues invested primarily in the U.S. and Europe. The oil sector provides more than 90%% of Kuwait's export earnings and a comparable proportion of total government revenues. Many other commercial and economic activities serve the petroleum industry and its employees.

Existing industries include water-desalination plants, oil refineries with desulfurizing plants, an LPG plant, an ammonia plant, a chemical fertilizer factory, cement, brick, and concrete block production, bottling plants, and various light industries.

Kuwait has the world's highest per capita imports. The local market reflects Kuwait's free trade outlook. The United States is Kuwait's second largest trading partner, after Japan, owing to Kuwait's purchases of American aircraft, industrial equipment, cars, air-conditioners, and other durable consumer goods. The U.S. also exports substantial services to Kuwait. A wide range of products from the U.S., Europe, neighboring countries, and the Far East are also available. Kuwaiti importers choose their goods almost entirely by price and local demand, not by national origin.

Transportation

Local

Driving is on the right; roads and highways are excellent, and several major highways exist. Most principal roads are divided highways with four to six lanes. Excellent all-weather highways lead south and west to Saudi Arabia. The accident rate in Kuwait is one of the world's highest, due to excessive speed, lax enforcement, and a lack of basic training of many drivers. Practice defensive driving to avoid accidents.

Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf.

If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive.

The use of seat belts in the front seats is mandatory in Kuwait. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender.

When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.

Kuwait has one of the highest rates of cellular telephone ownership per capita in the world. Although using a cellular telephone while driving is not yet illegal, a law requiring the use of a hands free accessory with the cellular telephone while driving is expected to be enacted.

Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and are often not trained paramedics.

The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus service throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes and is widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Two types of taxi service are available: (1) orange taxis work a fixed route and pick up passengers anywhere along that route and may be shared, and (2) call taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations on telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark.

Regional

For destinations outside Kuwait, air transportation is commonly used, and adequate connections can be made to most points. Kuwait is served by a number of international airlines. For travel to the U.S. from Kuwait, the traveler can connect with American carriers in several major European cities. No train service operates from Kuwait.

Communications

Telephone and Telegraph

Local telephone service is good and costs about US$100 annually. Long-distance telephone service to Europe and the U.S. via satellite is excellent. Trunk calls can also be placed to most countries; reception is good. A 3-minute call to the U.S. costs about US$11, and US$3.50 for each additional minute. Most businesses and hotels, including the Kuwait International Hotel, have a fax machine.

U.S. carriers such as AT&T, MCI, and Sprint are not allowed to offer services within the country by order of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Communication.

Kuwait currently has three licensed Internet Service Providers. Internet access prices remain, however, since the Ministry of Communications retains control of both local telephone service and marine cable and satellite telecommunications in and out of Kuwait.

Radio and TV

TV (KTV) has been broadcasting since 1961, and began color transmission in 1974. It is government controlled and operates on PAL 62 lines standard. KTV currently broadcasts on two channels. Channel 1 is exclusively Arabic, but includes a few non-Arabic programs dubbed or subtitled in Arabic. Channel 2 is almost exclusively foreign-language programs, about 90 percent of which are in English with Arabic subtitles. Channel 1 begins transmission each day at 4 pm (earlier on Thursdays and Fridays), while Channel 2 begins daily at 5 pm Both channels finish transmitting at about midnight, later on Thursdays. Each channel carries one-half hour of news nightlyat 9 pm in Arabic on Channel 1 and at 8 pm in English on Channel 2. Many American programs are shown on KTV, chiefly on Channel 2. They consist mainly of cartoons, family situation comedies, police stories, and wildlife programs. An increasing number of better quality U.S. made-for-TV serials are also beginning to appear on KTV.

Kuwait Radio broadcasts daily in English, Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. Western rock is popular, and classical music is played regularly on the FM station. Voice of America, BBC, and other foreign radio services can be heard and reception is good.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

The Kuwaiti press has traditionally had the reputation of being the most active and unfettered in the Arab world. Kuwait has two English-language daily newspapers. Five dailies and numerous weekly, biweekly, and monthly periodicals are published in Arabic. The International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal (European edition), and the international editions of Time, USA Today, and Newsweek are available in Kuwait within a day or two of publication. Many other English-language periodicals and newspapers are available, but from 1-3 months after publication.

American and British books on a variety of subjects are available at selected bookshops at 50 to 100 percent above publisher prices. No public libraries carry collections in English, although a small British Council library offers membership at a fee.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Several local hospitals can provide basic emergency or routine care.

Families with infants may wish to bring a full supply of preferred nutritional supplements and vita-mins, many of which are unavailable in Kuwait. Local water is fluoridated but does not supply the currently recommended one part per million of fluoride ion. Use of water filters does not alter the fluoride content, but if you choose to use bottled water, you may wish to bring a supply of fluoride drops.

Bring an extra set of glasses or contact lenses, and have a prescription ready for refill of glasses or contacts. If you or a family member are taking a long-standing medication or allergy injection, bring a supply and arrange beforehand for regular refills.

Community Health

Respiratory infections, colds, coughs, sore throats, etc., lead the list of common complaints. Middle ear and external ear infections, sinusitis, and bronchitis are not uncommon. Dust aggravates the respiratory tract, complicating ordinary infections. Allergic and asthmatic persons may also have increased problems due to dust. May through September is hot and dry, increasing the incidence of uri-nary tract stones, heat stroke, and exhaustion. Common-sense measures are effective in preventing these conditions. High dry heat can cause serious problems of dehydration if preventive measures are not undertaken. Gastrointestinal infections are not common.

Preventive Measures

Fruits and vegetables should be cleaned well before eating. Meat should be well-cooked. Fly and insect control is rudimentary. Obtain immunizations for typhoid, polio, and tetanus. Have the basic series given in the U.S. Gamma globulin should be given every four months for prevention of hepatitis. Malaria suppressants are not necessary in Kuwait. No immunizations are required, but it is recommended that childhood immunizations be updated. Additional recommended immunizations are meningococcal and the Hepatitis B series.

To prevent sunburn, bring along a strong (SPF of at least 15) sunblock lotion. Local pharmacies carry some sunscreens, but the complete range may not always be available. Protective clothing is also a must, and a sun hat is useful during summer months.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Passage, Customs & Duties

Travel to Kuwait is usually by air. There are direct, nonstop flights to Kuwait on most days of the week from London and Paris, with less frequent flights to Bangkok, Rome, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Athens, Geneva, New Delhi, and Bombay. Some of the more popular international airlines serving Kuwait are Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, KLM, Kuwait Airways, Emirate Air, Air India, Gulf Air, and Olympic Airways. The most direct route from the U.S. east coast to Kuwait is via the Atlantic with connections made at any of the European cities serving Kuwait. This is the safest and surest way of travel.

Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. For further information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318. Information also may be obtained from the Consulate's Internet home page at http://www.undp.org/missions/kuwait.

Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Religious proselytizing is not permitted. Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, charged with criminal offenses or placed under investigation, or involved in financial disputes with local business partners, are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. In purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor authorizes funds equal to the amount in dispute.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and enroll in the Embassy's emergency alert network in order to obtain updated information on travel and security in Kuwait. Initial registration may be done on-line at http://www.usembassy.gov.kw/registrationmain.htm. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Plot 14, Block 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is P.O. Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-539-5307 or 539-5308. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy's Internet web site at http://www.usembassy.gov.kw.

Pets

Pets may be brought, but obtain a veterinarian's certificate of good health and rabies vaccination before the animal is sent and have them with you when your pet arrives. No restrictions are placed on entry of pets and no quarantine is required. The climate is severe for pets. Veterinary services in country are limited, so have your U.S. veterinarian recommend medications that your pet may need. Pet food and kitty litter are readily available.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The unit of currency is the Kuwaiti dinar (KD), which is issued in notes of 20, 10, 5, 1, ½, and ¼ KD. The Kuwaiti dinar is divided into 1,000 fils and currently is equivalent to about US$3.87.

Foreign banks are not permitted in Kuwait. Travelers checks can be cashed without difficulty.

Kuwait uses the metric system of weights and measures. Gasoline is sold by the liter; temperature is cited in degrees Centigrade; distances are measured in kilometers.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. 25 Kuwait National Day

Feb. 26 Kuwait Liberation Day

Id al-Adha*

Hijra New Year*

Mawlid an Nabi*

Lailat al-Miraj*

Lailat ul-Bara'h*

Ramadan*

Id al-Fitr*

*variable, based on the Islamic calendar

RECOMMENDED READING

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Abu Hakima, Ahmad. History of Eastern Arabia. Beirut: Khayats, 1965.

. The Modern History of Kuwait 1795-1965. Luzacs: London, 1983.

Al-Naqeeb, Khaldoun Hassan. Society and State in the Gulf and the Arab Peninsula: A Different Perspective. Routledge: New York, 1990.

American University. Area Handbook for the Persian Gulf States. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 1985.

Assiri, Abdul-Reda. Kuwait's Foreign Policy. Boulder, CO: West-view, 1989.

Badeau, John. The American Approach to the Arab World. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

Bonner, Raymond. Report From Kuwait: A Woman's Place. The New Yorker. November 16, 1992.

Busch, Briton C. Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1894-1914. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

Cottrell, Alvin. The Persian Gulf States. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.

Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1990.

Dickson, H.R.P. Kuwait and Her Neighbors. London: Allen and Unwin, 1956.

Dickson, Violet. 40 Years in Kuwait. Allen and Unwin: London, 1971.

El-Mallakh, Ragaei. The Absorptive Capacity of Kuwait: Domestic and International Perspectives. D.C. Heath and Company: Toronto, 1981.

. Economic Development and Regional Cooperation: Kuwait. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

Fenelon, K. G. The Trucial States. Beirut: Khayats, 1967.

Foreign Office Confidential Print. The Affairs of Kuwait 1896-1905. London: Cass & Company, 1971.

Freeth, Zahra. Kuwait Was My Home. London: Allen and Unwin, 1956.

Graz, Liesl. The Turbulent Gulf. St. Martin's Press: New York, 1990.

Hakima, A. The Modern History of Kuwait. London: Luzac and Co., 1983.

Hay, Sir Rupert. The Persian Gulf States. Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 1959.

Hewins, Ralph. A Golden DreamThe Miracle of Kuwait. London: W.H. Allen & Company.

Holden, David. Farewell to Arabia. New York: Walker & Company, 1966.

Ismael, Jacqualine. Kuwait Social Change in Historical Perspective. Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, 1982.

Jameel, Jacqualine. Kuwait, Social Change in Historical Perspective. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1982.

Kaplan, Marion. Twilight of the Arab Dhow. National Geographic Magazine. September 1974.

Kuwaiti Documents Project. Kuwait: Statehood and Boundaries. Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences: Kuwait, 1992.

Longhurst, Henry. Adventure in Oil: The Story of British Petroleum. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1959.

Mansfield, Peter. Kuwait: Vanguard of the Gulf. London: Hutchison, 1990.

Moubarak, Walid Elias. Kuwait's Search for Security, 1961-73. University Microfilms International: Ann Arbor, 1979.

Polk, William R., Davie M. Stamler, and Edmund Asfour. Backdrop to Tragedy, the Struggle for Palestine. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1957.

Rush, Alan. Al-Sabah History and Genealogy of Kuwait's Ruling Family 1752-1987. London: Ithaca Press, 1987.

Schofield, Richard. Kuwait and Iraq: Historical Claims and Territorial Disputes. Royal Institute of International Affairs: London, 1991.

Slot, B.J. The Origins of Kuwait. E.J. Brill: Leiden, The Netherlands, 1991.

Van Der Meulen, D. The Wells of Ibn Saud. London: John Murray, 1957.

Viorst, Milton. A Reporter at Large: After the Liberation. The New Yorker. September 30, 1991.

Williers, Alan. Sons of Sinbad. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969.

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Kuwait

KUWAIT

State of Kuwait

Dawlat al-Kuwayt

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Kuwait lies at the northwestern corner of the Persian Gulf. With a total area of 17,820 square kilometers (11,073 square miles), it covers an area slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. To the south and southwest, it shares a 222-kilometer (138-mile) border with Saudi Arabia. To the north and west, there is a 242-kilometer (150-mile) borderline with Iraq. Most major towns, including the capital, Kuwait City, are located along the Gulf, toward the south.

POPULATION.

Kuwait's population totaled 2,041,961 in July 2001, of which almost 60 percent were foreign residents. The population increased 1.6 percent per year between 1980 and 1997. The population growth rate was estimated by the CIA to be 3.38 percent in 2001. Most of the growth stems from the arrival of foreign immigrants who come to Kuwait looking for jobs, rather than from a high birth rate. Nevertheless, an estimated 70 percent of the population is under the age of 24.

In 1998, the population density of Kuwait was 102 inhabitants per square kilometers (264 per square mile), with most people living in towns; the urbanization rate is 97 percent. The majority is Muslim (85 percent), with an almost equal split between Sunni Muslims (45 percent) and Shiites (40 percent). Christian, Hindu, Parsee, and other religious minorities make up the remaining 15 percent.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Kuwait is a small, open economy that depends to a large extent on oil. Worldwide, Kuwait's oil reserves are second only to those of Saudi Arabia, representing about 10 percent of total global reserves. Oil accounts for nearly half of the gross domestic product (GDP), more than 90 percent of exports, and 75 percent of government income. Over the last 20 years, the government has tried to broaden the country's importance as a player at all levels of the oil industry by purchasing petroleum distribution networks and gas stations in other parts of the world.

In 1990, Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait and was then driven out by United Nations (UN) forces under the leadership of the United States. A decade later, Kuwait has fully recovered: the economy is on the upswing and the infrastructure has been restored. Kuwait operates the world's most generous state welfare system for its indigenous population. Nationals enjoy access to a free (local) telephone service, electricity at 10 percent of production cost, and water supplies at a third of cost. In addition, as the constitution stipulates, nationals are provided with lifetime guaranteed employment in the civil service, with subsidized housing for married employees.

Like many other Gulf states, Kuwait is heavily dependent on international oil prices. Therefore, it needs to develop a viable non-oil related industrial base and is pressed hard to create jobs for the growing number of young nationals entering the job market every year. The government is, in principle, committed to economic reform. It presented a package of structural reforms to the National Assembly in 1999, which are designed to enhance overall efficiency and growth potential. However, implementation has been slow, and privatization programs have met stiff resistance because of fears over job losses between nationals and the possible elimination of consumer subsidies .

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

The State of Kuwait is a hereditary constitutional monarchy, headed by an emir chosen from the Al-Sabah family. The current emir is Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, who acceded to the throne in 1977. Sheikh Jaber al-Sabah is head of state and head of the executive council of ministers, and he rules by decrees agreed to by the council of ministers and, in theory at least, approved by the 50-member National Assembly.

Kuwait can be considered a typical rentier state, that is, a state benefitting from large revenues from the sale of natural resources, in this case oil. As in another oil-dependent sheikhdom, Bahrain, the government distributes the income to its citizens by providing them with jobs and welfare and keeping taxation low. In return, Kuwait's citizens are tied to the state and remain loyal to an undemocratic regime. The concept may be captured in the phrase, "no taxation, no representation."

No political parties are allowed in Kuwait although informal groupings do exist. The largest are the religiously motivated Islamic Patriotic Coalition, the Islamic Constitutional Movement, and the Islamic Popular Grouping, also called the Salafi. The Kuwait Democratic Forum is the largest secular political group and is the voice of liberal and Arab nationalist opinions. The legislature, Majlis Al-Umma, is a unicameral National Assembly of 50 elected members, plus appointed cabinet ministers, serving for a 4-year period. The Assembly's legislative power is restricted, since the emir can simply dissolve it at will and rules by decree. In fact, the National Assembly was temporarily dissolved by decree of the emir in 1976, 1986, and 1999. Kuwaitis under the age of 21 and women cannot vote. Though the issue of women's suffrage (right to vote) is heavily debated, in January 2001, Kuwait's constitutional court followed a lower-court ruling refusing to grant women their voting rights.

The Kuwaiti emir also has ultimate authority over major decisions relating to oil. In December 1975, the country nationalized its domestic and foreign oil assets and created the Kuwait Petroleum Company (KPC), which is an umbrella company for subsidiaries handling oil production and marketing. The economy is heavily dominated by state-owned enterprises.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Kuwait's infrastructure is modern and well developed. Within a few years after liberation from the Iraqi occupation, Kuwait managed to restore facilities and services to pre-war standards.

TRANSPORTATION.

A network of 3,800 kilometers (2,361 miles) of good paved roads and modern multi-lane expressways link all areas of the country, extending south and west from Kuwait City to neighboring cities and to Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The portsShuwaykh, Shuaybah, and Mina Al-Ahmadihandle commercial shipping and petroleum exports.

POWER.

Kuwait has several major electric power-generating plants. These incorporate desalination operations, which remove salt from seawater to provide the country with drinking water. Currently, the country has enough electric capacity from plants fired by natural gas or oil, but with demand rapidly rising as the population increases, expansion projects are already underway to increase capacity. To meet demand, the Middle East Eco-

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Cable Cable subricribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Kuwait 374 660 491 N/A 138 27.6 104.9 23.76 100
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Saudi Arabia 57 321 262 N/A 31 N/A 49.6 1.17 300
Iraq 19 229 83 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 N/A
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

nomic Digest (MEED) estimates that Kuwait will need to spend US$3.6 billion over the next 10 years to install 5,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity to add to the 6,900 MW that was already available at end-1999.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS.

Before 1990-91, the telephone system had more than 250,000 subscribers, with work under way to increase this number to more than 500,000. Since demand is running at only 400,000 lines, the emphasis is on upgrading rather than expanding the system. There is a mobile cellular system in operation, which had 150,000 subscribers in 1996. By 2000, Kuwait had 3 Internet service providers and 5,000 hosts registered under their own domain. The Ministry of Communications retains control over these services and access is expensive, but the Internet is hugely popular and, according to the U.S. State Department's Country Commercial Guide for 2001, the number of individual users is expected to jump to 300,000 by 2003.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

The economy of Kuwait relies heavily on industry and services. In 1996, agriculture accounted for none of the country's GDP, while industry accounted for 55 percent and services accounted for 45 percent. Agriculture only contributed 0.4 percent to the GDP in 1999, while industry accounted for 51.4 percent, and services for 48.2 percent. These figures, however, can be misleading, since oil dominates the Kuwaiti economy. Except for petroleum industries, Kuwait's only other industrial enterprises are desalination, salt production, food processing, and construction.

AGRICULTURE

Because Kuwait is desert and has almost no water, agriculture has seen minimal development. As a result, Kuwait imports over 96 percent of its food, while over 75 percent of its drinking water has to be distilled or imported.

Pollution, dating from the deliberate oil spillage and torching of wells under Iraqi occupation, has further hindered agricultural development in the aftermath of the war.

In the 1970s, over-fishing by many states in the Gulf considerably reduced catches of fish and shrimp. In the late 1980s, war and environmental damage, including oil spills, also harmed the fishing industry. Large-scale commercial fishing takes place as far afield as the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea but serves domestic demand.

INDUSTRY

Industrial development in Kuwait has faced formidable obstacles. The country, so rich in oil, is poor in most other resources. The small domestic market restricts production for local consumption to small-scale operations, while the small Kuwaiti labor force , possessing limited skills, and high labor costs are further constraints.

MINING/HYDROCARBONS.

Kuwait's oil production of 2.095 million barrels per day (bpd) in 1998 accounted for 3 percent of total world output. Although Iraqi forces set fire to over 60 percent of Kuwaiti oil wells and thus destroyed about 2 percent of Kuwait's total reserves, the country holds about 10 percent of known world reserves. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that Kuwait's importance as a world oil producer will steadily increase. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia hold about 80 percent of the world's excess production capacity, which means that the 2 countries can easily produce more or less oil at will, thus influencing the prices in the world markets. The emirate plans to invest US$15 billion over the period 1995-2005 to increase its output capacity to 3.5 million bpd. There are also plans to modernize 3 refineries to increase total domestic processing capacity from 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1 million bpd and to allow for environmentally cleaner products. At present, Kuwait produces about 2 million barrels of crude oil per day. With oil prices remaining high throughout 2000, earnings amounted to an estimated KD5.4 billion (US$17.5 billion).

The emirate also ranks among the nations with the world's largest natural gas reserves. Most of its gas is used for domestic needs rather than export, but Kuwait estimates that it has 1.5 trillion cubic meters, or 1.1 percent of global reserves.

MANUFACTURING.

Most industry is concentrated in petrochemicals and production of fertilizers. The Petro-chemical Industries Company (PIC), a subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Company (KPC) and the leading industrial enterprise, is involved in the production of petroleum-based fertilizers. Kuwait's capacity to produce fertilizer stands at approximately 1.65 million tons per year. In recent years, however, the market has been hit by technical problems, weak prices, and the imposition of European Union (EU) tariffs . Other light industries include chemicals, food processing, textiles, furniture, paper, mineral and metallic products, cement, sulphur processing, detergents, and construction materials.

SERVICES

Aside from oil, services dominate the Kuwaiti economy. Most people are employed by the government, whose over-staffed bureaucracy and generous welfare system provides most Kuwaitis with their income. Since there is hardly any tourism, banks and financial services are the only commercial services involving the private sector .

FINANCIAL SERVICES.

By the 1980s, Kuwait's banks were among the Gulf region's largest financial institutions. Because of the high oil revenue in the 1970s, many private individuals with money to dispose began to speculate. This action prompted a small crash in the official stock market in 1977 and a much larger crash in the alternative stock market, the Souq al-Manakh in 1986. The debts from the crash (US$64 billion) left all but one bank in Kuwait technically insolvent and held up only by support from the Central Bank. A government imposed reform program for the banking sector was still incomplete in 1990 when the Iraqi invasion changed the entire financial picture.

After liberation, new plans were announced for reform, which involved the government purchase of the banks' outstanding debts, but the reform has not yet been completed. Only the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), the largest commercial bank, which handled the exiled government's finances during the crisis, survived both crises intact. The NBK, with current assets of over US$12 billion, is one of the 5 biggest banks in the Arab world and ranks in the top 250 banks worldwide. the jointly owned Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait and 6 other Kuwaiti banks are also in the top 1,000.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Ever since the era of oil began after World War II, the priceless mineral has been Kuwait's main export product. Thanks to the huge revenue from oil sales, the government accumulated surplus money and invested abroad. Many of these reserve investments were cashed in during the Iraqi occupation and the liberation period to meet the expenses of Kuwait and the allied coalition. By the mid-1990s the value of exports exceeded the costs of imports by US$4 billion. Trade surplus hit a low in 1998, due to declining oil prices but began rising again in 1999. Figures show a US$2.7 billion increase to US$13.5 billion in the value of exports, and a US$1 billion drop in imports, which totaled US$8.1 billion, compared to 1998. By 2000, the World Factbook estimated

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Kuwait
Exports Imports
1975 9.184 2.390
1980 19.663 6.529
1985 10.487 6.005
1990 7.042 3.972
1995 12.931 7.784
1998 9.529 6.130
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

that exports totaled US$23.2 billion and imports totaled US$7.6 billion.

Because of Kuwait's small domestic manufacturing sector, the country's imports for its high-income economy are finished products, which come primarily from the United States and Japan. In 1999, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, 15.4 percent of imports came from the United States, 10.2 percent from Japan, 7.3 percent from Germany, and 7.1 percent from the United Kingdom. Japan, however, led Kuwait's export markets, absorbing 22.8 percent, followed by the United States at 11.5 percent, Singapore 8.2 percent, and the Netherlands 7.3 percent.

MONEY

The Kuwaiti dinar's exchange rate is pegged to the U.S. dollar and has remained stable throughout the last few decades. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has praised the Central Bank of Kuwait, established in 1959, for its successful policies in keeping the Kuwaiti currency stable. One dinar roughly equals 3 dollars.

Kuwait is one of the few major capital-exporting countries, that is, the state has more income at its disposal than it spends, and this surplus money is invested overseas or lent to the international banking sector. The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) controls 2 portfolios, the Reserve Fund for Future Generations and the State

Exchange rates: Kuwait
Kuwaiti dinars (KD) per US$1
Jan 2001 0.3057
2000 0.3067
1999 0.3044
1998 0.3047
1997 0.3033
1996 0.2994
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

General Reserve Fund. The combined value of these funds is estimated at between US$60billion and US$90 billion; although impressive, these figures are well below the pre-1990 Gulf War peak of US$117 billion. KIA's investments include bonds and international stocks listed on the New York and London stock exchanges, as well as real estate property, in Europe and North America. The (official) Kuwait Stock Exchange is small and is characterized by intensive trading, of only a limited number of stocks, among local investors.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

In a state such as Kuwait, class based on private property and wealth becomes less important than the power of access to the state that distributes the large (oil) revenues. Although Kuwait is a wealthy country and poverty is almost non-existent, there are still important divisions within society. There are divisions between long-settled tribal families and those who only settled in the last 3 decades and do not benefit from long established ties to the powerful. Some of the latter have not even been granted Kuwaiti citizenship and are usually called Bidoon, meaning "without" (nationality) and thus face grave disadvantages. Another important determinant of proximity to the state apparatus is the sectarian division between Sunni Muslims and Shiites. The Shi'a community (immigrants from neighboring countries) has often been excluded from the government bureaucracy that provides Kuwaiti Sunnis with work and social security.

The provision of social services to Kuwaiti citizens, compared with most Western countries, is extensive. The state welfare system especially cares for the needy, providing direct transfers to widows and students, and aiding families in need because of divorce, old age, disability, parental death, illness, or financial difficulty. Educational and marital status are taken into account in granting aid.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Kuwait's vast wealth has attracted many immigrants from poorer countries who come looking for work. Thus,

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Kuwait 21,838 16,922 10,736 N/A N/A
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Saudi Arabia 9,658 11,553 7,437 7,100 6,516
Qatar N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

after decades of immigration , at least 55 percent of the total population of Kuwait are foreign, and the rate within the workforce is even higher (84 percent). In the private sector, 94 percent of employees are expatriates, working in shops, services and, frequently, as domestic servants. Only about 26 percent of Kuwaitis participate in the workforce, as opposed to 70 percent for expatriates. The Kuwaiti participation rate , although still low, has been gradually increasing (it was 22 percent in 1989) owing to a rise in female participation in the workforce. For cultural and social reasons this rate is still low, and, because of Kuwait's oil wealth, many women do not need to work.

Kuwaiti citizen workers95 percent are government employeesare entitled to join unions. However, according to the U.S. State Department's Country Commercial Guide for 2001, in June 1998, there were only 50,000 union members. There is a legal minimum wage in the government sector, but none in the private sector. Public health care is free to citizens, but a health insurance charge is levied on employers to cover expatriates (most workers in the private sector). Foreigners thus do not benefit equally from the state social services, which favor Kuwaiti nationals.

About 40 percent of Kuwaitis are under the age of 14, and young Kuwaitis are seeking jobs in steadily increasing numbers. These factors are a cause for growing government concern, and the government will at some point have to abandon its guarantee of a public sector job for every university-educated citizen. One recent measure is the "Kuwaitization" of the economy, promoting the employment of Kuwaitis over foreign labor in the private sector and limiting immigration. It has been nearly impossible for foreign workers to obtain Kuwaiti citizenship; those who do achieve it are not entitled to vote for another 20 years.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1756. Part of the Ottoman Empire since the 16th century, Kuwait gains semi-autonomy under the Sheikh of the Sabah family.

1899. The ruling Sabah family accepts British protection to counter the spread of Turkish influence and grants control of external relations to Britain.

1918. The end of World War I ends what is already nominal Turkish control over Kuwait.

1938. Oil is discovered in Kuwait, but World War II interrupts further exploration. Drilling resumes after the war and Kuwait soon develops into a thriving commercial center. The government begins to use oil revenue to develop the country's infrastructure and a modern and comprehensive welfare system.

1960. Kuwait becomes a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) on 14 September.

1961. Kuwait's status as a British protectorate ends, and the country assumes independence on 19 June. The ruling sheikh becomes the emir and assumes full executive power.

1961-63. Iraq moves troops to the border, threatening to annex Kuwait but draws back due to international pressure and a coup within Iraq.

1974-75. The Supreme Petroleum Council is created, followed by the nationalization of domestic and foreign oil assets and the creation of the Kuwait Petroleum Company (KPC).

1977. Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah becomes emir, succeeding Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah.

1990-91. Iraq invades Kuwait. The international community condemns the invasion and, led by the United States, deploys armed forces to Saudi Arabia. The allied forces launch an aerial bombing campaign against Iraqi forces in Kuwait and Iraq on 17 January 1991. On 24 February 1991, American-led ground forces enter Kuwait, and on 28 February Iraq agrees to accept UN resolutions concerning Kuwait.

1999. A draft law granting women full political rights is narrowly rejected in December.

FUTURE TRENDS

At the beginning of the 21st century, Kuwait is facing major challenges. Political reform, including women's right to vote, is under debate and cannot be put off in the long run. Economic reform is even more pressing. Kuwait's oil reserves will last for another 100 years, but the country has to restructure its economy and reduce its dependence on oil. Many young Kuwaitis will demand their share in the country's wealth and need to be provided with work opportunities and prospects if they are not to challenge the country's political power structures. The government is currently debating various reform packages in both the economic and political arenas. And, however much resistance there may currently be to economic reform, privatization and liberalization might prove to be the only way to sustain the country's wealth in a post-oil era.

DEPENDENCIES

Kuwait has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chalk, Nigel Andrew, and others. Kuwait: From Reconstruction to Accumulation for Future Generations, Washington, D.C.: IMF Occasional Papers No. 150, April 1997.

Cordesman, Anthony H. Kuwait: Recovery and Security after the Gulf War. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997.

Crystal, Jill. Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Kuwait. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Kuwait. <http://www.state.gov>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Library of Congress, Federal Research Division. Kuwait: A Country Study. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/kwtoc.html>. Accessed January 2001.

Markus R. Bouillon

Ralph Stobwasser

CAPITAL:

Kuwait City.

MONETARY UNIT:

Kuwaiti dinar (KD). One Kuwaiti dinar is divided into 1000 fils. Bills come in denominations of 1/4, 1/2, 1, 5, 10, and 20KD. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 fils.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Oil and oil-related products and fertilizers.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Food and livestock, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$29.3 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$23.2 billion (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$7.6 billion (f.o.b., 2000).

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Kuwait

Kuwait

Basic Data

Official Country Name: State of Kuwait
Region (Map name): Middle East
Population: 2,041,961
Language(s): Arabic, English
Literacy rate: 78.6%
Area: 17,820 sq km
GDP: 37,783 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 13
Number of Television Sets: 875,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 428.5
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 498,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 243.9
Number of Radio Stations: 18
Number of Radio Receivers: 1,175,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 575.4
Number of Individuals with Computers: 250,000
Computers per 1,000: 122.4
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 150,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 73.5

Background & General Characteristics

Kuwait is a Middle Eastern country strategically bordered on the east by the Persian Gulf and precariously sandwiched between Iraq on the north and west, and Saudi Arabia on the south and west. Hosting a land area of 6,877 square miles, a desert-like climate, and a population of 2,500,000 Kuwait has provided a theater for ongoing territorial disputes, disputes which have impacted the free flow of information in that and surrounding countries.

Although English is widely spoken, the official language of Kuwait is Arabic. The population is 85 percent Muslim, with Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Hindu, Parsi and other religions combined accounting for the remaining 15 percent. The literacy rate for Kuwaitis is approximately 79 percent.

History

Kuwait is classified as a constitutional monarchy and has been a fully independent country since June 19, 1961. No political parties are allowed and voting is restricted to qualifying Kuwaiti males over age 21. Although the state of Kuwait's civil legal system is significantly related to Islamic law, compulsory Islamic law for criminal justice has not been formally adopted.

Significant historical developmental periods of Kuwait demonstrate a diversity of political, financial, ethnic and religious influences. These eras include: early civilizations when the land now known as Kuwait was part of the B.C., West Asian Sumer Kingdom; the middle 18th century settlement by the Utub, an Arab group splintered from the Anizah tribe; 1756 when Sheikh Sabah bin Jaber I was chosen ruler; 1899 when Britain joined with Kuwait to help protect Kuwait's sovereignty which was threatened by Turkey; and 1961 which marked Kuwait's separation from Britain, although Britain continued to provide protection when Kuwait was threatened by Iraq. During the 1980s, Kuwait supported Iraq in its conflict with Iran, but Iraqi-Kuwaiti relations worsened and Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Iraq's invasion impacted almost all aspects of Kuwaiti cultural, physical and political lifestyles, resulting in temporary media shut downs. After Iraq's occupation ended, the Kuwaiti government took steps to restore law and order and to move toward a population consisting of a majority of Kuwaitis, to be in part achieved by reducing the number of foreign persons allowed in Kuwait. In 2002, Kuwaitis constituted about 35 percent of the population. Issues of national security, immigration restrictions, and the influence of Islam in Kuwait, are among factors impacting the rebuilding of the modern press in Kuwait.

Newspapers and Other Publications

Modern Kuwait's print media had its beginning in the 1920s, expanding in the 1960s (Kamaliour & Mowlana) with the emergence of a number of publications. Most newspapers in Kuwait are individually owned, allowing for a wide range of expressions of opinion, but are limited to some degree in that speaking against the government or Islam is not allowed. Independent newspapers were somewhat challenged after Iraq's invasion, when the Kuwaiti government became involved in publishing news. However, government newspapers were discontinued because they could not compete with privately owned publications.

Arabic daily newspapers from Kuwait include: Al-Rai Ala-Am (Public Opinion ) which started publication in 1961 and hosted a 2001 circulation of about 87,000; Al-Seyassah (Policy ), founded in 1965, with a circulation of 70,000; and Al-Qabas (Starbrand ), a somewhat liberal publication founded in 1972. Before the Iraqi invasion in 1990, Al-Qabas reportedly had a circulation of about 120,000, compared to its 2001 circulation of 79,000. In 2002, its online Arabic Al-Qabas site reported 30,000 weekly hits.

Another Arabic newspaper, Al-Watan (The Home-land ), started publication in 1974 and had a 2001 circulation of 60,000. Al-Anbas (The News ) was founded in 1976 and had a 2001 circulation of about 107,000. Other newspapers include Al Dostoor, a general interest publication; and Al Iklisadia, a business publication.

Newspapers published in English include the Kuwait Times, founded in 1961, with a 2001 circulation of 28,000; Kuwait Today ; and the Arab Times, founded in 1977 reporting a circulation of 42,000. The Washington Post is also received in Kuwait.

Weekly publications include Al-Mousaher, an economic publication; Murat al-Umma (Mirror of the Nations) with a circulation of 80,000; and Al Yaqza (The Awakening ), a general and political publication founded in 1966, reporting in 2001 a circulation of 91,000. Al-Mujtamaa is a weekly Islamic magazine.

Other magazines include Al-Arabia (Pioneer ), founded in 1958 reporting in 1994 a circulation of 360,000. The widely read educational journal which was halted because of the Iraqi invasion but restarted publication in 1991. Other publications include general interest magazines Al Forgan, Anhaar and Mishkat Al Rai ; Al-Nahda, Al-Moukhtalef, OusratyAnnasHayataniaAl-Majales, and Al-Balagh, a general and Islamic publication with a 2002 circulation of 29,000.

Other sources of information in Kuwait include the State of Kuwait Official Gazette , a Sunday weekly journal published since 1954 by the Ministry of Information (2002 circulation of 5,000), and Kuwait Magazine, published monthly since 1961. The Ministry of Defense publishes a monthly magazine, Homat Alwatan.

Economic Framework

The economy of Kuwait has moved from a poor nomadic lifestyle resulting from the desert-like condition of its land, to a somewhat thriving sea port based on its location on the Persian Gulf, to a somewhat diminished level after WWII, to one of the wealthiest nations in the world based on the discovery of oil in the 1930s. According to F.E. Kazan (Kamaliour & Mowlana), Oil is the prime mover that led to the economic prosperity of Kuwaiti society, attracted a diversified population to Kuwait, led to the increase in the literacy and urbanization rates, and finally led to progress in the levels of socioeconomic and political development. All these factors, in turn, ushered in the progress of Kuwaiti mass media. Further, by maintaining its ties with the East and with the West, Kuwait has been able to provide economic security and a high standard of living for its citizens.

Press Laws and Censorship

As a primary regulator of the media, the 1991 Kuwaiti constitution guaranteed freedom of press, but only within the limits of the law. Although freedom of the press is a concept associated with Kuwait, and in spite of the fact that the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) is considered to be independent, certain agency structures and national laws limit free exercise. For instance, KUNA as a part of the Ministry of Information has historically controlled Radio Kuwait and the Kuwait Television stations.

In 1956 the first press law was passed. Then the 1961 Press and Publishing Law provided for such sanctions as fines and imprisonment for publishing materials critical of the government, rulers, other Arab states, allies of Kuwait or religious figures.

Another press law passed in 1976 provided for suspending the licenses of media sources who broke press laws, but later these restrictions were softened and the media began to monitor itself to some degree. However, beginning in 1986, the Ministry of Information required all publications to submit copy to the ministry in advance for approval and forbade criticism of the ruler and his family, other Arab leaders, and Islam, as well as the acceptance of foreign funding.

Censorship

Kuwaiti press laws have been enforced in a number of cases. For instance, the World Press Freedom Review reported an incident in which a publication which might be viewed as lending support to Iraq was banned from Kuwait; an incident in which a university professor was sentenced to prison for allegedly defaming Islam and others were fined for allegedly writing immoral poetry (2000); incidents in which a television station was banned for insulting the Emir, an offense against the Kuwaiti Constitution (1999); and an incident in which the editor-in-chief of a leading daily newspaper was sentenced to prison for allegedly insulting the Divine Being (1998).

State-Press Relations

Private media enjoys a great deal of freedom in Kuwait, yet is subject to governmental sanctions for violating news and publication laws. The press is economically dependent on state financial subsidies.

Attitude Toward Foreign Media

Kuwait depends to a large degree on its Western allies for defense. For instance, in 2002, The Associated Press reported that the United States planned to sell Kuwait missiles to help Kuwait protect itself against hostile neighbors. Such factors as Kuwait's continuing ties with both the East and the West present a sometime complex and incongruent situation for the media. Although foreign media is welcome in Kuwait, evidenced by Broadcasts from the BBC World Service, Voice of America, All India Radio and Pakistan Radio being received in Kuwait, sanctions for violation of Kuwait's publication laws apply. Kuwait extends accreditation to foreign correspondents, but there are instances in which publications and journalists have been banned from entering Kuwait.

Foreign bureaus include the Middle East News Agency, Egypt; New China News Agency; AFP, France; and the Associated Press, USA. Russia, Turkey, Libya and Germany are also represented. Online foreign news sources include Al Bawaba (Arabic/English) and Arabia (Arabic/English), as well as English sites: Kuwait Daily, Middle East News Online, MoreoverOne World, theWashington Post, and Zawya.

News Agencies and Associations

The Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) was established in 1976 as an independent institution, but functions as an arm of the Ministry of Information. The agency conducts research and provides information on general and special political and socioeconomic issues. In 1986, KUNA provided about 50,000 information releases, and was to become the leading Middle Eastern news agency. There is also an independent Kuwait Journalist Association.

Broadcast Media

The broadcast media in Kuwait does not have a history of independence. The Ministry of Information in Kuwait Aowns, finances, controls and manages radio and television media in Kuwait (Kamaliour & Mowlana).

Radio

The first radio broadcasts in Kuwait originated in 1951, and after Kuwait's liberation from Britain in 1961, the radio medium grew. After the Iraqi invasion in 1990, Kuwait radio continued to broadcast from other countries in efforts to encourage Kuwaiti citizens to remain loyal and reject Iraq's occupation of their country.

In 2002, Kuwaiti radio stations provide public programs 24 hours a day. There are various Arabic radio stations such as Radio Kuwait which broadcasts news, music and talk radio; a Super Station FM 99.7 which began in 1994; Radio Kuwait (English); two English FM stations; plus the American Armed Forces Radio.

Television

Kuwaiti television originally started in 1957 as a private enterprise, but after Kuwait gained its independence from Britain, control was given to the government. Iraq destroyed television facilities during the 1990 invasion, but after Iraqi occupation ended, Kuwait's links with the West again proved beneficial as it received financial support in rebuilding efforts. In 1998, efforts were made within Kuwait to allow television to be a private industry by the year 2000, but these efforts were subject to governmental approval.

There are 13 Kuwait Television broadcast stations, plus several satellite channels. Programs in Arabic and English are provided, including a sports station and the Kuwait Satellite Channel which started transmission in 1992.

Electronic News Media

In addition to television and radio, the development of movies and VCRs provided additional avenues for electronically communicating information. However, the introduction of the Internet provided unprecedented opportunities for freedom of the press throughout the world. In 2000, there were three Internet service providers and some 100,000 users in Kuwait.

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict has impacted the media in the Middle East, resulting in news releases which demonstrate the overlapping connections between the Kuwaiti government, the West, other Arab states and the press. For instance, in 2002, KUNA reported that Kuwaiti officials opposed using oil as a weapon to force Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories.

Electronic News Media

The State of Kuwait provides information and images about history and culture. An English window for KuwaitOnline provides information on a variety of online resources. These include: Al-Forgan Magazine, the first online Islamic Magazine at the State of Kuwait; Online First Aid ; Al-Qadisia Club, an online sports club; and an interactive site KOL Corner for expressions of opinion.

Education & TRAINING

The University of Kuwait offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Department of Mass Communication. In addition, a graduate program in mass media was being prepared for addition to the curriculum. Students are taught how to translate news from Arabic to English and English to Arabic, and an internship program is required. A state of the arts computer lab is equipped for teaching electronic publishing, image processing and multimedia applications using Macintosh and Pentium formats. Undergraduate courses in advertising, radio, television, public relations and propaganda, research methodology, theory, Kuwaiti mass media history, ethics, law, and mass communication technology are taught. The Media Law emphasis provides information regarding Kuwaiti governmental regulation of print and broadcast media, including sanctions for violating publication laws.

Summary

Just as the country of Kuwait is geographically triangularly sandwiched between Iraq, Saudia Arabia and the freedom of the sea, Kuwaiti mass media seems to be sociologically triangularly sandwiched between Kuwait's political and economic loyalty to its citizens; its religious loyalty to Islam and other Arab nations; and its dedication to the concept of freedom of speech fundamental to democracy and Kuwait's ties with the West. In 2002, the ongoing tension between these competing ideological perspectives required Kuwaiti media to perform unique three ring, journalistic balancing acts.

Bibliography

The American School of Kuwait. Life in Kuwait, 2002. Available from http://www.ask.edu.kw/.

Amman, J. Latest Internet content and technology group in the middle east formed by Arab, American and European investors, 2000. Available from http://www.middleeastevents.com/.

ArabNet. Kuwait Culture, Media, 2002. Available from http://www.arab.net/.

Central Intelligence Agency. The World Fact Book 2001, Directorate of Intelligence, 2002. Available from http://www.odci.gov/cia/.

Kamalipour, V.R., and H. Mowlana, eds. Mass Media in the Middle East: A comprehensive handbook by F.E. Kazan. Westport, CT: Greenword Press, 1994.

Kuwait Information Office. Kuwait at a Glance, 2002. Available from http://www.kuwait-info.org.

"News and Media from Kuwait," 2002. Available from http://www.kuwaitmission.com.

A Review of the Events of 2001: Facts in brief on Middle Eastern countries. Chicago: World Book, Inc, 2002.

World Press Freedom Review, 2002. Available from http://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/kuwait.html.

Duffy Wilks

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Kuwait

KUWAIT

Arab country situated at the northern end of the Persian/Arabian Gulf.

The state of Kuwait (dawlat al-Kuwayt) is located at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf. Its name in Arabic means "small fort," perhaps referring to an outpost left by sixteenth-century Portuguese sailors. Kuwait borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia.


Land and People


Kuwait's 7,800 square miles of territory are mostly flat except for a ridge in the north overlooking the Bay of Kuwait and a hill about 300 meters high in the southwest. The bay is Kuwait's most distinctive geographic feature, providing a sheltered harbor that many regard as the best port in the Persian Gulf. Kuwait has little available freshwater but, with 96.5 billion barrels of proven petroleum reserves, it produces most of its freshwater supplies from sea-water in conjunction with electricity generation.

Summers are hot, with temperatures regularly topping 45 °C (113 °F) and sometimes exceeding 50 °C (122 °F). During other times of year, temperatures are moderate, especially at night, and, occasionally in winter may dip below freezing. Annual rainfall is about three inches per year, but varies locally from mere traces to downpours averaging several inches at a time. There is frequent wind and dust
storms are common, especially during the spring and summer.

Before Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Kuwaiti citizens made up about 28 percent of the population of 2.1 million. Palestinians, peaking at about 400,000 persons, constituted the largest immigrant community, many having come to Kuwait after the 1948 and 1967 ArabIsrael wars. Kuwait also hosted an estimated quarter-million stateless Arabs, the bidun ("without"for without citizenship). Bidun worked primarily as police and military personnel and were treated almost as citizens. When oil prices collapsed in 1986, the government tried to curb guest-worker immigration and encouraged bidun to emigrate. Following liberation in February 1991, most Palestinians were deported in retaliation for Yasir Arafat's support of Saddam Hussein's invasion, while bidun continued to suffer discrimination. Guest workers came increasingly from Egypt and South Asia. By 2003 the population had returned to 2.1 million but the proportion of citizens was approximately 40 percent. Nearly all native
Kuwaitis are Muslim; approximately 15 to 20 percent are Shiʿite and the rest Sunni. Most guest workers also are Muslim.

Few nomads remain in Kuwait. Most of the population is urban, concentrated in Kuwait City and its closely adjoining suburbs. Suburbs also are burgeoning in what formerly were called "outlying areas" farther from the city center. Building is booming south of the city, inland as well as along the coast; in Ahmadi, home of the Kuwait Oil Company; and in the rapidly urbanizing zone between Kuwait City and Jahra.

History


During the third millennium b.c.e., what is now Kuwait was part of a highly developed culture based on maritime commerce and linked to ancient Sumer. Kuwait's modern history began in the early eighteenth century when several clans of the al-Utub tribal grouping (part of the Aniza tribal confederation to which the Al Saʿud belong), left drought-and famine-stricken central Arabia and settled on the northern Gulf coast. The Al Sabah were formally established as rulers in 1756. They directed Kuwait's affairs in consultation with members of other paramount clans who, like them, had become merchants.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Al Sabah proved adept at the maneuvering necessary for a small state to survive next to powerful Saudi and Rashidi neighbors. They were especially successful in capitalizing on the rivalry between the imperialist Ottomans and British. In 1899 Mubarak Al Sabah (Mubarak the Great) reached the first in a series of secret agreements with the British relinquishing authority over Kuwait's foreign relations and potential oil reserves to Britain in exchange for protective services and secret subventions. The Kuwaiti-British bond remained in effect until 1961. It ensured that the succession to the rulership would remain with Mubarak's direct descendants. The British helped to set up and run the state's administration but neglected to demarcate Kuwait's borders when states in its region were created by the victors of World War I. A general agreement on Kuwait's boundaries was reached by British, Saudi, and Iraqi representatives at the Uqayr Conference (1922), shrinking Kuwait's territory. But the ambiguity of Kuwait's borders invited attempts by both the Saudis and Iraqis to shrink Kuwait further and, with the 1990 Iraqi invasion, to extinguish its independent existence altogether.


Economics


Nineteenth-century Kuwait enjoyed enviable prosperity from maritime trade, pearling, and fishing. Its economy was devastated by World War I, Saudi raids, and the introduction of Japanese cultured pearls in the late 1920s. The Great Depression in the United States also affected Kuwait, but oil was discovered in 1938, promising a new prosperity. Amir Ahmad al-Jabir had granted the concession to develop Kuwait's oil to the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), a joint venture between British Petroleum (formerly the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company) and the American-owned Gulf Oil Corporation. Kuwait's oil production expanded rapidly following the nationalization of Iranian oil by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1951. Conflicts with KOC's operators underlay Kuwait's decision to become a founding member of OPEC in 1960. It nationalized foreign oil properties in the 1970s and, in 1980, established a holding company, the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), for all its hydro-carbon assets, including those located abroad. In the 1990s Kuwaitis began debating the wisdom of inviting foreign oil companies back to produce oil in Kuwait on a contract basis and, by the turn of the century, debate over oil privatization had become a staple of parliamentary politics.

The government invested Kuwait's oil income directly, by expanding domestic and foreign oil holdings through KPC and its various subsidiaries; indirectly, it made large purchases of foreign blue-chip securities. Most of the latter are held by the Reserve Fund for Future Generations (RFFG), established in 1976 to ensure Kuwait's post-hydrocarbon prosperity. By law, the RFFG receives 10 percent of annual government revenue; it is the only reserve of its kind anywhere in the Gulf. By the early 1980s, Kuwait's portfolio income exceeded its income from oil and gas.

This changed following the 1990 Iraqi invasion. RFFG funds were tapped to provide approximately $26 billion toward liberation efforts. Billions more were spent during the war to support Kuwaitis in and outside the country and, after the war, to extinguish 732 oil well fires, to repair or replace industrial and civilian infrastructure, and to indemnify Kuwaitis through direct payments and large salary increases. Even before the invasion, financial mis-appropriations through insider trading, sweetheart contracts, and alleged embezzlement had eaten into Kuwait's financial reserves. This continued following liberation despite parliamentary oversight and a strengthened audit bureau. Whereas before the invasion Kuwait held approximately $100 billion in the RFFG and in the state's General Reserve Fund, its postliberation assets were estimated at only $30 to $35 billion. Owing to these financial reversals, Kuwait today is more dependent on oil revenues than it was twenty years ago.

Other investments had equally ambiguous results. Kuwait has made extensive indirect investments in human capital, offering citizens generous social services, medical benefits, and free education from kindergarten through postgraduate school. Literacy rates grew rapidly, and life expectancy in 2003 reached seventy-seven years. Full employment was a government goal but, like social services, became harder to provide after liberation because of straitened capital availability and soft oil markets. Kuwaiti economic policy also is affected by changing attitudes toward personal responsibility, including policies affecting the private sector, curtailing subsidies, and imposing user fees.

Kuwait's foreign aid history has undergone a similar transition over the past four-plus decades since the 1960s. Oil-rich Kuwait invested in projects in other Muslim countries, but few were profitable. It also pioneered direct assistance through foreign-aid programs. It hosts university students from abroad and was the first developing country to establish its own international aid organization, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. Yet
as with direct investment projects, Kuwait (along with its OPEC peers) found itself criticized by aid recipients for demanding that they adhere to international standards of compliance with loan and grant requirements. Even before Kuwait incurred large economic liabilities from the Iraqi invasion and occupation, Kuwaitis had begun to reconsider their foreign aid policies.


Government and Politics


Kuwait's dynastic, patriarchal system of government remains firmly in the hands of the Al Sabah, strengthened first by British support and then by Kuwait's oil wealth. Merchant attempts to recover their authority continue to be stymied. Although the 1962 constitution established an elected National Assembly, the parliament's ability to curb the rulers' power was undermined by two multiyear amiri suspensions of civil liberties guarantees. The parliament's power is diluted in several other ways: The amir's cabinet appointments are ex officio members; and an informal tradition gave a monopoly on the prime ministry to the crown prince until 2003. Elections are enthusiastically contested. Native-born Kuwaitis and sons of naturalized Kuwaiti citizens who are twenty-one years of age or older may vote in parliamentary elections but, despite an equal rights provision in the constitution, women are forbidden by law to vote or run for parliamentary office.

The two constitutional suspensions provided opportunities for the amir to manipulate the voter base. Elections held in 1981 after a five-year parliamentary hiatus were run in redrawn districts incorporating thousands of newly naturalized bedouin. Four years into the second suspension, the amir tried to quash the parliament altogether, holding new elections in June 1990 for an extraconstitutional "National Council" lacking the National Assembly's legislative powers. The Iraqi invasion ended this experiment; a new National Assembly was elected in October 1992.

The 1992 election marked a significant political watershed for Kuwait. Antigovernment candidates, about half of them Islamists, won thirty-five of the fifty seats. The ideological balance between Islamist and secularist parliamentarians (there are no legal parties in Kuwait, although a minority of candidates associate themselves with political clubs whose stands on issues they share) brought policy making to a virtual halt through much of the 1992 parliament's four-year term. Its successor, the 1996 parliament, was equally deadlocked on major issues, prompting the amir to dismiss the body in 1999 and call for new elections within sixty days, the first constitutional transition of this kind. The 1999 parliament also reflected a close balance between liberal and Islamist forces, but members of both coalitions were notably more flexible than their predecessors. Cross-coalitions centered mainly on economic issues were occasionally able to mobilize parliamentary majorities.

The most serious domestic political problem faced by Kuwait and other Gulf monarchies is uncertainty over ruler succession. Rulers and heirs apparent are mostly old and ailing, and the size of ruling families, along with evidence of clashing personal ambitions, heightens insecurity about future governance.


Foreign Relations


Kuwait's foreign relations reflect its changing economic circumstances and the resumption of direct intervention by major powers from outside the region. Prior to the Iraqi invasion, Kuwait used "checkbook diplomacy," hoping to buy off enemies and win friends among its neighbors. The 19901991 Iraqi invasion and widespread Arab popular support for it illustrated the failure of that strategy. Kuwait's long-standing nonaligned policy was undermined by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kuwait's current strategic dependence on the United States, which spearheaded the coalition of forces liberating Kuwait in 1991, leaves it vulnerable to direct pressure to conform to U.S. policy wishes. Since then, Kuwait has since faced pressure to increase arms purchases and provide access to more than a third of its territory as a platform for the 2003 U.S. and British invasion of Iraq. Given rising prospects for violent conflict in the Middle East, should the absence of regionally based security arrangements continue, Kuwaiti near-term foreign policy autonomy is, for all practical purposes, foreclosed.

see also al sabah family; al sabah, mubarak; gulf crisis (19901991); kuwait fund for arab economic development; kuwait petroleum corporation; mossadegh, mohammad.


Bibliography


Anscombe, Frederick F. The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Al-Assiri, Abdul Reda. Kuwait's Foreign Policy: City-State in World Politics. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1990.

Crystal, Jill. Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992.

Herb, Michael. All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

Tétreault, Mary Ann. Stories of Democracy: Politics and Society in Contemporary Kuwait. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

malcolm c. peck
updated by mary ann tÉtreault

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Kuwait

Kuwait or Kowait (kŏŏwāt´), officially State of Kuwait, constitutional emirate (2005 est. pop. 2,336,000), 6,177 sq mi (16,000 sq km), NE Arabian peninsula, at the head of the Persian Gulf. Kuwait is bounded by Saudi Arabia on the south and by Iraq on the north and west. The capital is Al-Kuwait, or Kuwait City.

Land and People

The country is a low, sandy region that is generally barren and sparsely settled. It has a warm climate, dry inland and humid along the coast. The population is about 80% Arab; however, somewhat more than half the population are non-Kuwaitis. Native Kuwaitis have an extremely high per capita income, pay no taxes, and enjoy numerous social services. Since the development of the oil industry, large numbers of foreigners have found employment in Kuwait; non-Kuwaitis represent about 80% of the labor force. Foreign ethnic groups include South Asians, Iranians, and others. Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken. Some 85% of the population is Muslim, with about twice as many Sunnis as Shiites. There are Christian, Hindu, and Parsi minorities.

Economy

Kuwait's traditional exports were pearls and hides, but since 1946 it has become a major petroleum producer and oil now dominates the economy. The country is mostly desert, with some fertile areas near the Persian Gulf coast; there is virtually no agricultural industry aside from fishing.

Kuwait has the third largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The main concession for oil exploitation was held by a joint British-American firm until 1974, when Kuwait took control of most of the operations; it had previously retained a large part of the oil profits. Much of the profits have been devoted to the modernization of living conditions and education in the country. The petroleum industry, which accounts for about 95% of Kuwait's export revenues, was severely damaged in the Persian Gulf War. However, by the end of 1992, the country had repaired nearly all the damage to its war-ravaged oil fields and its oil output was at about prewar levels. Huge amounts of natural gas complement Kuwait's oil and petrochemical production.

To provide against the possible future exhaustion of the oil reserves, in the 1960s the government launched a program of industrial diversification and overseas investment. Present industries include shipbuilding and repair, water desalinization, food processing, construction, and fertilizer production. Food, construction materials, vehicles, and clothing are the principal imports. Kuwait's major trading partners are Japan, the United States, South Korea, Taiwan, and Germany.

Government

Kuwait is a monarchy governed under the constitution promulgated in 1962. The emir, the hereditary monarch of the Mubarak line of the ruling al-Sabah family, serves as head of state. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the monarch; until 2003 the prime minister traditionally was the crown prince. The unicameral legislature consists of the 50-seat National Assembly, whose members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. There are no official political parties, although several political groups act as de facto parties. Administratively, the country is divided into six governorates.

History

The development of the nation of Kuwait dates to the early 18th cent. when the town of Kuwait was founded by Arabs. The present ruling dynasty was established by Sabah abu Abdullah (ruled 1756–72). In the late 18th and early 19th cent. the emirate, nominally an Ottoman province, was frequently threatened by the Wahhabis. In 1897, Kuwait was made a British protectorate. In June, 1961, the British ended their protectorate, and Kuwait became an independent emirate, with Emir Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah as its ruler. However, the British supplied troops in July at the request of the emir when Iraq claimed sovereignty over Kuwait. A short time later the British forces were replaced by detachments from the Arab League, of which Kuwait is a member. In Oct., 1963, Iraq officially recognized the nation of Kuwait.

Oil-rich Kuwait was a founding member (1961) of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The country's oil revenues have been used to provide financial aid to other Arab countries, and the nation became a supporter of Palestinian causes. Although Kuwait has maintained strong ties with Western nations, it also established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1963, the first of the Persion Gulf states to do so. In 1965, Emir Sabah Al-Salim al-Sabah succeeded to the throne. Kuwait took part in the oil embargo against nations that had supported Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and during the war Kuwaiti troops stationed in Egypt along the Suez Canal fought against Israeli forces. Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah succeeded to the throne in 1977 on the death of Emir Sabah. In 1981, Kuwait became a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Kuwait supported Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, which caused the country's oil income to decrease by nearly 50%. An oil refinery was attacked by Iran in 1982, Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf came under Iranian fire, and Iran instigated terrorist activity in Kuwait through radical Muslim groups. An assassination attempt on Emir Jaber occurred in May, 1985. In 1987, Kuwait sought U.S. protection for its oil tankers in the Persian Gulf; U.S. forces patrolled the gulf's waters until the end of the war in 1988.

In 1989, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait of flooding the international oil market and consequently forcing oil prices down. Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and Hussein declared Kuwait annexed. Many native Kuwaitis, including the royal family, fled. Western and Arab coalition forces, the largest part of which were American, drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War. Thousands of foreign workers who were based in Kuwait fled to Iran, Turkey, and Jordan, or were housed in temporary refugee camps throughout the Middle East. Iraqi forces devastated the country, setting fire to Kuwaiti oil wells before retreating. Over 80% of all wells were destroyed or damaged, causing phenomenal environmental hazards. The emir returned to Kuwait from Saudi Arabia in Mar., 1991. The Palestinians remaining in Kuwait after the war were expelled because of the Palestine Liberation Organization's support of Iraq.

In the war's wake, Kuwait concentrated on restoring its oil industry and on rebuilding the country. Parliamentary elections in 1992 resulted in the victory of a majority of the opposition candidates, but despite promises of democratic reform, the al Sabah family continued to dominate the government. In Oct., 1994, Iraq massed elite troops along the border with Kuwait, but it removed them when Kuwait and the United States moved forces into the area. Parliament was dissolved by the emir in May, 1999; new elections held in July gave Islamist and liberal candidates the most seats. Also in 1999, the emir issued an edict giving Kuwaiti women the right to vote and to run for office, but parliament failed to ratify it. In the July, 2003, parliamentary elections Islamists won 42% of the seats, while liberals retained only a handful; government supporters won 28% of the seats. The government finally succeeded in securing parliamentary ratification of political rights for women in May, 2005.

In Jan., 2006, Emir Jaber died; he was succeeded by Emir Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, who was himself in poor health (and died in 2008). Emir Saad was soon removed from office for health reasons by the parliament, and the prime minister, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, succeeded him. Clashes in parliament over consolidating voting districts, which opposition members wanted in order to prevent vote-buying, led the emir to call new elections. In the June vote, women voted for the first time, but no female candidate won a seat; reformers, both largely Islamists, won 36 of the 50 seats.

Differences between the cabinet and the parliament led the government to resign in Mar., 2008. The May parliamentary elections largely repeated the results of two years before, with Islamists again controling the largest number of seats. A power struggle over some legislators demands to be allowed to question the prime minister, Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, about the circumstances of an Iranian cleric's visit led the government to resign in November; the emir reappointed Sheikh Nasser the following month, and a new cabinet was formed in Jan., 2009.

In Mar., 2009, however, legislators and the government were again in a standoff, and when the government again resigned, the emir dissolved parliament. Sunni Islamists suffered some losses in the May elections, which also produced Kuwait's first female legislators; the emir again asked Sheikh Nasser to form a government. In Mar., 2011, the cabinet again resigned in order to avoid parliamentary questioning. Sheikh Nasser formed a new cabinet in May, but corruption protests led to that government's resignation in November.

Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah, the former defense minister, was appointed prime minister, and in December parliament was dissolved. The Feb., 2012, elections resulted in a majority of the seats being held by opposition Islamist groups, with Sunni Islamists winning nearly half the seats. Sheikh Jaber was reappointed as prime minister after the elections. In June, however, amid renewed tensions between parliament and the government, the courts ruled that the February elections were unconstitutional, and reinstated the earlier parliament, and Sheikh Jaber was again reappointed as prime minister in July.

The opposition boycotted parliament, however, and in October it was dissolved. The opposition also boycotted the Dec., 2012, elections (turnout was roughly 40%), objecting to new voting rules that could diminish its power; this led to the election of progovernment legislators, including a few women. The previous government was essentially reappointed. Opposition leaders denounced the result as illegitimate and mounted a series of protests. In June, 2013, the constitutional court ordered the parliament dissolved because of problems before the December vote. New elections in July were again boycotted by the opposition; turnout was roughly 50%. After the election Sheikh Jaber was appointed prime minister.

Bibliography

See J. Daniels, Kuwait Journey (1971); S. Demir, The Kuwait Fund and the Political Economy of Arab Regional Development (1976); N. A. Abraham, Doing Business in Kuwait (1981); S. N. Ghabra, Palestinians in Kuwait (1987); A.-R. Assiri, Kuwait's Foreign Policy (1989).

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Kuwait

Kuwait

Official name: State of Kuwait

Area: 17,820 square kilometers (11,073 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Unnamed (290 meters/950 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 3 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 176 kilometers (109 miles) from northeast to southwest; 205 kilometers (127 miles) from northwest to southeast

Land boundaries: 464 kilometers (288 miles) total boundary length; Iraq 242 kilometers (150 miles), Saudi Arabia 222 kilometers (138 miles)

Coastline: 499 kilometers (310 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Kuwait is a small Middle Eastern country located at the head of the h2rsian Gulf and surrounded by the much larger neighboring states of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. With an area of 17,820 square kilometers (11,073 square miles), it is almost as large as the state of New Jersey.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Kuwait has no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Kuwait has a desert climate, with elevated humidity in the coastal region. Summer temperatures average about 32°C (90°F), with daytime highs commonly reaching 43°C (110°F) or higher. Readings as high as 54°C (130°F) have been recorded. Winter temperatures average between 10°C and 15°C (50°F and 60°F). The prevailing northwesterly wind, which exerts a cooling influence in summer, is called the shamal. Average annual rainfall is less than 25 centimeters (10 inches), and less than 13 centimeters (5 inches) in the southern part of the country. The rainy season, which occurs between October and April, is characterized by sudden, violent storms.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Kuwait is located on the coastal plain that rings much of the Persian Gulf. Its terrain consists largely of flat or rolling desert land, with maximum elevations reached at its western and southwestern corners.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Kuwait is linked to the Arabian Sea through the Persian Gulf.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Kuwait is located at the northwestern edge of the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf, which empties into the Arabian Sea by way of the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. Kuwait has one deeply indented bay, Kuwait Bay, which has the only deepwater harbor on the western coast of the Persian Gulf.

Another coastal indentation is the site of several uninhabited islands.

Islands and Archipelagos

There are nine islands off the coast of Kuwait. The largest are Būbiyān and Warbah, both uninhabited. The only one that is inhabited is Faylakah, at the edge of Kuwait Bay.

Coastal Features

Kuwait's low-lying coast is characterized by areas of marshland, as well as mud flats, sand-bars, and islets.

6 INLAND LAKES

There is an oasis at Al Jarah, at the western end of Kuwait Bay.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

Some of Kuwait's wadis, or desert basins, fill with water during the winter rains, but the country has no permanent rivers or lakes.

8 DESERTS

The Kuwaiti desert is undulating and gravelly, with few hills or ridges.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Kuwait's terrain gradually rises, from near sea level at the coast, to elevations of about 198 meters (650 feet) in the northwest, nearly reaching 305 meters (1,000 feet) at its westernmost edge. The country's two other noticeable points of elevation are the Az Zawr escarpment on the northern shore of Kuwait Bay (145 meters/475 feet), and the Al-Ahmadī ridge south of the bay (137 meters/450 feet). Also of note is AshShaqāyā Peak in the western corner of the country, rising to a height of 290 meters (951 feet).

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

Kuwait has no actual mountain ranges.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

Kuwait has no canyons or caves.

DID YOU KNOW?

Distilled water is the main source of drinking water in Kuwait, which has some of the world's most sophisticated desalination facilities.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

Kuwait has no distinct plateaus or monoliths.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

Although Būbiyān Island is uninhabited, there is a large bridge linking it to the mainland. Kuwait and Iraq both claim rights to the island. Since there is no actual reason to visit the island, this bridge has been called "the bridge to nowhere."

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Facey, William, and Gillian Grant. Kuwait by the First Photographers. London: I. B. Tauris, 1999.

Rahman, H. The Making of the Gulf War: Origins of Kuwait's Long-standing Territorial Dispute with Iraq. Reading, England: Ithaca, 1997.

Robison, Gordon, and Paul Greenway. Bahrain, Kuwait & Qatar. London: Lonely Planet, 2000.

Web Sites

Kuwait Information Office. http://www.kuwait-info.org/thanks.html (accessed April 24, 2003).

Kuwait Online. http://www.kuwaitonline.com/ (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Kuwait

Kuwait (Al Kuwayt)

area:

17,820 sq km (6880 sq mi)

population:

1,984,000

capital (population):

Kuwait City (32,100)

Independent state in the ne Arabian Peninsula, n of the Persian Gulf. Kuwait was founded in the early 18th century. In 1899 it became a British protectorate, gaining full independence in 1961. In 1990, it was invaded by Iraqi forces, precipitating the Gulf War. In 1991, the Iraqis were ejected by an international coalition led by the USA. In 1992, Kuwait held its first parliamentary elections. The Emir, Jaber al-Sabah (r.1977– ) wields executive power. Huge oil reserves have made it one of the world's richest countries. Industries: shipbuilding, petrochemicals, fertilizers.

Political map

Physical map

Websites

http://www.kuwait-info.org

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Kuwait

Kuwait

Culture Name

Kuwaiti

Alternative Names

State of Kuwait, Dawlat al Kuwayt

Orientation

Identification. Modern day Kuwaitis are the descendants of several nomadic tribes and clans who ultimately settled on the coast of the Arabian Gulf during the eighteenth century to avoid the persistent drought of the desert. When they arrived at the coast, the clans built forts to protect themselves from other nomadic tribes who still traversed the desert. The name Kuwait is derived from kut, an Arabic word for "fort."

Location and Geography. Kuwait is a small country located in the Middle East on the Persian Gulf, between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It is a desert country with intensely hot summers and short, cool winters. The terrain varies minimally, between flat and slightly undulating desert plains.

Demography. The population of Kuwait in 2000 was estimated at 1,973,572, including 1,159,913 non-Kuwaiti citizens. A variety of ethnic groups reside in this country, and only around 40 percent of the population is Kuwaiti. People from surrounding Middle Eastern nations, such as Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, constitute 35 percent of the population. This make up is often in flux, depending on the dynamics and relationships between surrounding countries. After the Gulf War the entire population of Palestinians was expelled from Kuwait, because they were believed to sympathize with Iraq. In addition to these Arabian and African populations, approximately 9 percent of the population is Indian, 4 percent of the population is Iranian, and the remaining 7 percent is consists of other foreign nationals. Approximately 29 percent of the population is 14 years or under, 68 percent is between the ages of 15 and 64, and 2 percent of the population is over 65 years of age. Around 60 percent of the population is male, while 40 percent of the population is female.

Linguistic Affiliation. Arabic is the official language, and English is widely spoken.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. For centuries Kuwait was merely a transitory home for Arabic nomads. Located between Mesopotamia and the Indus river valley, this arid terrain was a trade link between these two civilizations. In the early 16th century Portuguese invaded the Arabian Gulf and built a fort where Kuwait City now stands. The Portuguese used the area as a base from which to make further excursions north, but their residence in the Arabian Desert was short-lived. Thus, up until the 18th century, Kuwait was a territory of shifting communities.

It was in 1710 that the Sabahs, a nomadic community of people of Arabian descent, settled in what is now Kuwait city. In the mid 18th century, members of the Utab clan, from what is now Saudi Arabia, began to settle in Kuwait. Within a span of fifty years, the town burgeoned into an important trading post, with boat building and the excavation and cultivation of pearls being the two main industries.

National Identity. Kuwaitis are increasingly a minority in their own country. The fear that has arisen from this loss of dominance, compounded by the country's precarious relationship with neighboring nations such as Iraq, has led to extremist policies and practices regarding the assertion of nationality and the rights of Kuwaiti nationals.

Ethnic Relations. Ethnic Kuwaitis struggle to maintain their cultural dominance in an increasingly complex society. Dominant Kuwaiti culture is homogeneous, and adheres to traditional values developed in the desert plains in accordance with the teachings of Islam. There is tension, however, between these cultural norms and the other ethnic groups who reside in Kuwait. Most Kuwaiti workers have government jobs, an opportunity generally denied to foreign nationals. Also, there are restrictions against foreigners owning property and businesses. These social and economic gaps between nationals and other ethnic groups increases the friction between Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis residing in the country.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Over the span of just two hundred years, Kuwait shifted from a nomadic population to an urban population. The development of the urban environment has largely been influenced by Islam, and Kuwaiti homes reflect the tenets of Islam as clearly as they reflect the influence of desert life and culture. Most homes are rectangular in shape and are organized around an inner courtyard. This courtyard allows for an enclosed yet open environment, and at the same time protects from the wind and direct sunlight in the arid desert climate. Generally homes are clustered together to unite and serve the needs of an extended family. As family size increases, more rooms are built on to accommodate the new members.

The manner in which space is used in Kuwait reflects the traditional relationship between men and women. In nomadic times, tents would be separated by screens or a cloth, so that men could entertain unrelated men, as is their custom, without having the guests come into contact with female kin. With the advent of urban living, homes were built with what is known as a "double circulation system" so that men and women could avoid contact with one another, and most importantly so that women were not in contact with strange men.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. After centuries of living as nomads, surviving off of subsistence farming and animal husbandry, the relatively recent increase in the income of many Kuwaitis has lead to a rapid rise in the relative obesity of the general population. Still operating under the precept that plump children are healthy, Kuwaitis eat a very rich diet, and do not engage in physical exercise like they did in the past. The shift from a nomadic to sedentary lifestyle happened quickly with industrialization and urbanization coinciding with the advent of the oil industry in the past century, and habits of nutrition have not completely changed to accommodate the present environment.

An average Kuwaiti person eats three meals each day. Breakfast often includes some meat, such as fried liver or kidneys, and a dairy product such as cheese or yogurt. For lunch and dinner, several meat dishes may be served. In the desert, vegetables and grains were largely unavailable. Subsequently, meat was a staple of the desert nomad's diet. As in the past, meat remains a central part of the Kuwaiti diet.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. For Kuwaitis, it is very important to be generous in providing food for guests. For ceremonial occasions such as weddings, people will roast an entire sheep and serve it on a bed of saffron rice.

As Kuwait is predominately an Islamic country, alcohol is illegal within its borders. Islam influences many customs regarding food, the most prominent of which is the fasting month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, practitioners of Islam fast between sunrise and sunset. Also at this time, the consumption of food, drink, and tobacco in public is forbidden.

Basic Economy. With only 5 percent of the land suitable for farming, Kuwait is dependent on international trade for the provision of most basic necessities, including food, clothing, and construction materials. However, that dependency is tempered by the fact that Kuwait is one of the largest oil producing countries in the world, an energy source upon which virtually every developed nation is dependent. Kuwait's relationship with trading partners is thus defined by the countries respective interdependence.

Land Tenure and Property. Many people live in urban areas because of the necessity of sharing scarce resources in the desert. This factor also influences the price of available property: prices are high and the general population has limited ability to actually own property.

Major Industries. The economy of Kuwait is dependent on the oil industry. During the war with Iraq many oil refining facilities were destroyed, but this industry remains of enormous importance to Kuwait. To protect oil interests, and to protect against larger countries taking advantage of Kuwait, the country was one of the founding members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Trade. Kuwait was built on the trade between Mesopotamia and the Indus river valley. Throughout its history Kuwait has depended on trade, and today exports total $13.5 billion each year in oil, refined products, and fertilizers. Japan, India, the United States, South Korea, and Singapore are the major recipients of their exports. Kuwait imports $8.1 billion a year in food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, and clothing from the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy.

Division of Labor. The labor force includes 1.3 million people. The government and social services employ 50 percent of the labor force, businesses employ 40 percent, and the remaining 10 percent are employed in agriculture. This labor force is divided along ethnic lines, with Kuwaitis holding most of the government jobs and owning most of the of businesses in the private sector. Non-Kuwaitis generally labor in various businesses and in the oil industry.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There are five levels of social stratification in Kuwaiti society, and these divisions are based on wealth. At the apex of the social hierarchy is the ruling family. Below that are old Kuwaiti merchant families. In the middle of the strata are former Bedouins, Arabian Desert nomads, who settled in Kuwait with the advent of the oil industry. Next come Arabs from neighboring countries, and at the bottom of this hierarchy are foreigners.

Within classes there are strong kinship bonds, which help maintain the social structure. Social stratification is perpetuated by the state, as in the legal ability to own property by cultural factors, such as marriage patterns, and by social rights, such as the provision or lack of state funded education, healthcare, and housing. Within this hierarchy there are enormous gaps between the vastly rich, the middle class, and the extraordinarily poor migrants.

Political Life

Government. Kuwaiti government is nominally a constitutional monarchy, headed by the Amir. The constitution was approved and implemented on 11 November 1962. Upon the development of this constitutional monarchy, Kuwait developed a National Assembly. This form of democracy was short-lived, however. In August 1976, Sheikh Sabah dissolved the assembly under the premise that legislation was being manipulated to increase private gain for officials. As a political system built on a hierarchy of clans, nepotism is rampant in the Kuwaiti government. Therefore, it is in the Amir's power to dissolve the parliament, and within two months it must be re-elected, or the previous parliament will be instituted again.

Leadership and Political Officials. There are not any national political parties or leaders, yet several political groups act as de facto parties; these include the Bedouins, merchants, nationalists, Sunni and Shi'a activists, and secular leftists. These de facto parties are divided along the lines of class and religion.

Social Problems and Control. Social problems stem predominantly from the various systemic hierarchies. Within these structures, groups and individuals are constantly struggling to either improve or maintain their position. As of late, the position of women within these structures has been a subject of great debate. Similarly, the degree to which Islam should influence political structures is also a source of debate and contention. Presently, political and social controls are influenced by a combination of Islam and tradition, but this is being questioned in the increasingly multicultural environment of Kuwait.

Military Activity. Kuwait has an army, navy, and air force. The national police force, national guard, and coast guard are also part of the military. During 1999-2000, $2.5 billion (U.S.) was spent on the military.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Social service programs have long been an important agenda item for Kuwait's government, with education and health being two of the country's major expenditures. In the past there have been many programs providing housing and subsidizing services such as water, electricity, and gasoline. Recently, however, these programs have been cut back and are being re-evaluated, as they have lead to an extreme amount of reliance on the state for basic services.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

In the past the Kuwait Fund for Arabic Economic Development was one of the largest and most influential nongovernmental organizations in the country. Founded in 1961, the organization made massive loans and provided technical expertise to assist Arab and other developing nations develop their economies. In the aftermath of the war with Iraq, Kuwait has been the recipient of assistance from neighboring countries.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Both Kuwaiti custom and law enforce a division of labor by gender. Unlike other Arabic countries, women are involved various aspects of the labor force, but the percentage of women involved in labor outside of the home is small. Those women who are gainfully employed often work in the social services, in clerical positions, and as teachers. Few women are owners or managers of small businesses.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The tension between traditional Kuwaiti Islamic values and Western values is evidenced in the roles and status afforded to men and women within Kuwaiti society. Many women still go veiled and wear the traditional black, but many girls in the younger generation follow the dictates of western fashion. Female students are a majority at Kuwait University, and women are prominent in the country's commercial life and in the civil service. Women are openly agitating for the relaxation of social restrictions on females, more women's rights, and an increase in job opportunities.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Most marriages in Kuwait are arranged, in accordance with tradition. Intermarriage occurs within clans, but not between social classes. Women, regardless of their age, need their father's permission to marry. Also, a woman cannot marry a non-Muslim, although a man is afforded this privilege. In addition, a woman can only marry one spouse, while a man has the legal right to four wives.

Domestic Unit. Family forms the basis of Kuwaiti society. Extended families live together, both out of necessity caused by limited housing space, and so that all family members can be involved in the socialization of future generations and maintain familial and cultural traditions.

Inheritance. In accordance with Islam, both men and women have equal property rights.

Socialization

Child Rearing and Education. All schooling for Kuwaitis is free, and between the ages of six and fourteen, attendance is compulsory. While the government stresses the importance of education regardless of gender, most schools are segregated on the basis of gender after kindergarten. The definition of literacy used by the government is that one must be over the age of fifteen and capable of reading and writing. With this in mind, 79 percent of the population is literate, with 82 percent of men and 75 percent of women meeting these criteria.

Higher Education. There is only one university in the country, but because of the great value placed on education, the government awards scholarships for many Kuwaitis to pursue higher education. There are also several post-secondary technical institutes where one may pursue knowledge of electronics, air-conditioning, and diesel and petrol engines, all necessary to the major industries of Kuwait.

Etiquette

Kuwaitis, like other Arab populations, have different personal boundaries than Westerners. In general, they sit, talk, and stand closer to one another. It is common for members of the same sex to touch one another during their interactions as an expression of their friendship, and men often shake hands upon greeting and departure. Socially, physical contact between men and women is not acceptable. To Kuwaitis, honor, reputation, and respect are primary concerns.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. The main religion in Kuwait is Islam: approximately 85 percent of the population is Muslim. There are two main sub-sects of Islam in Kuwait, 45 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, while 40 percent of the population is Shi'a Muslim. The remaining 15 percent of the population practices Christianity, Hinduism, Parsi, and other religions.

Rituals and Holy Places. For practitioners, the most essential tenet of Islam is the purification of the soul through prayers, known as salat, five times each day. The purpose of this activity is to strengthen one's commitment to god. Cleanliness and proper hygiene are prerequisites for the ritual prayersin Islam good physical health and good spiritual health are intertwined.

Medicine and Health Care

In Islam the importance of good health cannot be overemphasized. With this in mind every Kuwaiti citizen is provided both care in sickness and preventative medicine.

Secular Celebrations

Both New Years Day on 1 January and Kuwaiti National Day on 25 February are celebrated.

The Arts and Humanities

Graphic Arts. In Kuwait, as in many Islamic countries, the art of calligraphy is one of the most longstanding and thriving forms of expression. Arabic calligraphy is considered to be the ultimate expression of god's words. Because in traditional Islam sculptural and figurative forms of art were perceived as idolatry, calligraphy was considered an acceptable, alternative form of art and expression.

Bibliography

Al-Rabie, Ahmad. "The Absence of Plans for the Future." Asharq Al-Aswat, 1997.

Crystal, Jill. Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State, 1992.

Devine, E. and N. L. Braganti, eds. The Travelers Guide to Middle Eastern and North African Customs and Manners, 1991.

Hasan, Alia F. "Architecture 101: Some Basics," Arabic and Islamic Architecture, July 26, 2000.

. "The Art of Calligraphy." Arabic and Islamic Architecture, November 7, 1999.

Ismael, Jacqueline. Kuwait: Social Change in Historical Perspective, 1982.

Milmo, Sean, ed. The Gulf Handbook 1978, 1977.

Osborne, Christine. The Gulf States and Oman, 1977.

Web Sites

Amnesty International 1999 Human Rights Reports. Available at www.amnesty.org

"Arab Net-Kuwait." Available at http://arab.net/kuwait

CIA Fact Book. Available at http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ku.htm

"Islamic Architecture." Available at http://www.islamicart.com/main/architecture/intro.htm

"Kuwait On-Line." Available at http://kuwaitonline.com/aboutkw/aboutkw.htm

U.S. Department of State 1999 Report: Kuwait, Available at http://www.usis.usemb.se/human/index

Heather Loew

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Kuwait

Kuwait

KUWAITIS 99

The people of Kuwait are called Kuwaitis. Forty percent of the residents of Kuwait are citizens of the country; the remainder are divided roughly in half between Arabs and non-Arabs.

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Kuwait

Kuwaitabate, ablate, aerate, ait, await, backdate, bait, bate, berate, castrate, collate, conflate, crate, create, cremate, date, deflate, dictate, dilate, distraite, donate, downstate, eight, elate, equate, estate, fate, fellate, fête, fixate, freight, frustrate, gait, gate, gestate, gradate, grate, great, gyrate, hate, hydrate, inflate, innate, interrelate, interstate, irate, Kate, Kuwait, lactate, late, locate, lustrate, mandate, mate, migrate, misdate, misstate, mistranslate, mutate, narrate, negate, notate, orate, ornate, Pate, placate, plate, prate, prorate, prostrate, pulsate, pupate, quadrate, rate, rotate, sate, sedate, serrate, short weight, skate, slate, spate, spectate, spruit, stagnate, state, straight, strait, Tate, tête-à-tête, Thwaite, translate, translocate, transmigrate, truncate, underrate, understate, underweight, update, uprate, upstate, up-to-date, vacate, vibrate, wait, weight

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Kuwait

Kuwait

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
DEFENSE
U.S.-KUWAITI RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the June 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

State of Kuwait

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 17,820 sq. km. (6,880 sq. mi.); approximately the size of the State of New Jersey.

Cities: Capital—Kuwait City.

Terrain: Almost entirely flat desert plain (highest elevation point—306 m).

Climate: Summers are intensely hot and dry with average highs ranging from 42°-49°C (108°-120°F); winters are short (Dec.-Feb.) and cool, averaging 10°-30°C (50°-80°F), with limited rain.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Kuwaiti(s).

Population: (Dec. 2006 est.) 3,182,960, including approximately 1 million Kuwaiti citizens and 2 million non-Kuwaiti citizens.

Annual growth rate: (2006 est.) 3.52%.

Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 35%, other Arab 22%, non-Arab (primarily Asian) 39%, stateless Arabs (bidoon) 4%.

Religions: Muslim estimated 80% (Sunni 70%, Shi′a 30% among Kuwaitis), with sizable Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Sikh communities.

Languages: Arabic (official), English is widely spoken.

Education: Compulsory from ages 6-14; free at all levels for Kuwaitis, including higher education. Adult literacy (age 15 and over)—83.5% for the overall population (male 85.1%, female 81.7%), 91.2% for Kuwaitis (male 91.4%, female 90.8%).

Health: Infant mortality rate (2006 est.)—9.71 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2006 est.)—76.13 yrs. male, 78.31 yrs. female.

Work force: (official figures as of December 31, 2006) 1.963 million (76% male; 24% female; 17% Kuwaiti citizens).

Government

Type: Constitutional hereditary emirate.

Independence: June 19, 1961 (from U.K.).

Constitution: Approved and promulgated November 11, 1962.

Government branches: Executive—Amir (head of state); prime minister (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by prime minister and approved by the Amir. Legislative—unicameral National Assembly (Majlis al-′Umma) of 50 elected members who serve 4-year terms plus all ministers, who serve as ex officio members. Judicial—High Court of Appeal.

Political subdivisions: Six governorates (muhafazat) Al ′Asimah, Hawalli, Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra′, Mubarak Al-Kebir, and Al Far-waniyah.

Political parties: None; formal political parties have no legal status, although de facto political blocs exist.

Elections: There are no executive branch elections; the Amir is hereditary; prime minister and crown prince are appointed by the Amir. Legislative branch elections were last held June 29, 2006. Municipal Council elections were held on April 4, 2006.

Suffrage: Adult males and since May 16, 2005, adult females who are 21, have been citizens for 20 years, and are not in the security forces. In June 2006, women participated as voters and candidates in parliamentary elections for the first time.

Economy

GDP: (2005 est.) $74.6 billion.

Real GDP growth rate: (2005) 8.5%.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, fish.

Agriculture: (about 0.5% of GDP) With the exception of fish, most food is imported. Cultivated land—1%.

Industry: (about 48% of GDP) Types—petroleum extraction and refining, fertilizer, chemicals, desalination, construction materials.

Services: (about 52% of GDP) public administration, finance, real estate, trade, hotels and restaurants.

Trade: (2005 est.) Exports —$46.87 billion: oil (93%). Major markets—Japan 17%, South Korea 13%, U.S. 11%, Singapore 10%, Pakistan 3%. Imports—$15.67 billion: food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing. Major suppliers—U.S. 13%, Germany 13%, Japan 8%, China 6%, United Kingdom 6%.

PEOPLE

Over 90% of the population lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Although the majority of people residing in the State of Kuwait are of Arab origin, fewer than half are originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1938 drew many Arabs from nearby states. Following the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the Kuwaiti Government undertook a serious effort to reduce the expatriate population by specifically limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. Kuwait later abandoned this policy, and it currently has a sizable foreign labor force (approximately 68% of the total population is non-Kuwaiti).

Of the country's total population of 3.1 million, approximately 80% are Muslims, including nearly all of its1.023 million citizens. While the national census does not distinguish between Sunni and Shi′a adherents, approximately 70-75 % of citizens, including the ruling family, belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The remaining Kuwaiti citizens, with the exception of about 100-200 Christians and a few Baha′is, are Shi′a. The expatriate Christian population is estimated to be more than 400,000 residents. There also are communities of Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs.

Kuwait's 83.5% literacy rate, one of the Arab world's highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system. Public school education, including Kuwait University, is free, but access is restricted for foreign residents. The government sponsors the foreign study of qualified students abroad for degrees not offered at Kuwait University. In 2004, approximately 1,720 Kuwaitis were enrolled in U.S. universities, down 6.8% from the previous year.

HISTORY

Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait's nine islands, suggest that Failaka was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. Failaka appears to have continued to serve as a market for approximately 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. Despite its long history as a market and sanctuary for traders, Failaka appears to have been abandoned as a permanent settlement in the 1st century A.D. Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar.

Threatened in the 19th century by the Ottoman Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups, Kuwait sought the same treaty relationship Britain had already signed with the Trucial States (UAE) and Bahrain. In January 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah—” the Great”—signed an agreement with the British Government that pledged himself and his successors neither to cede any territory, nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent, in exchange for protection and an annual subsidy. When Mubarak died in 1915, the population of Kuwait of about 35,000 was heavily dependent on shipbuilding (using wood imported from India) and pearl diving.

Mubarak was succeeded as ruler by his sons Jabir (1915-17) and Salim (1917-21). Kuwait's subsequent rulers have descended from these two brothers. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah ruled Kuwait from 1921 until his death in 1950, a period in which oil was discovered and in which the government attempted to establish the first internationally recognized boundaries; the 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 sq. km. (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait's southern border.

Kuwait achieved independence from the British under Sheikh Ahmed's successor, Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah. By early 1961, the British had already withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.

Kuwait enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity under Amir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah, who died in 1977 after ruling for 12 years. Under his rule, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement dividing the Neutral Zone (now called the Divided Zone) and demarcating a new international boundary. Both countries share equally the Divided Zone's petroleum, onshore and offshore. The country was transformed into a highly developed welfare state with a free market economy.

In August 1990, Iraq attacked and invaded Kuwait. Kuwait's northern border with Iraq dates from an agreement reached with Turkey in 1913. Iraq accepted this claim in 1932 upon its independence from Turkey. However, following Kuwait's independence in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, arguing that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the “Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters.”

Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a UN-mandated coalition led by the United States began a ground assault in February 1991 that liberated Kuwait. During the 7-month occupation by Iraq, the Amir,

the Government of Kuwait, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia and other nations. The Amir and the government successfully managed Kuwaiti affairs from Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and war-related expenses.

Following liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and the 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in UN Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by princes (Amirs) who have been drawn from the Al Sabah family since the middle of the 18th century. The 1962 constitution provides for an elected National Assembly and details the powers of the branches of government and the rights of citizens. Under the Constitution, the National Assembly has a limited role in approving the Amir's choice of the Crown Prince, who succeeds the Amir upon his death. If the National Assembly rejects his nominee, the Amir then submits three names of qualified candidates from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, the founder of modern Kuwait, from which the Assembly must choose the new Crown Prince. Successions have been orderly since independence. In January 2006, the National Assembly played a symbolically important role in the succession process, which was seen as an assertion of parliament's constitutional powers.

For almost 40 years, the Amir appointed the Crown Prince as Kuwait's Prime Minister. However, in July 2003, the Amir formally separated the two positions and appointed a different ruling family member as Prime Minister.

Kuwait's first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to 1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. In May 1999 and once again in May 2006, the Amir dissolved the National Assembly, but complied with the constitution by holding new elections within 60 days. The most recent general election, held in June 2006, was considered free and fair and was marked by the participation of women for the first time as voters and candidates who introduced social and educational issues to the political debate. In July 2006 the newly elected legisature passed a law to reduce the number of electoral districts from 25 to 5 in a move that reformers hoped would increase the transparency of the democratic process by increasing the number of votes necessary to win a seat in parliament.

The government does not officially recognize political parties; however, de facto political blocs, typically organized along ideological lines, exist and are active in the National Assembly. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decision-making, with powers to initiate legislation, question (“grill”) cabinet ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation. In May 2005, the National Assembly approved legislation granting women full political rights. Subsequently the Prime Minister appointed Kuwait's first female minister, Dr. Masouma Al-Mubarak, as Planning Minister and Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs, and the government appointed two women to Kuwait's Municipal Council. Following the March 2007 resignation of the cabinet, Dr. Masouma was joined by a second woman, Nouriya Subih, in the cabinet.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Amir: SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah

Prime Min.: NASIR al-MUHAMMAD al-Ahmad al-Sabah

First Dep. Prime Min.: JABIR al-MUBARAK al-Hamad al-Sabah

Dep. Prime Min.: MUHAMMAD al-Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah

Dep. Prime Min.: Faysal al-HAJJI

Min. of Commerce & Industry: Falah al-HAJIRI

Min. of Communications: Abdallah al-Saud al-MUHAYLBI

Min. of Defense: JABIR al-MUBARAK al-Hamad al-Sabah

Min. of Education & Higher Education: Nuriya al-SUBAYH

Min. of Electricity & Water: Muhammad al-ULAYM

Min. of Finance: Mustafa al-Jassim al-SHIMMALI

Min. of Foreign Affairs: MUHAMMAD al-Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah

Min. of Health: Abdallah al-Abd al-Rahman TAWIL

Min. of Information: SABAH al-KHALID al-Hamad al-Sabah

Min. of Interior: JABIR al-KHALID al-Jabir al-Sabah

Min. of Justice: Jamal al-Ahmad al-SHIHAB

Min. of Oil (Acting): Muhammad al-ULAYM

Min. of Public Works: Musa al-SARRAF

Min. of Religious Endowment & Islamic Affairs: Abdallah al-Saud al-MUHAYLBI

Min. of Social Affairs & Labor: Jamal al-Ahmad al-SHIHAB

Min. of State for Amiri Diwan Affairs: NASIR al-SABAH al-Ahmad al-Sabah

Min. of State for Cabinet Affairs: Faysal al-HAJJI

Min. of State for Housing Affairs: Abd al-Wahid al-AWADI

Min. of State for Municipality Affairs: Musa al-SARRAF

Min. of State for National Assembly Affairs: Abd al-Wahid al-AWADI

Pres., National Security Bureau: AHMAD al-FAHD al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah

Governor, Central Bank: SALIM al-Abd al-Aziz al-Saud al-Sabah

Ambassador to the US: SALIM al-Abdallah al-Jabir al-Sabah

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Abdallah al-MURAD

Kuwait maintains an embassy in the United States at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. [1] (202)-966-0702).

ECONOMY

Kuwait has a small, relatively open economy dominated by the oil industry and government sector. Approximately 90% of the Kuwaiti citizen labor force works in the public sector, and 90% of private sector workers are non-Kuwaitis. Kuwait's proven crude oil reserves of about 101.5 billion barrels—9% of world reserves—account for nearly 60% of GDP, 95% of export revenues, and 80-90% of government income. During the 1970s, Kuwait benefited from the dramatic rise in oil prices, which Kuwait actively promoted through its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The economy suffered from the triple shock of a 1982 securities market crash, the mid-1980s drop in oil prices, and the 1990 Iraqi invasion and occupation. The Kuwaiti Government-in-exile depended upon its $100 billion in overseas investments during the Iraqi occupation to help pay for the reconstruction. Thus, by 1993, this balance was cut to less than half of its pre-invasion level. The wealth of Kuwait is based primarily on oil and capital reserves, and the Iraqi occupation severely damaged both, although both have been restored as reconstruction has proceeded and world oil prices have risen. Kuwait enjoyed an economic boom following Operation Iraqi Freedom as many companies working in Iraq established offices in Kuwait and procured goods through Kuwaiti companies. The banking, financial services, logistics, telecommunications, and construction sectors, in particular, have grown in the last two years. The sustained high oil prices also provided the Kuwaiti Government with windfall revenues in 2005 and 2006.

In the closing hours of the Gulf War in February 1991, the Iraqi occupation forces set ablaze or damaged 749 of Kuwait's oil wells. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damage. Oil production was 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait's current production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million bpd. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million bpd by 2015 and 4.0 million bpd by 2020.

Oil

In 1934, the ruler of Kuwait granted an oil concession to the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), jointly owned by the British Petroleum Company and Gulf Oil Corporation. In 1976, the Kuwaiti Government nationalized KOC. The following year, Kuwait took over part of onshore production in the Divided Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (KGOC) produces jointly there with Saudi Arabian Chevron, which, by its 1984 purchase of Getty Oil Company, acquired the Saudi Arabian onshore concession in the Divided Zone. Saudi Arabian Chevron's concession is due to expire in February 2009.

Offshore in the Divided Zone, the Arabian Oil Company (AOC)—80% owned by Japanese interests and 10% each by the Kuwaiti and Saudi Governments—produced on behalf of both countries from 1961 until 2000, when its concession in the Saudi zone expired. AOC gave up its drilling rights in the Kuwaiti sector 3 years later. KGOC has assumed AOC's offshore operations. Aramco Gulf Oil Company (AGOC) manages the Saudi portion of the offshore Divided Zone.

Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), an integrated, state-owned oil company, is the parent company of the government's operating companies in the petroleum sector, and includes Kuwait Oil Company, which produces oil and gas; Kuwait National Petroleum Company, which manages refining and domestic sales; Petrochemical Industries Company, which produces ammonia, urea, ethylene, propylene, and styrene and participates in a number of successful joint ventures with Dow Chemical within Kuwait and abroad; Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company, which is responsible for exploration and upstream production outside Kuwait (in several developing countries and Australia); Kuwait Oil Tanker Company.; Kuwait Gulf Oil Company, responsible for exploration and production in the Kuwait portions of the offshore and onshore Divided Zone; and Kuwait Petroleum International, which manages refining and retail operations outside Kuwait (in Europe and East Asia).

KPC purchased from Gulf Oil Co. refineries in the Netherlands and Italy and service stations in the Benelux nations, Italy, and Scandinavia. In 1987, KPC bought a 19% share in British Petroleum, which was later reduced to 10%. KPC markets its products in Europe under the brand name Q8. In 2006, KPC announced plans to participate in a joint venture to build and operate a refinery and associated petrochemical plant in China. The Government of Kuwait also signed a memorandum of agreement with the State of Louisiana in 2006 to explore the feasibility of building a refinery in the United States.

According to official OPEC figures, Kuwait has about 101.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, including the Kuwaiti share of proven reserves in the Divided Zone. This gives Kuwait the fifth-largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, and Iraq. Estimated capacity before the occupation was about 2.4 million bpd. During the Iraqi occupation, Kuwait's oil-producing capacity was severely reduced. However, tremendous recovery and improvements have been made. Oil production was 1.5 million bpd by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait's production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million bpd. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million bpd by 2015 and 4.0 million bpd by 2020. Oil revenues comprise about 95% of exports and 90% of total government revenues. Kuwaiti export crude averaged about $58/barrel in 2006.

Social Benefits

The government has sponsored many social welfare, public works, and development plans financed with oil and investment revenues. Among the benefits for Kuwaiti citizens are retirement income, marriage bonuses, housing loans, virtually guaranteed employment, free medical services, and education at all levels. By Amiri decree, the government occasionally disburses a portion of its budget surplus as a grant to all Kuwaiti citizens. In September 2006, an Amiri grant of 200 Kuwaiti dinars (approximately $700) was paid to every citizen who applied. Foreign nationals residing in Kuwait do not have access to these welfare services. The right to own stock in publicly traded companies, real estate, and banks or a majority interest in a business is limited to Kuwaiti citizens, and citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states under limited circumstances.

Industry and Development

Industry in Kuwait consists of several large export-oriented petrochemical units, oil refineries, and a range of small manufacturers. It also includes large water desalinization, ammonia, desulphurization, fertilizer, brick, block, and cement plants. During the invasion, the Iraqis looted nearly all movable equipment of value, especially high-technology items and small machinery. Much of this has been replaced with newer equipment. The Kuwaiti Government has promoted the Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) agreement, signed with the U.S. in 2004, as a means to attract additional foreign investment into Kuwaiti industries and enhance the country's diversification from a purely oil-based economy.

Agriculture

Agriculture is limited by the lack of water and arable land. The government has experimented in growing food through hydroponics and carefully managed farms. However, most of the soil which was suitable for farming in south central Kuwait was destroyed when Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells in the area and created vast “oil lakes.” Fish and shrimp are plentiful in territorial waters, and large-scale commercial fishing has been undertaken locally and in the Indian Ocean.

Shipping

The Kuwait Oil Tanker Company has 24 crude oil, liquefied petroleum gas, and refined product carriers and is the largest tanker company in an OPEC country. Kuwait also is a member of the United Arab Shipping Company.

Trade, Finance, and Aid

The Kuwaiti dinar is a strong currency which was pegged from 2003 until May 2007 to the U.S. dollar. The dinar is now pegged to a basket of currencies, of which the dollar is a majority. Kuwait ordinarily runs a current account surplus, estimated at $40 billion for 2006 (about 45% of GDP). Government revenues are dependent on oil revenues. In 2006, Kuwait's fiscal surplus was estimated to be about 20% of GDP, despite a 16% rise in government expenditure.

The government's two reserve funds—the Fund for Future Generations and the General Reserve Fund—which totaled nearly $100 billion prior to the invasion in 1990, were the primary source of capital for the Kuwaiti Government during the war. While these funds were depleted to $40-$50 billion after the war, total external assets, including the two reserve funds and the Public Fund for Social Security, are currently estimated to be around $160 billion. The bulk of this is invested in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Southeast Asia. In order of importance, foreign assets are believed to be invested in stocks and bonds, fixed yield instruments (mostly short term), and real estate. Kuwait follows a generally conservative investment policy.

Kuwait has been a major source of foreign economic assistance to other states through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), an autonomous state institution created in 1961 on the pattern of Western and international development agencies and chaired by the Foreign Minister.

In 1974, the fund's lending mandate was expanded to include all non-Arab, developing countries. According to the most recent statistics available, the Fund's paid-up capital amounts to $7 billion. Total loan disbursement extended is $37 billion. The Fund has granted 595 loans since its inception and extended technical assistance on 196 occasions to different countries and organizations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. KFAED is responsible for administering the disbursal of at least $500 million in concessionary loans to Iraq in support of reconstruction efforts.

Over the years Kuwait has provided aid to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, as well as the Palestinian Authority. During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait also gave significant aid to the Iraqis. The Kuwait fund issued loans and technical assistance grants totaling over $419 million during its fiscal year ending March 31, 2003. Kuwaiti provided unparalleled assistance during Operation Iraqi Freedom by establishing and operating the Humanitarian Operations Center for Iraq. Following the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006, Kuwait pledged $300 million for humanitarian aid and deposited $500 million in the Lebanese Central Bank.

At the 2003 Madrid Conference, the Government of Kuwait pledged $1.5 billion in assistance to Iraq. KFAED is responsible for disbursing and overseeing as much as $560 million of that assistance through grants. In 2005, KFAED contributed $50 million to Pakistan earthquake relief, contributed $50 million for Hurricane Katrina relief, and made significant contributions to tsunami relief efforts. Kuwaiti has also supported the establishment of the International Compact for Iraq.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Following independence in June 1961, Kuwait faced its first major foreign policy problem arising from Iraqi claims to Kuwait's territory. The Iraqis threatened invasion but were dissuaded by the U.K.'s ready response to the Amir's request for assistance. Kuwait presented its case before the United Nations and preserved its sovereignty. U.K. forces were later withdrawn and replaced by troops from Arab League nations, which were withdrawn in 1963 at Kuwait's request.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Through U.S. efforts, a multinational coalition was assembled, and, under UN auspices, initiated military action against Iraq to liberate Kuwait. Arab states, especially the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates), Egypt, and Syria, supported Kuwait by sending troops to fight with the coalition. Many European and East Asian states sent troops, equipment, and/or financial support.

After liberation, Kuwait concentrated its foreign policy efforts on development of ties to states which had participated in the multinational coalition. Notably, these states were given the lead role in Kuwait's reconstruction. Kuwait's relations with those nations that supported Iraq, among them Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, and Cuba, were slow to recover. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasir Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein during the war also affected Kuwait's attitudes toward the PLO though Kuwait supports the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The Government of Kuwait has abandoned its previous policy of limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. In August 2001, the Interior Minister announced that there were no longer any special restrictions or permits required for Palestinian workers wishing to return to the country. At the end of 2002, there were approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians, 30,000 to 40,000 Jordanians, and 5,000 Yemenis resident in Kuwait.

Since liberation from Iraq, Kuwait has made efforts to secure allies throughout the world, particularly UN Security Council members. In addition to the United States, defense arrangements have been concluded with the United Kingdom, Russia, and France. Ties to other key Arab members of the Gulf War coalition—Egypt and Syria—also have been sustained.

During the 2002-03 buildup to and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Kuwait was a vital coalition partner, reserving a full 60% of its total land mass for use by coalition forces and donating significant assistance in kind to the effort. Kuwait continues to provide generous assistance in kind to ongoing coalition operations in Iraq. Kuwait has been consistently involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq, pledging $1.5 billion at the October 2003 international donors’ conference in Madrid, and consulting closely with Iraqi officials, including former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaffari, who visited Kuwait in late October 2005, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who visited in July 2006 and again in April 2007. Kuwait has been an active and vocal public supporter of the political process in Iraq, welcoming the January 2005 elections and praising Iraq's October 2005 successful constitutional referendum. Iraqi President Talibani visited Kuwait in September 2006.

Kuwait is a member of the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank (IBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); African Development Bank (AFDB), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), Arab League, Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Group of 77 (G-77), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), INMARSAT, International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labor Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization, Interpol, IOC, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

DEFENSE

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait maintained a small military force consisting of army, navy, and air force units. The majority of equipment for the military was supplied by the United Kingdom. Aside from the few units that were able to escape to Saudi Arabia, including a majority of the air force, all of this equipment was either destroyed or taken by the Iraqis. Much of the property returned by Iraq after the Gulf War was damaged beyond repair. Iraq retained a substantial amount of captured Kuwaiti military equipment in violation of UN resolutions.

Since liberation, Kuwait, with the help of the United States and other allies, has made significant efforts to increase the size and modernity of its armed forces. These efforts are succeeding. The government also continues to improve defense arrangements with other Arab states, as well as UN Security Council members. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, Kuwaiti military elements successfully operated missile defense systems.

A separately organized National Guard maintains internal security. The police constitute a single national force under the purview of civilian authorities of the Ministry of Interior.

U.S.-KUWAITI RELATIONS

The United States opened a consulate in Kuwait in October 1951, which was elevated to embassy status at the time of Kuwait's independence 10 years later. The United States supports Kuwait's sovereignty, security, and independence, as well as its multilateral diplomatic efforts to build greater cooperation among the GCC countries.

Strategic cooperation between the United States and Kuwait increased in 1987 with the implementation of a maritime protection regime that ensured the freedom of navigation through the Gulf for 11 Kuwaiti tankers that were reflagged with U.S. markings.

The U.S.-Kuwaiti strategic partnership intensified dramatically again after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The United States spearheaded UN Security Council demands that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and its authorization of the use of force, if necessary, to remove Iraqi forces from the occupied country. The United States also played a dominant role in the development of the multinational military operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait. The U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship has remained strong in the post-Gulf War period. Kuwait and the United States worked on a daily basis to monitor and to enforce Iraq's compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and Kuwait has also provided the main platform for Operation Iraqi Freedom since 2003.

Since Kuwait's liberation, the United States has provided military and defense technical assistance to Kuwait from both foreign military sales (FMS) and commercial sources. The U.S. Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait is attached to the American embassy and manages the FMS program. There are currently over 100 open FMS contracts between the U.S. military and the Kuwait Ministry of Defense totaling $8.1 billion. Principal U.S. military systems currently purchased by the Kuwait Defense Forces are Patriot Missile systems, F-18 Hornet fighters, the M1A2 main battle tank, AH-64D Apache helicopter, and a major recapitalization of Kuwait's Navy with U.S. boats.

Kuwaiti attitudes toward American products have been favorable since the Gulf War. In 1993, Kuwait publicly announced abandonment of the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab boycott of Israel (those aspects affecting U.S. firms). The United States is currently Kuwait's largest supplier of goods and services, and Kuwait is the fifth-largest market in the Middle East. U.S. exports to Kuwait totaled $2.14 billion million in 2006. Provided their prices are reasonable, U.S. firms have a competitive advantage in many areas requiring advanced technology, such as oil field equipment and services, electric power generation and distribution equipment, telecommunications gear, consumer goods, and military equipment.

Kuwait also is an important partner in the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and intelligence arenas and also supporting efforts to block financing of terrorist groups. In January 2005, Kuwait Security Services forces engaged in gun battles with local extremists, resulting in fatalities on both sides in the first such incident in Kuwait's history.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

KUWAIT (E) Al-Masjed Al-Aqsa Street, Bayan, Plot 14, APO/FPO PSC 1280, Box #, APO/AE 09880, (965) 259-1001, Fax 965-538-0282, Workweek: Sun-Thur/0800-1600, Website: http://Kuwait.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Barbara Simpson
DCM/CHG:Alan G. Misenheimer
DHS/ICE:Robert Hessler
ECO:Timothy A. Lenderking
FCS:Nancy K. Charles-Parker
FM:Philip Benjamin
HRO:Vacant
IBB:Gaines Johnson
MGT:Brian R. Moran
CON:Santiago Busa, Jr..
PAO:John F. Berry
GSO:Beverly D. Rochester-Johnson
RSO:Michael E. Wilkins
AFSA:Jason Khile
CLO:Jennifer R. Doumitt
DAO:Ltc Charles Pfaff
DEA:Amembassy Cairo
EEO:Emily L. WEST:on
FAA/CASLOFaa-Amemb Manama
FMO:Eta- Karen McCarthy
ICASS:Chair Lubin Quinones
IMO:George M. Navadel
IPO:Dwayne E. Singleton
IRS:Kathy Beck
ISO:Michael McCowan
ISSO:Michael McCowan
MLO:Brig Gen Charles L.Hudson
POL:Thomas M. Rosenberger (Acting)
State ICASS:Santiago Busa, Jr..

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

January 16, 2008

Country Description: Kuwait is a small, oil-rich constitutional monarchy with 10% of proven world oil reserves. Foreign workers constitute approximately 90% of the labor force. Kuwaiti citizens constitute only 34% of the country's population of three million, and enjoy the benefits of a generous social welfare system that guarantees employment, housing, education and medical care. Facilities for travelers are widely available.

Entry Requirements: Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. U.S. citizens can obtain visitor visas for a fee at the port of entry in Kuwait. Travelers who overstay their visas may be required to pay large fines before leaving Kuwait. Travelers who leave Kuwait without completing Kuwaiti exit procedures may also be required to pay large fines if they return to and attempt to depart from Kuwait. This includes travelers proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq. Effective May 15, 2007, the Government of Kuwait no longer admits travelers with a contractor identification card. All contractors entering or transiting the State of Kuwait should have a valid passport. Visas can be obtained upon arrival in Kuwait for a fee of 3 Kuwaiti Dinar (KD). For further information on entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318.

Kuwaiti officials are extremely sensitive about travel to Iraq. There have been instances in which Americans, especially those of Iraqi descent, have been detained for questioning at ports of entry/exit. Americans seeking to travel to Iraq through Kuwait have also on occasion been turned around and/or detained. On a number of occasions the border between Iraq and Kuwait has been closed without notice, stranding Americans on either side of the border.

Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, or involved in unresolved financial disputes with local business partners, are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. Travel bans can be initiated by any person for almost any reason and may remain in place for a substantial period of time while the case is being investigated. Expatriates have been detained in Kuwait for cases with seemingly little or no evidence or legal merit. A person with influence with the Kuwaiti government can ensure that a travel ban remains in place even if a judge or government official states the ban should be lifted. In the case of purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor pledges funds equal to the amount in dispute. Once such legal orders are in place, the U.S. Embassy can assist American citizens in obtaining legal representation, but cannot overcome the ban on exit from the country until the matter is resolved.

Safety and Security: Americans in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Americans considering travel to Kuwait should review the Worldwide Caution.

All U.S. citizens in Kuwait should exercise caution, maintain a low profile, and avoid areas where Westerners are known to congregate. Heightened security awareness should be exercised at all hotels and residential complexes, as terrorists in the past have specifically targeted hotel chains perceived as Western and a variety of Western housing facilities. Military members, as well as civilians and contractors related to military interests, are also potential targets.

Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings and assassinations. Increased security at official U.S. facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas and apartment complexes, schools and places of worship, oil-related facilities and personnel, and public areas where people congregate including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. U.S. citizens are advised to immediately report any unusual or suspicious activity in Kuwait to the Kuwaiti police or to the U.S. Embassy.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers out-side the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait has an active warden program and records warden notices in both English and Arabic for audio playback. The English-language notices can be heard by calling +965-259-1048 and the Arabic-language notices are available at +965-259-1049.

Crime: The crime threat in Kuwait is assessed as low. Violent crimes against expatriates are rare, but do occur. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States or any other large city abroad. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems. The Kuwaiti police accept crime reports at the police station with jurisdiction where the crime occurred. If filing a crime report, it is advisable that an American citizen be accompanied by a person who speaks Arabic or a local attorney. The Embassy's List of Attorneys is available on the Embassy web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/attorneys.html. Filing a crime report can take several hours as a police investigator will take the victim's statement orally while composing his investigative report. In all cases of abuse, the victim must obtain a medical report from a Kuwaiti hospital in order to file a police report.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/ or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: The health care system continues to develop, with many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards, and staff often have no U.S. experience or training.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Kuwait is hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speeding on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 2.8 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. In 2006, reported vehicular accidents were 40,000 with 460 deaths, an increase over the previous year. The average age of death was between 21 and 30 years. There are now over one million motor vehicles registered in Kuwait. Incidents of road rage, inattention and distraction on the part of drivers, poor driving skills, and high-way brinksmanship are common in Kuwait, and can be unsettling to Western drivers in Kuwait who are accustomed to more rigid adherence to traffic laws.

The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus services throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes, which are widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Call taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations upon telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark. It is now possible to hail taxis on streets. Taxis have meters, but fares are more commonly negotiated.

Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must also have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf. The Government of Kuwait may provide American citizens with a Kuwaiti driver's license if their valid American driver's license is first certified by the American Embassy. This service costs 9 KD and is available from the American Citizens Services Unit of the Consular Section. The Embassy's certification must be authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American permit must be translated by an approved translation service.

If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. The use of front seat belts is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol (possession and consumption of alcohol is illegal in Kuwait) is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender. When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.

Kuwait has one of the highest per capita rates of cellular telephone ownership in the world and using a cellular telephone while driving remains legal. Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and do not often include trained paramedics.

Visit the website of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior at www.moi.gov.kw for information and statistics in Arabic about traffic safety and road conditions in Kuwait.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Kuwait's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Kuwait's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: The workweek in Kuwait is Sunday through Thursday for most businesses, government offices and commercial banks. Kuwaiti customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of items such as firearms, religious material, pornography, and alcohol. Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Travelers with prescription medications should carry them in their original packaging or bottle, as dispensed, and carry a copy of their prescription in case customs authorities question their importation into Kuwait.

Kuwaiti customs authorities screen the baggage of all travelers entering Kuwait. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington, D.C. or Kuwait's Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Photographing government and public buildings, military installations, and economic infrastructure, particularly that related to the oil industry, is against the law and can result in arrest, investigation, and prosecution. Also, some traditionally-dressed women find being photographed to be offensive and may complain to the local police. If photographing public scenes or persons, visitors should take care to ask permission beforehand and not to inadvertently cause offense that could lead to an official complaint to the authorities.

Humiliating a person, including a police officer or a public official, is a crime in Kuwait similar to disorderly conduct or harassment in the United States. A person charged with humiliating another is subject to police investigation and possible prosecution. Persons under investigation can be prevented from departing Kuwait. Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kuwaiti laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through theState Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Kuwait. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is PO Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-259-1001 or 259-1002. The fax number is 965-259-1438 or 538-0282. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy's web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov.

International Parental Child Abduction

February 2008

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Kuwait is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Kuwait and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Kuwait are subject to the jurisdiction of Kuwait courts, as well as to the country's laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Kuwait with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes: Cases involving divorce and the custody of minor children are adjudicated in religious courts. If the marriage partners are Muslim, disputes will be resolved before an Islamic Sharia court which will apply principles of the Islamic sect (Shia or Sunni or mixed) of the parties involved. A Sharia court would also hear a dispute between a Muslim husband and non-Muslim wife. Marriage between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is prohibited in Kuwait. In the case of Christians, the court will be an Ecclesiastical Court composed of clergymen from the appropriate religious community, who will refer to the principles governing family status in the Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church or other Christian denomination.

In both theory and practice, Muslim and Christian courts in Kuwait differ very little in how they resolve disputes over the custody of children of divorced or separated parents. The relevant laws all give priority for custodianship to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. However, once the children reach adolescence, the father can appeal for custody, except in the Sunni sect where the daughter stays with her mother until marriage. If a court finds the mother not fit to have custody, a maternal grandmother living in Kuwait or a paternal grandmother (if the maternal grandmother is not living in Kuwait) will be given custody until the children reach the age at which the father may appeal for custody.

In actual practice, the conditions placed on the mother's primary right to custody often enable the father to maintain a great deal of influence over the rearing of the children, even though he may not have legal custody. For example, the mother must seek his approval to depart Kuwait with the children. Frequently, the father is actually able to assume legal custody against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet the conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights. A mother can lose her primary right to custody of a child in a number of ways. The court can determine that she is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. The mother can void her right to custody by re-marrying a party considered “unmarriageable,” or by residing in a home with people who might be “strangers” to the child. The mother may not deny visitation rights to the father or the paternal grandfather and may not travel out-side Kuwait with the child without the father's approval and the approval of the court. In general, a Kuwaiti man divorcing his non-Kuwaiti wife may be awarded legal custody of their children if the court determines that any of the above conditions have not been met.

Under Sharia law, if a mother removes a child from the father thus denying him access, the mother's custody rights can be severed. An attempt to remove children from Kuwait without permission from the father is considered a criminal act in Kuwait. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Kuwaiti government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Kuwaiti law.

A Kuwaiti father can remove his children from Kuwait without approval from the mother. A mother can seek a travel ban to prevent the father from taking the children out of Kuwait.

Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Kuwaiti court should retain an attorney in Kuwait. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office.

U.S. Embassy Kuwait
P.O. Box 77 Safat
13001 Safat
Kuwait
Phone: [965] 539-5307/5308
After hours emergency phone number: [965] 538-2097/2098
Fax: [965] 539-2484
Workweek: Saturday through Wednesday

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Kuwait if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to a parent will not be honored in Kuwait if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Kuwait. Nor will Kuwaiti courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Kuwait to pay child support. However, a court hearing a custody case in Kuwait may take into consideration the law of the country of the father's nationality. An American father with a U.S. court order granting him custody might find that order helpful (though not binding) in a custody proceeding in Kuwait.

Visitation Rights: In cases where the father has custody of a child, the mother is guaranteed visitation rights. It has been the experience of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait that the father and the paternal grandparents of the child are generally very open and accommodating in facilitating the right of the mother to visit and maintain contact with the child.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized under Kuwaiti law. Children of Kuwaiti fathers automatically acquire Kuwaiti citizenship at birth, regardless of where the child was born. Women cannot transmit citizenship. Kuwaiti citizens must enter and exit the country on Kuwaiti passports.

Travel Restrictions: Exit visas are not required to leave Kuwait. However, a mother may face serious legal difficulties if she attempts to take her children out of Kuwait without the permission of the father. Immigration officials at the airport or border often ask to see permission from the father in writing before allowing children to exit, and have even been known to confirm a written request by contacting the father. If a woman has not placed a travel ban preventing a father from removing children from Kuwait, a father will usually be permitted to exit Kuwait with his children without difficulty.

Criminal Remedies: For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org.

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 or visit its web site on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/family. You may also direct inquiries to: Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4811; Phone: (202) 736-9090; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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Kuwait

KUWAIT

Compiled from the November 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
State of Kuwait


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

17,820 sq. km. (6,880 sq. mi.); approximately the size of the State of New Jersey.

Cities:

Capital—Kuwait City, pop. (2002 est.) 413,170. Other cities—Ahmadi, Jahra, Fahaheel.

Terrain:

Almost entirely flat desert plain (highest elevation point—306 m).

Climate:

Summers are intensely hot and dry with average highs ranging from 42o-46oC (108o-115oF); winters are short (Dec.-Feb.) and cool, averaging 10o-30oC (50o-80oF), with limited rain.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Kuwaiti(s).

Population (Dec. 2004 est.):

2.8 million, including about 1.8 million non-Kuwaiti citizens.

Annual growth rate:

4.8%.

Ethnic groups:

Kuwaiti 35%, other Arab 22%, non-Arab (primarily Asian) 39%, stateless 4%.

Religion:

Muslim 75% (Sunni 70%, Shi'a 30% among Kuwaitis), with small Hindu, Christian and Sikh communities.

Language:

Arabic (official), English is widely spoken.

Education:

Compulsory from ages 6-14; free at all levels for Kuwaitis, including higher education. Adult literacy (age 15 and over)—83.5% for the overall population (male 85.1%, female 81.7%), 91.2% for Kuwaitis (male 91.4%, female 90.8%).

Health:

Infant mortality rate—11 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—75 yrs. male, 77 yrs. female.

Work force (2002 actual):

1.364 million (of which about 19% are Kuwaiti nationals. 62.7% male; 37.3% female).

Government

Type:

Constitutional hereditary emirate.

Independence:

June 19, 1961 (from U.K.).

Constitution:

Approved and promulgated November 11, 1962.

Branches:

Executive—Amir (head of state); prime minister (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by prime minister and approved by the Amir. Legislative—unicameral elected National Assembly (Majlis al-'Umma) of 50 members who serve 4-year terms. Judicial—High Court of Appeal.

Administrative subdivisions:

Six governorates (muhafazat): Al 'Asimah, Hawalli, Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra', Mubarak Al-Kebir, and Al Farwaniyah.

Political parties:

None; formal political parties are not officially recognized although de facto political blocs exist.

Elections:

There are no executive branch elections; the Amir is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the Amir. Legislative branch elections were last held July 5, 2003 (next National Assembly election is due in 2007).

Suffrage:

Adult males and as of May 16, 2005, adult females, who have been citizens for 20 years and are not in the security forces (about 14% of all citizens).

Economy

GDP (2004 est.):

$48 billion. Real GDP growth rate (2004): 6.8%.

Natural resources:

Oil, natural gas, fish.

Agriculture (about 0.3% of GDP):

With the exception of fish, most food is imported. Cultivated land—1%.

Industry (about 60% of GDP):

Types—petroleum extraction and refining, fertilizer, chemicals, desalination, construction materials.

Services (about 39% of GDP):

public administration, finance, real estate, trade, hotels and restaurants

Trade (2004):

Exports—$27.42 billion: oil (91.3%). Major markets—Japan 25%, South Korea 13%, U.S. 12%, Singapore 10%, Netherlands 4.5%. Imports—$11.12 billion: food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing. Major suppliers—U.S. 13%, Japan 11%, Germany 9%, U.K. 6%, Saudi Arabia 6%.


PEOPLE

Over 90% of the country's estimated 2.8 million population lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Although the majority of people residing in the State of Kuwait are of Arab origin, less than half are originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1938 drew many Arabs from nearby states. Following the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the Kuwaiti Government undertook a serious effort to reduce the expatriate population by specifically limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. Kuwait later abandoned this policy, and it currently has a sizable foreign labor force (over 60% of the total population).

Of the country's total population, approximately 2.1 million are Muslims, including nearly all of its 956,000 citizens. While the national census does not distinguish between Sunni and Shi'a adherents, the majority of citizens, including the ruling family, belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The total Sunni Muslim population is approximately 1.7 million, 669,000 of whom are citizens. The remaining 30% of Muslim citizens (approximately 287,000) are Shi'a, as are approximately 100,000 noncitizen residents. Estimates of the Christian population range from 250,000-300,000 residents, including about 200 citizens. There also are communities of Hindus (estimated at 100,000) and Sikhs (estimated at 10,000).

Kuwait's 83% literacy rate, one of the Arab world's highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system. Public school education, including Kuwait University, is free, but access is restricted for foreign residents. The government sponsors the foreign study of qualified students abroad for degrees not offered at Kuwait University. In 2004, approximately 1,720 Kuwaitis were enrolled in U.S. universities, down 6.8% from the previous year.


HISTORY

Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait's nine islands, suggests it was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. Failaka appears to have continued to serve as a market for approximately 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. Despite its long history as a market and sanctuary for traders, Failaka appears to have been abandoned as a permanent settlement in the 1st century A.D. Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar.

Threatened in the 19th century by the Ottoman Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups, Kuwait sought the same treaty relationship Britain had already signed with the Trucial States (UAE) and Bahrain. In January 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah "the Great"—signed an agreement with the British Government that pledged himself and his successors neither to cede any territory, nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent, in exchange for protection and an annual subsidy. When Mubarak died in 1915, the population of Kuwait of about 35,000 was heavily dependent on shipbuilding (using wood imported from India) and pearl diving.

Mubarak was succeeded as ruler by his sons Jabir (1915–17) and Salim (1917–21). Kuwait's subsequent rulers have descended from these two brothers. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah ruled Kuwait from 1921 until his death in 1950, a period in which oil was discovered and in which the government attempted to establish the first internationally recognized boundaries; the 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 sq. km. (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait's southern border.

Kuwait achieved independence from the British under Sheikh Ahmed's successor, Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah. By early 1961, the British had already withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.

Kuwait enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity under Amir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah, who died in 1977 after ruling for 12 years. Under his rule, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement dividing the Neutral Zone (now called the Divided Zone) and demarcating a new international boundary. Both countries share equally the Divided Zone's petroleum, onshore and offshore. The country was transformed into a highly developed welfare state with a free market economy.

In August 1990, Iraq attacked and invaded Kuwait. Kuwait's northern border with Iraq dates from an agreement reached with Turkey in 1913. Iraq accepted this claim in 1932 upon its independence from Turkey. However, following Kuwait's independence in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, arguing that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the "Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters."

Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a UN-mandated coalition led by the United States began a ground assault in February 1991 that liberated Kuwait. During the 7-month occupation by Iraq, the Amir, the Government of Kuwait, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia and other nations. The Amir and the government successfully managed Kuwaiti affairs from Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and warrelated expenses.

Following liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and the 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in UN Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by princes (Amirs) who have been drawn from the Al Sabah family for over 200 years. The 1962 constitution provides for an elected National Assembly and details the powers of the branches of government and the rights of citizens. Under the Constitution, the National Assembly has a limited role in approving the Amir's choice of the Crown Prince, who succeeds the Amir upon his death. If the National Assembly rejects his nominee, the Amir then submits three names of qualified candidates from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, from which the Assembly must choose the new Crown Prince. Successions have been orderly since independence.

For almost 40 years, the Amir has appointed the Crown Prince as Kuwait's Prime Minister. However, in an unprecedented development, the Amir formally separated the two positions and appointed a new Prime Minister in July 2003.

Kuwait's first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to 1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made

during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. On May 4, 1999, the Amir once again dissolved the National Assembly. This time, however, it was done through entirely constitutional means, and new elections were held on July 3, 1999. The most recent general election, held in July 2003, was considered free and fair, although there were some credible reports of vote buying by the government and the opposition.

The government does not officially recognize political parties; however, de facto political blocs, typically organized along ideological lines, exist and are active in the National Assembly. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decision-making, with powers to initiate legislation, question Cabinet ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation. In May 2005, the National Assembly approved legislation granting women full political rights. Subsequently the Prime Minister appointed Kuwait's first female minister, Dr. Massouma al-Mubarak, as Planning Minister and Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs, and the government appointed two women to Kuwait's Municipal Council. Women will be eligible to vote and run for office in the 2007 parliamentary elections, and in the 2009 municipal council elections.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/5/2005

Amir: JABIR al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah
Prime Min.: SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah
First Dep. Prime Min.: NAWAF al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah
Dep. Prime Min.: JABIR Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah
Dep. Prime Min.: Muhammad Dhayfallah SHARAR
Min. of Commerce & Industry: Abdallah Abd al-Rahman al-TAWIL
Min. of Communications: AHMAD al-Abdallah al-Ahmad al-Sabah
Min. of Defense: JABIR Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah
Min. of Education & Higher Education: Rashid Hamad Muhammad al-HAMAD
Min. of Energy & Oil: AHMAD Fahd al-Ahmad al-Sabah
Min. of Finance: Badr Nasir al-HUMAYDI
Min. of Foreign Affairs: MUHAMMAD al-Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah
Min. of Health: AHMAD al-Abdallah al-Ahmad al-Sabah
Min. of Information: Anas Muhammad Ahmad al-RASHID
Min. of Interior: NAWAF al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah
Min. of Justice: Ahmad Yaqub Baqr al-ABDALLAH
Min. of Public Works: Badr Nasir al-HUMAYDI
Min. of Religious Endowment & Islamic Affairs: Abdallah al-MATUQ
Min. of Social Affairs & Labor: Faysal al-HAJI
Min. of State for Administrative Development Affairs: Masuma al-MUBARAK
Min. of State for Amiri Diwan Affairs: NASIR Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah
Min. of State for Cabinet Affairs: Muhammad Dhayfallah SHARAR
Min. of State for Housing Affairs: Badr Nasir al-HUMAYDI
Min. of State for National Assembly Affairs: Muhammad Dhayfallah SHARAR
Governor, Central Bank: SALIM Abd al-Aziz al-Sabah
Ambassador to the US: SALIM Abdallah al-Jabir al-Sabah
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Nabila Abdallah al-MULLA


ECONOMY

Kuwait has a small, relatively open economy dominated by the oil industry and government sector. Its proven crude oil reserves of about 98 billion barrels—10% of world reserves—account for nearly half of GDP, 95% of export revenues, and 80-90% of government income. During the 1970s, Kuwait benefited from the dramatic rise in oil prices, which Kuwait actively promoted through its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The economy suffered from the triple shock of a 1982 securities market crash, the mid-1980s drop in oil prices, and the 1990 Iraqi invasion and occupation. The Kuwaiti Government-in-exile depended upon its $100 billion in overseas investments during the Iraqi occupation in order to help pay for the reconstruction. Thus, by 1993, this balance was cut to less than half of its pre-invasion level. The wealth of Kuwait is based primarily on oil and capital reserves, and the Iraqi occupation severely damaged both. Kuwait has enjoyed a limited economic boom following Operation Iraqi Freedom as many companies working in Iraq have established offices in Kuwait and procured goods through Kuwaiti companies. The banking and construction sector, in particular, have grown in the last year. The sustained high oil price has also provided the Kuwaiti government with a substantial windfall in 2003 and 2004.

In the closing hours of the Gulf War in February 1991, the Iraqi occupation forces set ablaze or damaged 749 of Kuwait's oil wells. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damage. Oil production was 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait's current production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million bpd. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million bpd by 2008.

Oil

In 1934, the ruler of Kuwait granted an oil concession to the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), jointly owned by the British Petroleum Company and Gulf Oil Corporation. In 1976, the Kuwaiti Government nationalized KOC. The following year, Kuwait took over onshore production in the Divided Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. KOC produces jointly there with Texaco, Inc., which, by its 1984 purchase of Getty Oil Company, acquired the Saudi Arabian onshore concession in the Divided Zone.

Offshore, the Divided Zone, the Arabian Oil Company (AOC)—80% owned by Japanese interests and 10% each by the Kuwaiti and Saudi Governments—produced on behalf of both countries from 1961 until 2000, when its concession in the Saudi zone expired. AOC gave up its drilling rights in the Kuwaiti sector 3 years later. The Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Company—KPC) has assumed AOC's offshore operations.

The KPC, an integrated international oil company, is the parent company of the government's operations in the petroleum sector, and includes Kuwait Oil Company, which produced oil and gas; Kuwait National Petroleum Co., refining and domestic sales; Petrochemical Industries Co., producing ammonia and urea; Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Co., with several concessions in developing countries; Kuwait Oil Tanker Co.; and Santa Fe International Corp. The latter, purchased outright in 1982, gives KPC a worldwide presence in the petroleum industry.

KPC also has purchased from Gulf Oil Co. refineries and associated service stations in the Benelux nations and Scandinavia, as well as storage facilities and a network of service stations in Italy. In 1987, KPC bought a 19% share in British Petroleum, which was later reduced to 10%. KPC markets its products in Europe under the brand Q8 and is interested in the markets of the United States and Japan.

Kuwait has about 96.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil; only Saudi Arabia and Iraq have larger proven reserves. Estimated capacity before the occupation was about 2.4 million bpd. During the Iraqi occupation, Kuwait's oil-producing capacity was reduced to practically nothing. However, tremendous recovery and improvements have been made. Oil production was 1.5 million bpd by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait's production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million bpd. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million bpd by 2008. Oil revenues comprise 91% of total government revenues. 2004 saw a 31% increase in the average price of crude oil. Kuwaiti export crude averaged $32.7 for the year.

Social Benefits

The government has sponsored many social welfare, public works, and development plans financed with oil and investment revenues. Among the benefits for Kuwaiti citizens are retirement income, marriage bonuses, housing loans, virtually guaranteed employment, free medical services, and education at all levels. Foreign nationals residing in Kuwait do not have access to these welfare services. The right to own stock in publicly traded companies, real estate, and banks or a majority interest in a business is limited to Kuwaiti citizens, and citizens of GCC states under limited circumstances.

Industry and Development

Industry in Kuwait consists of several large export-oriented petrochemical units, oil refineries, and a range of small manufacturers. It also includes large water desalinization, ammonia, desulfurization, fertilizer, brick, block, and cement plants. During the invasion, the Iraqis looted nearly all movable equipment of value, especially high-technology items and small machinery. Much of this has been replaced with newer equipment. The Kuwaiti Government has promoted the Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) agreement, signed with the U.S. in 2004, as a means to attract additional foreign investment into Kuwaiti industries and enhance the country's diversification from a purely oil-based economy.

Agriculture

Agriculture is limited by the lack of water and arable land. The government has experimented in growing food through hydroponics and carefully managed farms. However, most of the soil which was suitable for farming in south central Kuwait was destroyed when Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells in the area and created vast "oil lakes." Fish and shrimp are plentiful in territorial waters, and large-scale commercial fishing has been undertaken locally and in the Indian Ocean.

Shipping

The Kuwait Oil Tankers Co. has 35 crude oil and refined product carriers and is the largest tanker company in an OPEC country. Kuwait also is a member of the United Arab Shipping Company.

Trade, Finance, and Aid

The Kuwaiti dinar is a strong currency pegged, since 2003, to the U.S. dollar. Kuwait ordinarily runs a balance-of-payments surplus, estimated as high as $24 billion for 2004. Government revenues are dependent on oil revenues. In 2004, Kuwait's fiscal surplus was some 16% of GDP; government expenditures increased by about 14%, the most rapid rise in over 20 years.

The government's two reserve funds—the Fund for Future Generations and the General Reserve Fund—which totaled nearly $100 billion prior to the invasion in 1990, were the primary source of capital for the Kuwaiti Government during the war. While these funds were depleted to $40-$50 billion after the war, they currently are estimated around $75 billion. The bulk of this reserve is invested in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Southeast Asia. In order of importance, foreign assets are believed to be invested in stocks and bonds, fixed yield instruments (mostly short term), and real estate. Kuwait follows a generally conservative investment policy.

Kuwait has been a major source of foreign economic assistance to other states through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), an autonomous state institution created in 1961 on the pattern of Western and international development agencies and chaired by the Foreign Minister. In 1974, the fund's lending mandate was expanded to include all non-Arab-developing countries. Since its inception, KFAED has disbursed $11 billion in concessionary loans and technical grants to 102 countries worldwide. KFAED is responsible for administering the dispersal of at least $500 million in concessionary loans to Iraq in support of reconstruction efforts.

Over the years aid Kuwait has provided aid to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, as well as the Palestinian Authority. During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait also gave significant aid to the Iraqis. The Kuwait fund issued loans and technical assistance grants totaling over $419 million during its fiscal year ending March 31, 2003. Kuwaiti provided unparalleled assistance during Operation Iraqi Freedom by establishing and operating the Humanitarian Operations Center for Iraq.

At the 2003 Madrid Conference, the Government of Kuwait pledged $1.5 billion in assistance to Iraq. KFAED is responsible for disbursing and overseeing as much as $560 million of that assistance through grants. In 2005, KFAED contributed $50 million to Pakistan earthquake relief, pledged $500 million for Hurricane Katrina relief, and made significant contributions to tsunami relief efforts.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Following independence in June 1961, Kuwait faced its first major foreign policy problem arising from Iraqi claims to Kuwait's territory. The Iraqis threatened invasion but were dissuaded by the U.K.'s ready response to the Amir's request for assistance. Kuwait presented its case before the United Nations and preserved its sovereignty. U.K. forces were later withdrawn and replaced by troops from Arab League nations, which were withdrawn in 1963 at Kuwait's request.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Through U.S. efforts, a multinational coalition was assembled, and, under UN auspices, initiated military action against Iraq to liberate Kuwait. Arab states, especially the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates), Egypt, and Syria, supported Kuwait by sending troops to fight with the coalition. Many European and East Asian states sent troops, equipment, and/or financial support.

After liberation, Kuwait concentrated its foreign policy efforts on development of ties to states which had participated in the multinational coalition. Notably, these states were given the lead role in Kuwait's reconstruction. Kuwait's relations with those nations that supported Iraq, among them Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, and Cuba, were slow to recover. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasir Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein during the war also affected Kuwait's attitudes toward the PLO though Kuwait supports the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The Government of Kuwait has abandoned its previous policy of limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. In August 2001, the Interior Minister announced that there were no longer any special restrictions or permits required for Palestinian workers wishing to return to the country. At the end of 2002, there were approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians, 30,000 to 40,000 Jordanians, and 5,000 Yemenis resident in Kuwait.

Since liberation from Iraq, Kuwait has made efforts to secure allies throughout the world, particularly UN Security Council members. In addition to the United States, defense arrangements have been concluded with the United Kingdom, Russia, and France. Ties to other key Arab members of the Gulf War coalition—Egypt and Syria—also have been sustained.

During the 2002–03 buildup to and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Kuwait was a vital coalition partner, reserving a full 60% of its total land mass for use by coalition forces and donating significant assistance in kind to the effort. Kuwait continues to provide generous assistance in kind to ongoing coalition operations in Iraq. Kuwait has been consistently involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq, pledging $1.5 billion at the October 2003 international donors' conference in Madrid, and consulting closely with Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaffari, who visited Kuwait most recently in late October 2005. Kuwait has been an active and vocal public supporter of the political process in Iraq, welcoming the January 2005 elections and praising Iraq's October 2005 successful constitutional referendum.

Kuwait is a member of the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank (IBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); African Development Bank (AFDB), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), Arab League, Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Group of 77 (G-77), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), INMARSAT, International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labor Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization, Interpol, IOC, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


DEFENSE

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait maintained a small military force consisting of army, navy, and air force units. The majority of equipment for the military was supplied by the United Kingdom. Aside from the few units that were able to escape to Saudi Arabia, including a majority of the air force, all of this equipment was either destroyed or taken by the Iraqis. Much of the property returned by Iraq after the Gulf War was damaged beyond repair. Iraq retained a substantial amount of captured Kuwaiti military equipment in violation of UN resolutions.

Since liberation, Kuwait, with the help of the United States and other allies, has made significant efforts to increase the size and modernity of its armed forces. These efforts are succeeding. The government also continues to improve defense arrangements with other Arab states, as well as UN Security Council members. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, Kuwaiti military elements successfully operated missile defense systems.

A separately organized National Guard maintains internal security. The police constitute a single national force under the purview of civilian authorities of the Ministry of Interior.


U.S.-KUWAITI RELATIONS

The United States opened a consulate in Kuwait in October 1951, which was elevated to embassy status at the time of Kuwait's independence 10 years later. The United States supports Kuwait's sovereignty, security, and independence, as well as its multilateral diplomatic efforts to build greater cooperation among the GCC countries.

Strategic cooperation between the United States and Kuwait increased in 1987 with the implementation of a maritime protection regime that ensured the freedom of navigation through the Gulf for 11 Kuwaiti tankers that were reflagged with U.S. markings.

The U.S.-Kuwaiti strategic partnership intensified dramatically again after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The United States spearheaded UN Security Council demands that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and its authorization of the use of force, if necessary, to remove Iraqi forces from the occupied country. The Untied States also played a dominant role in the development of the multinational military operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait. The U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship has remained strong in the post-Gulf War period. Kuwait and the United States worked on a daily basis to monitor and to enforce Iraq's compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and Kuwait also provided the main platform for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Since Kuwait's liberation, the United States has provided military and defense technical assistance to Kuwait from both foreign military sales (FMS) and commercial sources. All transactions have been made by direct cash sale. The U.S. Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait is attached to the American embassy and manages the FMS program. There are currently 98 FMS contracts between the U.S. military and the Kuwait Ministry of Defense totaling $6.84 billion. Principal U.S. military systems currently purchased by the Kuwait Defense Forces are Patriot Missile systems, F-18 Hornet fighters, the M1A2 main battle tank, and the Apache helicopter.

Kuwaiti attitudes toward American products have been favorable since the Gulf War. In 1993, Kuwait publicly announced abandonment of the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab boycott of Israel (those aspects affecting U.S. firms). The United States is currently Kuwait's largest supplier of goods and services, and Kuwait is the fifth-largest market in the Middle East. U.S. exports to Kuwait totaled $902 million in 2002. Provided their prices are reasonable, U.S. firms have a competitive advantage in many areas requiring advanced technology, such as oil field equipment and services, electric power generation and distribution equipment, telecommunications gear, consumer goods, and military equipment.

Kuwait also is an important partner in the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and intelligence arenas and also supporting efforts to block financing of terrorist groups. In January 2005, Kuwait Security Services forces engaged in gun battles with local extremists, resulting in fatalities on both sides in the first such incidents in Kuwait's history.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

KUWAIT (E) Address: Al-Masjed Al-Aqsa Street, Bayan, Plot 14; APO/FPO: PSC 1280, Box #, APO AE 09880; Phone: (965) 259-1001; Fax: 965-538-0282; Workweek: Sat-Wed./0800-1600; Website: http://Kuwait.usembassy.gov.

AMB:Richard B. LeBaron
AMB OMS:Janice G. Smith
DCM:Matthew H. Tueller
DCM OMS:Malgorzata Lamot
POL:Natalie E. Brown
CON:Charles L. Glatz Jr.
MGT:Marjorie R. Phillips
AFSA:Willeah E. Cato
CLO:Ghana H. Conord
CUS:James C. Piatt
DAO:Lt. Colonel Robert
Friedenberg U.S. Army
DEA:Amembassy Cairo
ECO:Stephen J. Carrig
EEO:Natalie E Brown
FAA/CASLO:FAA-Amemb Manama
FCS:Erik Hunt
FMO:James C. Maher
GSO:Beverly Rochester-Johnson
IBB:Walter Patterson
ICASS Chair:Daniel Robers
IMO:George M. Navadel
IPO:Ricardo Garcia
ISO:Anup Y. Shah
ISSO:Anup Y. Shah
LAB:Mark Rosenshield
MLO:Brig Gen Mark Solo
PAO:Tanya C. Anderson
RSO:Mark S. Conord
State ICASS:Vicki L. Adair
Last Updated: 1/8/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 13, 2005

Country Description:

Kuwait is a small, oil rich constitutional monarchy with 10% of proven world oil reserves. Foreign workers constitute approximately 80% of the labor force. Kuwaiti citizens constitute only 37% of the country's population of 2.4 million, and enjoy the benefits of a generous social welfare system that guarantees employment, housing, education and medical care. Facilities for travelers are widely available.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. U.S. citizens can obtain visitor visas at the port of entry in Kuwait. Travelers who overstay their visas may face serious fines when leaving Kuwait. Travelers who leave Kuwait without completing Kuwaiti exit procedures may face serious fines if they return to and attempt to depart from Kuwait. This includes travelers proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq. For further information on entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318. Visit the Kuwait Information Office – USA web site at http://www.kuwaitinfo.org/ for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security:

Americans in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. American considering travel to Kuwait should review the Department of State's Public Announcement –Kuwait dated July 27, 2005 at http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_1995.html.

All U.S. citizens in Kuwait should exercise caution, maintain a low profile, and avoid areas where westerners are known to congregate. Heightened security awareness should be exercised in all residential complexes, as terrorists have specifically targeted a variety of Western housing facilities in the past. Military members, as well as civilians and contractors related to military interests, are also possible targets.

Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings and assassinations. Increased security at official U.S. facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas and apartment complexes, oil-related facilities and personnel, and public areas where people congregate including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. U.S. citizens are advised to immediately report any unusual or suspicious activity in Kuwait to the Kuwaiti police or to the U.S. Embassy.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Travelers are also referred to the U.S. Embassy Kuwait's Warden Notices which are available on the Embassy website at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

The crime rate in Kuwait is low. Violent crimes against expatriates are rare, but do occur. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

The health care system continues to develop, with many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards, and staffs often have no U.S. experience or training.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Kuwait is hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speeding on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 2.86 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. In 2004, reported vehicular accidents rose by 20.9 percent over the previous year to 54,878. In 2004, there were 398 traffic-accidentrelated deaths—also an increase over the previous year. The average age of death was between 21 and 30 years. There are 963,499 cars registered in Kuwait.

The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus service throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes and is widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Two types of taxi service are available: (1) orange taxis work a fixed route and pick up passengers anywhere along that route and may be shared, and (2) call-taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations upon telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark.

Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf.

If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. The use of seatbelts in the front seats is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender. When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.

Kuwait has one of the highest rates of cellular telephone ownership per capita in the world. Using a cellular telephone while driving remains legal. Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and are often not trained paramedics. Visit the website of the Kuwait Information Office – USA at http://www.kuwait-info.org/.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Kuwait as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Kuwait's air carrier operations.

Special Circumstances:

The work-week in Kuwait is Saturday through Wednesday for most businesses and government offices; it is Sunday through Thursday for commercial banks.

Kuwaiti customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of items such as firearms, religious material, pornography, and alcohol. Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Kuwaiti customs authorities screen the baggage of all travelers entering Kuwait. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington or Kuwait's Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam. Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, or involved in unresolved financial disputes with local business partners, are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. In purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor pledges funds equal to the amount in dispute.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kuwaiti laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Kuwait. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Plot 14, Block 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is P.O. Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-259-1001 or 259-1002. The fax number is 965-259-1438 or 538-0282. The afterhours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy's Internet web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov.

International Parental Child Abduction

January 2006

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

General Information:

Kuwait is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Kuwait and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Kuwait are subject to the jurisdiction of Kuwait courts, as well as to the country's laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Kuwait with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes:

Cases involving divorce and the custody of minor children are adjudicated in religious courts. If the marriage partners are Muslim, disputes will be resolved before an Islamic Shari'a court which will apply principles of the Islamic sect (Shia or Sunni or mixed) of the parties involved. A Shari'a court would also hear a dispute between a Muslim husband and non-Muslim wife. Marriage between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is prohibited in Kuwait. In the case of Christians, the court will be an Ecclesiastical Court composed of clergymen from the appropriate religious community, who will refer to the principles governing family status in the Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church or other Christian denomination. In both theory and practice, Muslim and Christian courts in Kuwait differ very little in how they resolve disputes over the custody of children of divorced or separated parents. The relevant laws all give priority for custodianship to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. However, once the children reach adolescence, the father can appeal for custody, except in the Sunni sect where the daughter stays with her mother until marriage.

If a court finds the mother not fit to have custody, a maternal grandmother living in Kuwait or a paternal grandmother (if the maternal grandmother is not living in Kuwait) will be given custody until the children reach the age at which the father may appeal for custody. In actual practice, the conditions placed on the mother's primary right to custody often enable the father to maintain a great deal of influence over the rearing of the children, even though he may not have legal custody. For example, the mother must seek his approval to depart Kuwait with the children. Frequently, the father is actually able to assume legal custody against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet the conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights. A mother can lose her primary right to custody of a child in a number of ways. The court can determine that she is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. The mother can void her right to custody by re-marrying a party considered "unmarriageable," or by residing in a home with people who might be "strangers" to the child.

The mother may not deny visitation rights to the father or the paternal grandfather and may not travel outside Kuwait with the child without the father's approval and the approval of the court. In general, a Kuwaiti man divorcing his non-Kuwaiti wife may be awarded legal custody of their children if the court determines that any of the above conditions have not been met. Under Shari'a law, if a mother removes a child from the father thus denying him access, the mother's custody rights can be severed.

An attempt to remove children from Kuwait without permission from the father is considered a criminal act in Kuwait. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Kuwaiti government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Kuwaiti law. A Kuwaiti father can remove his children from Kuwait without approval from the mother. A mother can seek a travel ban to prevent the father from taking the children out of Kuwait. Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Kuwaiti court should retain an attorney in Kuwait. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients.

For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov.

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments:

Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Kuwait if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to a parent will not be honored in Kuwait if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Kuwait. Nor will Kuwaiti courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Kuwait to pay child support. However, a court hearing a custody case in Kuwait may take into consideration the law of the country of the father's nationality. An American father with a U.S. court order granting him custody might find that order helpful (though not binding) in a custody proceeding in Kuwait.

Visitation Rights:

In cases where the father has custody of a child, the mother is guaranteed visitation rights. It has been the experience of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait that the father and the paternal grandparents of the child are generally very open and accommodating in facilitating the right of the mother to visit and maintain contact with the child.

Dual Nationality:

Dual nationality is not recognized under Kuwaiti law. Children of Kuwaiti fathers automatically acquire Kuwaiti citizenship at birth, regardless of where the child was born. Women cannot transmit citizenship. Kuwaiti citizens must enter and exit the country on Kuwaiti passports.

Travel Restrictions:

Exit visas are not required to leave Kuwait. However, a mother may face serious legal difficulties if she attempts to take her children out of Kuwait without the permission of the father. Immigration officials at the airport or border often ask to see permission from the father in writing before allowing children to exit, and have even been known to confirm a written request by contacting the father. If a woman has not placed a travel ban preventing a father from removing children from Kuwait, a father will usually be permitted to exit Kuwait with his children without difficulty.

Criminal Remedies:

For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org.

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children's Issues at 202-736-7000, visit the State Department website on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov, or send a nine-by-twelve-inch, self-addressed envelope to: Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520-2818; Phone: (202) 736-9090; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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Kuwait

Kuwait

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Kuwaitis

35 Bibliography

State of Kuwait

Dawlat al-Kuwayt

CAPITAL: Kuwait (Al-Kuwayt)

FLAG: The flag, adopted in 1961, is a rectangle divided equally into green, white, and red horizontal stripes, with a black trapezoid whose longer base is against the staff and equal to the breadth of the flag, and whose shorter base is equal to the breadth of the white stripe.

ANTHEM: National Anthem, adopted in 1978, begins with the words, “Kuwait, My Country, May you be safe and glorious!”

MONETARY UNIT: The Kuwaiti dinar (kd) has 1,000 fils. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 fils, and notes of 250 and 500 fils and of 1, 5, 10, and 20 Kuwaiti dinars. kd1 = $3.44828 (or $1 = kd0.29) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but imperial weights and measures also are in use, and some U.S. measures are recognized.

HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Emir’s Accession Day, 25 February. Movable religious holidays include Muslim New Year (1st of Muharram); Laylat al-Miraj; Milad an-Nabi; ‘Id alFitr; and ‘Id al-’Adha’.

TIME: 3 pm = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

Kuwait is located in the Middle East at the western head of the Persian Gulf. Its area is estimated to be about 17,820 square kilometers (6,880 square miles), slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. Of the islands that form part of Kuwait, only Faylakah is inhabited. The country shares borders with Saudi Arabia and Iraq, with a total land boundary length of 464 kilometers (288 miles) and a coastline of 499 kilometers (310 miles).

Kuwait’s capital, Kuwait City, is located on the Persian Gulf coast.

2 Topography

Kuwait consists almost entirely of flat rolling desert and mud flats. The Mina’ al-Ahmadi Ridge along the southern Persian Gulf is one of the most prominent regions of elevation. The highest named point, however, is in the southwest corner of the nation at Ash-Shaqaya Peak,

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 17,820 sq km (6,880 sq mi)

Size ranking: 152 of 194 Highest elevation: 306 meters (1,004 feet) at an unnamed location

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Persian Gulf

Land Use*

Arable land: 1%

Permanent crops: 0%

Other: 99%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 7.6 centimeters (3 inches)

Average temperature in January: 13.9°c (57.0°f)

Average temperature in July: 36.7°c (98.1°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

with an altitude of 290 meters (951 feet). There also is said to be an unnamed elevation as high as 306 meters (1,004 feet). The lowest point is at sea level (Persian Gulf). There are no permanent rivers or streams.

3 Climate

Between November and April, the climate is pleasant, with cool nights and warm, sunny days. In December and January, night temperatures occasionally reach the freezing point. Summer temperatures range from 29°c (84°f) in the morning to more than 49°c (120°f) in the shade at noon. Annual rainfall, which averages 7.6 centimeters (3 inches), comes in the form of showers or storms primarily between October and April. The prevailing northwest wind (shamal) is a cooling breeze in summer.

4 Plants and Animals

Plants and animals are those common to the arid parts of Arabia. There is little vegetation except for camel thorn in the desert and some shrubs along the coastal strip. Between October and March, however, when sufficient rain falls, the desert is transformed. Grass and foliage are plentiful, flowers and plants appear in great variety, and in the spring truffles and mushrooms can be found. The fox and jackal have decreased in numbers; other mammals found in Kuwait include gerbils, jerboas, and desert hares. Reptile species include various lizards, geckos, and snakes. Fish are plentiful. Among the species of migratory birds are swallows, wagtails, chiffchaff, skylarks, wrens, eagles, cormorants, hoopoes, and terns.

5 Environment

The Persian Gulf War of 1991 and its aftermath caused severe environmental problems for Kuwait, releasing large quantities of oil into the environment and threatening the water supply. Kuwait has no renewable water resources and must rely on wells and desalination of sea water. The nation has some of the largest and most advanced desalination plants in the world, which provide much of its water.

In 2006, 1 of Kuwait’s mammal species and 12 of its bird species were threatened. The slender-billed curlew and hawksbill turtle are on the endangered list. The Saudi gazelle has become extinct in the wild.

6 Population

Kuwait had an estimated population of 2.6 million in 2005. The projected population is 4.6 million for the year 2025. Metropolitan Kuwait, the national capital, had an estimated population of nearly 1.2 million in 2005. The average population density is estimated at 138 persons per square kilometer (357 per square mile).

7 Migration

With the discovery of oil, Kuwait acquired a large immigrant population. In 1994, foreign residents accounted for an estimated 56.4% of the population. Of the estimated 400,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, reportedly only about one-sixth were allowed to remain, as most were suspected of collaborating with the occupying Iraqis. By 1996, immigrant Egyptians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, and others had filled the void left behind by the previous foreign workers.

In 2000, there were 1,108,000 migrants living in Kuwait. This number represented 57.9% of the population. The number of refugees that year was 2,800. In 2005, the estimated net migration rate was 14.9 migrants per 1,000 population.

8 Ethnic Groups

Ethnic Kuwaitis are mostly descendants of the tribes of Najd (central Arabia), but some descend from Iraqi Arabs. Still others are of Iranian origin. The number of non-Kuwaitis is divided roughly in half between Arabs and non-Arabs such as Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos. In 2003, 45% of the population was Kuwaiti, 35% other Arab, 9% South Asian, 4% Iranian, and 7% other.

9 Languages

Arabic is the official language. The Arabic spoken in Kuwait is closer to classical Arabic than to the colloquial Arabic spoken in many other parts of the Middle East. English is used generally by business people, employees of oil companies, foreign residents, and students, and is the second language taught in the schools.

10 Religions

Islam is the state religion. According 2004 figures, Muslims comprise about 64% of the total population, with a majority believed to be Sunni Muslim. About 30–35% of Muslim citizens are of the Shia branch. Other religious groups are also represented, primarily among foreign worker groups. These include Christians (mostly Roman Catholics and Anglicans), Hindus, Parsis, Baha’is, Sikhs, and others.

11 Transportation

Roadways extended 4,450 kilometers (2,777 miles) in 2002, including 3,590 kilometers (2,230 miles) of paved roads. In 2003, there were some 770,375 passenger cars and 200,315 commercial taxis, trucks, and buses in use. Although there are no railways, Kuwait has five ports, including a cargo port at Ash Shuaybah. In 2005, Kuwait had 39 merchant ships in service with a capacity of 2,319,082 gross registered tons. In 2005, there were seven airports, four of which had paved runways. Air transportation is highly advanced, with Kuwait Airways providing service to and from the major Middle Eastern and European cities. In 2003, the airline carried 2.2 million passengers on domestic and international flights.

12 History

By the sixth century bc, the Arab coast of the Persian Gulf was a principal supply route for trade with India. Its people converted to Islam in the seventh century ad, during the lifetime of Muhammad.

Kuwait’s recent history starts in 1716, when members of the tribe of Aniza migrated from the Arabian Desert to a tiny Gulf coastal area, later to be called Kuwait (a form of the word kut meaning “fort”). In 1756, the settled tribesmen chose as their ruler Sheikh Sabah ‘Abd ar-Rahim, founder of the present ruling dynasty. During the latter part of the century, raids by land and by sea resulted in the decline of Kuwait, but after the British crackdown on piracy in the region, trading and shipbuilding prospered.

At the end of the 19th century, Sheikh Mubarak as-Sabah, fearing the territorial ambitions of the Ottoman Turks, asked to be taken under British protection. The British, in turn, were concerned not only by Turkish claims but also by the activities of Russia and Germany in the area. In 1899, Sheikh Mubarak agreed not to open any of his territory to foreign control. In return, the British offered their services as well as an annual subsidy to support the sheikh and his heirs.

On 19 June 1961, the protective treaty with the United Kingdom was terminated by mutual consent and Kuwait declared itself fully independent. By this time, the sheikhdom had already become a major oil producer. Iraq refused to recognize Kuwait’s independence, asserting it had inherited the Ottoman claim to the territory. Baghdad’s threat of an invasion was foiled by British troops and later by the support of the Arab League. Iraq then appeared to agree to Kuwait’s sovereignty, although border issues were never definitely resolved. During the next two decades, Kuwait succeeded in establishing an open and prosperous economy, based in large part on foreign, especially Palestinian and Egyptian, labor.

During the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), Kuwait, although technically neutral, provided important aid to Baghdad, including shipment of goods and more than $6 billion in loans. In 1987, Iranian attacks on Persian Gulf shipping led Kuwait to request U.S. protection for its supertankers.

With the end of the war, Iraq-Kuwait relations were stable until 1990 when Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, accused his neighbor of illegally pumping oil from the shared Rumailia field. On 2 August 1990, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, asserting that they were rightfully reclaiming their own territory. Kuwaiti defense forces offered little resistance and most senior officials fled the country.

The United States led an international coalition of Arab and other nations to demand the withdrawal of Iraqi forces. After a lengthy buildup of forces, Iraq was assaulted by massive air and land forces; after six weeks, its defenses collapsed and Kuwait was liberated in February 1991. Kuwait’s leaders returned to find a hostile population that resented their abandonment and demanded greater political participation. Enormous physical damage had been inflicted on the country, including more than 700 oil well fires that did serious ecological damage before being extinguished after almost nine months of effort.

The regime and many Kuwaitis turned harshly against those suspected of collaboration with Iraq, and much of the large Palestinian community was ejected from the country. Relations with Iraq remained tense. Kuwait’s vulnerability to a possible attack from Iraq or Iran drew the nation closer to the United States, which was willing to offer enhanced security collaboration.

In October 1994, Iraq began moving 60,000 troops to within 32 kilometers (20 miles) of the Kuwaiti border. The United Nations Security Council condemned Iraq’s actions. Kuwait then

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jabir Al-Sabah

Position: Emir of a nominal constitutional monarchy

Took Office: 29 January 2006

Birthdate: 1929

Education: Completed his education under tutors

agreed to let the United States station a squadron of warplanes there. On 10 November 1994, Iraq agreed to recognize the independence and borders of Kuwait. In April 1996, an international military exercise was held in Kuwait by some of its Persian Gulf War allies. The United Nations also renewed its multinational force of border observers to oversee the demilitarized zone that separates Kuwait from Iraq.

Although some of its neighbors in the Persian Gulf began to pursue closer ties with Iraq over the following years, Kuwait maintained its vigilance against the regime of Saddam Hussein. At the end of 1998 it supported North Atlantic Treaty Organization air strikes against Iraq. In January 1999, Kuwait placed its military on full alert in response to renewed threats from Iraq.

On 8 November 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1441, calling on Iraq to disarm itself immediately of weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons), and to allow for the return of UN weapons inspectors (they were expelled from the country in 1998). The United States adopted a firm position toward Iraq’s disarmament, which it believed was not taking place. On 19 March 2003, the United States launched air strikes on Baghdad and the war in Iraq began. Iraq fired a number of missiles at Kuwait and one struck a mall in Kuwait City, but this attack resulted in no deaths. The regime of Saddam Hussein was toppled on 9 April. U.S. soldiers increasingly came under attack in Iraq following the end of major hostilities.

In May 1999, the emir of Kuwait dissolved the national assembly in the wake of a longstanding political deadlock between government and opposition forces. The opposition gained ground in the national elections held that July, however, with both Islamists and liberals winning addition seats. Among the matters awaiting parliamentary consideration was a controversial decree by the emir that would have allowed women to vote and run for office by the next election, scheduled for 2003. On 23 November 1999, parliament voted against the emir’s decree to grant full political rights to women.

In July 2003, the emir appointed Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (known as Sheikh Sabah) prime minister, separating the post from the role of heir to the throne for the first time since independence. In May 2005, parliament approved constitutional amendments to give women full political rights. In June, the first female cabinet minister was appointed.

Sheikh Sabah, who had been running the country as prime minister since 2003, became emir in January 2006. Sheikh Sabah then appointed his nephew, Sheikh Nasser Muhammad Al-Ahmen Al-Sabah, to the post of prime minister.

13 Government

Kuwait is an independent, sovereign Arab state, under a constitutional monarch. Executive power is vested in the emir, who exercises it through a council of ministers. The as-Sabah family, advised by wealthy merchants and other community leaders, dominates the government (the emir must be a descendant of Mubarak as-Sabah). The national assembly (Majlis) consists of 50 elected representatives. There are five governorates, but political authority is highly centralized in the capital. A tradition of diwaniyya, or family or tribal gatherings, serves as a forum for debate in society.

14 Political Parties

Political parties are prohibited, but opposition groups are active in the nation’s political life. Muslim fundamentalists held 17 of 50 seats in the national assembly in 1996. Following the 1999 elections, the assembly was split almost evenly between pro-government, liberal, and Islamic members.

The Islamists are divided between the Ikhwan, which traces its political antecedents to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and two Salafi groups that draw inspiration from Saudi Arabia.

15 Judicial System

A tribunal of first instance has jurisdiction over matters involving personal status, civil and commercial cases, and criminal cases, except those of a religious nature. The high court of appeals, the highest in the land, has jurisdiction over appeals involving personal status and civil cases, as well as those involving commercial and criminal cases. Ordinary criminal cases may be appealed to the high court of appeals. The superior constitutional court interprets the constitution. A military court handles offenses committed by members of the security forces. Religious courts, Sunni and Shiite, decide family law matters according to Muslim law.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

16 Armed Forces

Kuwait’s armed forces totaled 15,500 volunteers in 2005. The army had 11,000 personnel, the air force numbered 2,500, and the navy had 2,000 personnel. There is a 6,600-member national guard. The defense budget in 2005 was estimated at $4.3 billion.

17 Economy

The Kuwaiti standard of living was among the highest in the Middle East and in the world by the early 1980s. The government has used its oil revenues to build ports, roads, an international airport, a seawater distillation plant, and modern government and office buildings.

Kuwait’s economy suffered enormously from the effects of the Persian Gulf War and the Iraqi occupation, which ended in February 1991 with the destruction of much of Kuwait’s oil production capacity and other economic resources. The damage inflicted on the economy was estimated at $20 billion.

The gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate rose 17.22% in 1999, and then an extraordinary 26.88% in 2000. GDP growth in 2001 was 4% and inflation was down to 2%. In 2002, the GDP growth rate slumped to -2.0%, but recovered, jumping to 10% in 2003 and 7.2% in 2004.

18 Income

In 2005, the gross domestic product (GDP) was $51.6 billion, or about $22,100 per person. In 2005, the average annual growth rate of the GDP was 8%. The inflation rate in 2002 stood at 3.5%.

19 Industry

Although oil extraction continues to be the economic mainstay, Kuwait has diversified its industry to give manufacturing a larger role. Small-scale manufacturing plants produce ammonia, fertilizer, paper products, processed foods, and other consumer goods. Major refinery products are fuel oil, gas oil, naphtha, kerosene, and diesel fuel. Industrial products include desalinated water, chemical detergents, chlorine, caustic soda, urea, concrete pipes, soap, flour, cleansers, asbestos, and bricks. The construction industry is highly developed. Manufacturing all but stopped during the Iraqi invasion of 1990 due to shortages of raw material and looting of equipment. After liberation, industry was hard-hit by the departure of Palestinian skilled labor.

20 Labor

In 2005, the labor force amounted to 1.7 million, approximately 80% of whom were not Kuwaiti nationals. Many laborers from developing countries are willing to tolerate poor or unhealthy working conditions in order to earn wages significantly higher than those available in their own countries.

The minimum working age is 18, although children who are at least 16 years old may work limited hours in non-hazardous occupations. Foreign workers must be at least 18 to work in Kuwait. In 2002, the public-sector minimum wage was about $742 per month for citizens and $296 per month for non-citizens.

21 Agriculture

Only about 1% of the total land area is utilized for the cultivation of crops and farming contributes a negligible amount to the non-oil GDP. Agricultural output in 2004 included 185,620 tons of vegetables and melons and 16,900 tons of fruit.

22 Domesticated Animals

When the desert is green (from the middle of March to the end of April), about one-fourth of Kuwait’s meat supply is provided locally. The 2005 livestock population included 28,000 head of cattle, 900,000 sheep, 150,000 goats, and 32.5 million chickens. Production in 2005 was estimated at 80,535 tons of poultry meat. A small number of Bedouins raise camels, goats, and sheep for meat and milk.

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

23 Fishing

Small boats catch enough fish to satisfy local demand. The main types of fish caught include sardines, mackerel, tuna, shark, barracuda, and mullet. Crabs, crayfish, and oysters are plentiful. The fish catch in 2003 totaled 6,095 tons.

24 Forestry

There are no natural forests in Kuwait. Imports of forest products totaled $108 million in 2004.

25 Mining

In addition to petroleum and natural gas, Kuwait produces chlorine, cement, clays, salt, and sand and gravel. Cement production rose to 1.6 million tons in 2004. Ammonia production in 2004 was 413,400 tons.

26 Foreign Trade

Since the end of the Persian Gulf War, exports have consisted exclusively of oil and gas. Imports include chemicals, construction materials, petroleum

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

equipment, iron and steel commodities, cement, timber, foodstuffs, electrical apparatus, power tools, household equipment, and motor vehicles. Kuwait’s major trading partners are the United States, Japan, the Netherlands, and Singapore.

27 Energy and Power

With proven reserves of about 101.5 billion barrels in 2005, Kuwait possesses about 8% of the known global resources of petroleum. During the Iraqi occupation and the Persian Gulf War, oil production totally ceased, resuming in June 1991. Losses during the invasion cost Kuwait $120 million per day.

In 2005, Kuwait’s average daily production was estimated at 2.6 million barrels, surpassing pre-invasion levels. All electric power is produced thermally from oil or natural gas. Electric power production reached 32.4 billion kilowatt-hours in 2002.

28 Social Development

Kuwait has a widespread system of social welfare that is financed by government oil revenues. It offers welfare services for the poor, provides free medical service and education to all residents, and spends heavily on waterworks, public gardens, and other public facilities. Social insurance

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorKuwait Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$21,610 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate1.0% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land138 803032
Life expectancy in years: male75 587675
female79 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people1.5 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)13 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)93.3% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people418 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people235 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)9,566 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)25.33 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

legislation provides for old-age, disability, and survivor pensions.

Women are denied equal rights and legal protection, and their testimony in a court of law is not considered to be equal to that of men. Female political parties are banned, and women are not allowed to vote or seek political office. Some women occupy professional positions, however, and 33% of women of working age are employed.

Abusive treatment of foreign domestic servants also is an ongoing social problem. Bedouins are not entitled to citizenship and are unable to legally work. In 2004, they were able to enroll their children in school, and health care became available in 2005.

29 Health

Kuwait has a highly advanced public health service that is extended to all Kuwaiti residents, regardless of citizenship. The entire population has access to health care services. As of 2004, there were an estimated 150 physicians, 391 nurses, and 29 dentists per 100,000 people. Influenza is common and measles has resulted in a high death rate among children up to age five. Malaria is also common. Life expectancy in 2005 was 77 years and infant mortality was 9.9 per 1,000 live births. In 2001 the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence was 0.12 cases per 100 adults.

According to the 1995 census, there were 255,477 households in Kuwait. About 50% of all housing units were apartments, 19% were detached homes, and 15% were traditional dwellings (mostly small cottages and mud huts). In 2000– 01 there were 8,875 government housing projects and 3,118 new dwellings constructed.

31 Education

Kuwait offers its citizens free education, including free food, clothing, books, stationery, and transportation, from kindergarten through the fourth year of college. Most foreigners are not eligible for free education and must register their children at a private school. In 2003, the student-to-teacher ratio averaged 13 to 1 in the primary schools. About 83% of primary-school-aged children enrolled in school in 2003. About 80% of age-eligible students attended secondary school in 2003.

Kuwait University was opened in 1966 with 866 students. By 1995, it had a student enrollment of 12,712 and a graduating class of 1,880. The government has adopted a program to wipe out illiteracy by opening adult education centers. As of 2006, the adult literacy rate was estimated at 93.3%.

32 Media

In 2003, there were an estimated 198 mainline telephones and 578 mobile phones for every 1,000 people. In 1998, there were 6 AM and 11 FM radio stations and 13 television stations. In 2003, there were 570 radios for every 1,000 people. In 2003, there were 418 televisions for every 1,000 people. In 2001, there were 165,000 Internet subscribers served by three service providers.

As of 2002, Kuwait had eight daily newspapers. Major Arabic dailies (with estimated 2002 circulation), include Al-Anbaa (The News, 106,830), Al-Rai al-’Amm (Public Opinion, 86,900), and Al Jameheer (83,000). English-language dailies include the Arab Times (41,920) and Kuwait Times (28,000).

33 Tourism and Recreation

By the second anniversary of the Iraqi invasion (which took place in 1990), the government was well on its way to restoring the country’s extensive pre-war accommodations, although hotel prices rose steeply after the war. In 2001, there were 1,988 hotel rooms with a total of 2,857 beds. That year there were 2.1 million foreign visitors to Kuwait and tourism receipts reached $328 million.

34 Famous Kuwaitis

Emir Sir ‘Abdallah as-Salim as-Sabah (1870–1965) was revered as a man of simplicity, devotion, and deep concern for his people. His successors as emir have been Sabah as-Salim as-Sabah (1913–77), who ruled from 1965 to 1977; and Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah (1926–2006), who was succeeded by Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jabir Al-Sabah (1929– ) in 2006.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock, ed. Remembering Childhood in the Middle East: Memoirs from a Century of Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Foster, Leila. Merrell. Kuwait. New York: Children’s Press, 1998.

Isiorho, S. A. Kuwait. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.

Korman, Susan. Kuwait. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003.

Marcovitz, Hal. Kuwait. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.

WEB SITES

Aquastat. www.fao.org/ag/Agl/AGLW/aquastat/countries/kuwait/index.stm. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Analysis Briefs. www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Kuwait/Background.html. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/nea/ci/c2400.htm. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Government Home Page. www.kuwait-embassy.or.jp/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Kuwait

Kuwait

Compiled from the November 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
State of Kuwait

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

DEFENSE

U.S.-KUWAITI RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 17,820 sq. km. (6,880 sq. mi.); approximately the size of the State of New Jersey.

Cities: Capital—Kuwait City.

Terrain: Almost entirely flat desert plain (highest elevation point—306 m).

Climate: Summers are intensely hot and dry with average highs ranging from 42o-49°C (108o-120°F); winters are short (Dec.-Feb.) and cool, averaging 10o-30°C (50o-80°F), with limited rain.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Kuwaiti(s).

Population: (Dec. 2006 est.) 3,052,000, including approximately 1 million Kuwaiti citizens and 2 million non-Kuwaiti citizens.

Annual growth rate: (2006 est.) 3.52%.

Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 35%, other Arab 22%, non-Arab (primarily Asian) 39%, stateless Arabs (bidoon) 4%.

Religion: Muslim 85% (Sunni 70%, Shi’a 30% among Kuwaitis), with small Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Sikh communities.

Languages: Arabic (official), English is widely spoken.

Education: Compulsory from ages 6-14; free at all levels for Kuwaitis, including higher education. Adult literacy (age 15 and over)—83.5% for the overall population (male 85.1%, female 81.7%), 91.2% for Kuwaitis (male 91.4%, female 90.8%).

Health: Infant mortality rate (2006 est.)—9.71 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2006 est.)—76.13 yrs. male, 78.31 yrs. female.

Work force: (2002 actual) 1.364 million (of which about 19% are Kuwaiti nationals. 62.7% male; 37.3% female).

Government

Type: Constitutional hereditary emirate.

Independence: June 19, 1961 (from U.K.).

Constitution: Approved and promulgated November 11, 1962.

Government branches: Executive—Amir (head of state); prime minister (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by prime minister and approved by the Amir. Legislative—unicameral elected National Assembly (Majlis al’Umma) of 50 members who serve 4-year terms. Judicial—High Court of Appeal.

Political subdivisions: Six governorates (muhafazat) Al ‘Asimah, Hawalli, Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra’, Mubarak Al-Kebir, and Al Farwaniyah.

Political parties: None; formal political parties are not officially recognized although de facto political blocs exist.

Elections: There are no executive branch elections; the Amir is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the Amir. Legislative branch elections were last held June 29, 2006. Municipal Council elections were held in April 2006.

Suffrage: Adult males and since May 16, 2005, adult females who are 21, have been citizens for 20 years, and are not in the security forces. In June 2006, women participated as voters and candidates in parliamentary elections for the first time.

Economy

GDP: (2004 est.) $48 billion.

Real GDP growth rate: (2004) 6.8%.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, fish.

Agriculture: (about 0.3% of GDP) With the exception of fish, most food is imported. Cultivated land—1%.

Industry: (about 60% of GDP) Types—petroleum extraction and refining, fertilizer, chemicals, desali-nation, construction materials.

Services: (about 39% of GDP) public administration, finance, real estate, trade, hotels and restaurants

Trade: (2004) Exports —$27.42 billion: oil (91.3%). Major markets—Japan 25%, South Korea 13%, U.S. 12%, Singapore 10%, Netherlands 4.5%. Imports—$11.12 billion: food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing. Major suppliers—U.S. 13%, Japan 11%, Germany 9%, U.K. 6%, Saudi Arabia 6%.

PEOPLE

Over 90% of the country’s estimated population of 3 million lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Although the majority of people residing in the State of Kuwait are of Arab origin, less than half are originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1938 drew many Arabs from nearby states. Following the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the Kuwaiti Government undertook a serious effort to reduce the expatriate population by specifically limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. Kuwait later abandoned this policy, and it currently has a sizable foreign labor force (over 60% of the total population).

Of the country’s total population, approximately 2.6 million are Muslims, including nearly all of its 973,000 citizens. While the national census does not distinguish between Sunni and Shi’a adherents, the majority of citizens, including the ruling family, belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The total Sunni Muslim population is approximately 1.8 million, 681,100 of whom are citizens. The remaining 30% of Muslim citizens (approximately 778,260) are Shi’a. The Christian population is estimated to be more than 300,000 residents, including about 200 citizens. There also are communities of Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs.

Kuwait’s 83.5% literacy rate, one of the Arab world’s highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system. Public school education, including Kuwait University, is free, but access is restricted for foreign residents. The government sponsors the foreign study of qualified students abroad for degrees not offered at Kuwait University. In 2004, approximately 1,720 Kuwaitis were enrolled in U.S. universities, down 6.8% from the previous year.

HISTORY

Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait’s nine islands, suggests it was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. Failaka appears to have continued to serve as a market for approximately 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. Despite its long history as a market and sanctuary for traders, Failaka appears to have been abandoned as a permanent settlement in the 1st century A.D. Kuwait’s modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar.

Threatened in the 19th century by the Ottoman Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups, Kuwait sought the same treaty relationship Britain had already signed with the Trucial States (UAE) and Bahrain. In January 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah—”the Great”—signed an agreement with the British Government that pledged himself and his successors neither to cede any territory, nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government’s consent, in exchange for protection and an annual subsidy. When Mubarak died in 1915, the population of Kuwait of about 35,000 was heavily dependent on shipbuilding (using wood imported from India) and pearl diving.

Mubarak was succeeded as ruler by his sons Jabir (1915-17) and Salim (1917-21). Kuwait’s subsequent rulers have descended from these two brothers. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah ruled Kuwait from 1921 until his death in 1950, a period in which oil was discovered and in which the government attempted to establish the first internationally recognized boundaries; the 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait’s border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 sq. km. (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait’s southern border.

Kuwait achieved independence from the British under Sheikh Ahmed’s successor, Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah. By early 1961, the British had already withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.

Kuwait enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity under Amir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah, who died in 1977 after ruling for 12 years. Under his rule, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement dividing the Neutral Zone (now called the Divided Zone) and demarcating a new international boundary. Both countries share equally the Divided Zone’s petroleum, onshore and offshore. The country was transformed into a highly developed welfare state with a free market economy.

In August 1990, Iraq attacked and invaded Kuwait. Kuwait’s northern border with Iraq dates from an agreement reached with Turkey in 1913. Iraq accepted this claim in 1932 upon its independence from Turkey. However, following Kuwait’s independence in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, arguing that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the “Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters.”

Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a UN-mandated coalition led by the United States began a ground assault in February 1991 that liberated Kuwait. During the 7-month occupation by Iraq, the Amir, the Government of Kuwait, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia and other nations. The Amir and the government successfully managed Kuwaiti affairs from Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and war-related expenses.

Following liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and the 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in UN Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by princes (Amirs) who have been drawn from the Al Sabah family for over 200 years. The 1962 constitution provides for an elected National Assembly and details the powers of the branches of government and the rights of citizens. Under the Constitution, the National Assembly has a limited role in approving the Amir’s choice of the Crown Prince, who succeeds the Amir upon his death. If the National Assembly rejects his nominee, the Amir then submits three names of qualified candidates from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, from which the Assembly must choose the new Crown Prince. Successions have been orderly since independence.

For almost 40 years, the Amir appointed the Crown Prince as Kuwait’s Prime Minister. However, in an unprecedented development, the Amir formally separated the two positions and appointed a new Prime Minister in July 2003. Kuwait’s first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to

1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. On May 4, 1999, the Amir once again dissolved the National Assembly. This time, however, it was done through entirely constitutional means, and new elections were held on July 3, 1999. The most recent general election, held in June 2006, was considered free and fair and was marked by the participation of women for the first time as voters and candidates who introduced social and educational issues to the political debate. The government does not officially recognize political parties; however, de facto political blocs, typically organized along ideological lines, exist and are active in the National Assembly. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decision-making, with powers to initiate legislation, question (grill) cabinet ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women’s suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation. In May 2005, the National Assembly approved legislation granting women full political rights. Subsequently the Prime Minister appointed Kuwait’s first female minister, Dr. Masouma Al-Mubarak, as Planning Minister and Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs, and the government appointed two women to Kuwait’s Municipal Council. Following the May 2006 constitutional dissolution of parliament and subsequent elections, Dr. Masouma remained the only woman in the cabinet, reap-pointed as Minister of Communications.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/18/2006

Amir: SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah

Prime Minister: NASIR al-Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah

First Dep. Prime Min.: JABIR Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah

Dep. Prime Min.: MUHAMMAD al-Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah

Dep. Prime Min.: Ismail al-SHATTI

Min. of Commerce & Industry: Falah al-HAJIRI

Min. of Communications: Mauma al-MUBARAK

Min. of Defense: JABIR Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah

Min. of Education & Higher Education: Adil al-TABTABAI

Min. of Energy & Oil: ALI al-Jarrah al-Sabah

Min. of Finance: Badr Mishari al-HUMAYDI

Min. of Foreign Affairs: MUHAMMAD al-Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah

Min. of Health: AHMAD al-Abdallah al-Ahmad al-Sabah

Min. of Information (Acting): AHMAD al-Abdallah al-Ahmad al-Sabah

Min. of Interior: JABIR Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah

Min. of Justice: Abdallah Abd al-Rahman al-MATUQ

Min. of Public Works: Badr Nasir al-HUMAYDI

Min. of Religious Endowment & Islamic Affairs: Abdallah Abd al-Rahman alMATUQ

Min. of Social Affairs & Labor: SABAH al-Khalid al-Hamad al-Sabah

Min. of State for Administrative Development Affairs:

Min. of State for Amiri Diwan Affairs: NASIR Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah

Min. of State for Cabinet Affairs: Ismail alSHATTI

Min. of State for Housing Affairs: Badr Nasir al-HUMAYDI

Min. of State for Municipality Affairs: Abdallah Saud al-MUHAILBI

Min. of State for National Assembly Affairs: Abd al-Hadi al-SALIH

Governor, Central Bank: SALIM Abd alAziz al-Sabah

Ambassador to the US: SALIM Abdallah al-Jabir al-Sabah

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Abdallah al-MURAD

Kuwait maintains an embassy in the United States at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. [1] (202)-966-0702).

ECONOMY

Kuwait has a small, relatively open economy dominated by the oil industry and government sector. Its proven crude oil reserves of about 98 billion barrels—10% of world reserves—account for nearly half of GDP, 95% of export revenues, and 80-90% of government income. During the 1970s, Kuwait benefited from the dramatic rise in oil prices, which Kuwait actively promoted through its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The economy suffered from the triple shock of a 1982 securities market crash, the mid-1980s drop in oil prices, and the 1990 Iraqi invasion and occupation. The Kuwaiti Government-in-exile depended upon its $100 billion in overseas investments during the Iraqi occupation in order to help pay for the reconstruction. Thus, by 1993, this balance was cut to less than half of its pre-invasion level. The wealth of Kuwait is based primarily on oil and capital reserves, and the Iraqi occupation severely damaged both. Kuwait has enjoyed a limited economic boom following Operation Iraqi Freedom as many companies working in Iraq have established offices in Kuwait and procured goods through Kuwaiti companies. The banking and construction sector, in particular, have grown in the last year. The sustained high oil price also provided the Kuwaiti Government with a substantial windfall in 2003 and 2004.

In the closing hours of the Gulf War in February 1991, the Iraqi occupation forces set ablaze or damaged 749 of Kuwait’s oil wells. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damage. Oil production was 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait’s current production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million bpd. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million bpd by 2008.

Oil

In 1934, the ruler of Kuwait granted an oil concession to the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), jointly owned by the British Petroleum Company and Gulf Oil Corporation. In 1976, the Kuwaiti Government nationalized KOC. The following year, Kuwait took over onshore production in the Divided Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. KOC produces jointly there with Texaco, Inc., which, by its 1984 purchase of Getty Oil Company, acquired the Saudi Arabian onshore concession in the Divided Zone.

Offshore, the Divided Zone, the Arabian Oil Company (AOC)—80% owned by Japanese interests and 10% each by the Kuwaiti and Saudi Governments—produced on behalf of both countries from 1961 until 2000, when its concession in the Saudi zone expired. AOC gave up its drilling rights in the Kuwaiti sector 3 years later. The Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Company—KPC) has assumed AOC’s offshore operations.

The KPC, an integrated international oil company, is the parent company of the government’s operations in the petroleum sector, and includes Kuwait Oil Company, which produced oil and gas; Kuwait National Petroleum Co., refining and domestic sales; Petrochemical Industries Co., producing ammonia and urea; Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Co., with several concessions in developing countries; Kuwait Oil Tanker Co.; and Santa Fe International Corp. The latter, purchased outright in 1982, gives KPC a worldwide presence in the petroleum industry.

KPC also has purchased from Gulf Oil Co. refineries and associated service stations in the Benelux nations and Scandinavia, as well as storage facilities and a network of service stations in Italy. In 1987, KPC bought a 19% share in British Petroleum, which was later reduced to 10%. KPC markets its products in Europe under the brand Q8 and is interested in the markets of the United States and Japan.

Kuwait has about 96.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil; only Saudi Arabia and Iraq have larger proven reserves. Estimated capacity before the occupation was about 2.4 million bpd. During the Iraqi occupation, Kuwait’s oil-producing capacity was reduced to practically nothing. However, tremendous recovery and improvements have been made. Oil production was 1.5 million bpd by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait’s production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million bpd. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million bpd by 2008. Oil revenues comprise 91% of total government revenues. 2004 saw a 31% increase in the average price of crude oil. Kuwaiti export crude averaged $32.7 for the year.

Social Benefits

The government has sponsored many social welfare, public works, and development plans financed with oil and investment revenues. Among the benefits for Kuwaiti citizens are retirement income, marriage bonuses, housing loans, virtually guaranteed employment, free medical services, and education at all levels. Foreign nationals residing in Kuwait do not have access to these welfare services. The right to own stock in publicly traded companies, real estate, and banks or a majority interest in a business is limited to Kuwaiti citizens, and citizens of GCC states under limited circumstances.

Industry and Development

Industry in Kuwait consists of several large export-oriented petrochemical units, oil refineries, and a range of small manufacturers. It also includes large water desalinization, ammonia, desulfurization, fertilizer, brick, block, and cement plants. During the invasion, the Iraqis looted nearly all movable equipment of value, especially high-technology items and small machinery. Much of this has been replaced with newer equipment. The Kuwaiti Government has promoted the Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) agreement, signed with the U.S. in 2004, as a means to attract additional foreign investment into Kuwaiti industries and enhance the country’s diversification from a purely oil-based economy.

Agriculture

Agriculture is limited by the lack of water and arable land. The government has experimented in growing food through hydroponics and carefully managed farms. However, most of the soil which was suitable for farming in south central Kuwait was destroyed when Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells in the area and created vast “oil lakes.” Fish and shrimp are plentiful in territorial waters, and large-scale commercial fishing has been undertaken locally and in the Indian Ocean.

Shipping

The Kuwait Oil Tankers Co. has 35 crude oil and refined product carriers and is the largest tanker company in an OPEC country. Kuwait also is a member of the United Arab Shipping Company.

Trade, Finance, and Aid

The Kuwaiti dinar is a strong currency pegged, since 2003, to the U.S. dollar. Kuwait ordinarily runs a balance-of-payments surplus, estimated as high as $24 billion for 2004. Government revenues are dependent on oil revenues. In 2004, Kuwait’s fiscal surplus was some 16% of GDP; government expenditures increased by about 14%, the most rapid rise in over 20 years.

The government’s two reserve funds—the Fund for Future Generations and the General Reserve Fund—which totaled nearly $100 billion prior to the invasion in 1990, were the primary source of capital for the Kuwaiti Government during the war. While these funds were depleted to $40-$50 billion after the war, they currently are estimated around $75 billion. The bulk of this reserve is invested in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Southeast Asia. In order of importance, foreign assets are believed to be invested in stocks and bonds, fixed yield instruments (mostly short term), and real estate. Kuwait follows a generally conservative investment policy.

Kuwait has been a major source of foreign economic assistance to other states through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), an autonomous state institution created in 1961 on the pattern of Western and international development agencies and chaired by the Foreign Minister. In 1974, the fund’s lending mandate was expanded to include all non-Arab-developing countries. Since its inception, KFAED has disbursed $11 billion in concessionary loans and technical grants to 102 countries worldwide. KFAED is responsible for administering the dispersal of at least $500 million in concessionary loans to Iraq in support of reconstruction efforts.

Over the years Kuwait has provided aid to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, as well as the Palestinian Authority. During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait also gave significant aid to the Iraqis. The Kuwait fund issued loans and technical assistance grants totaling over $419 million during its fiscal year ending March 31, 2003. Kuwaiti provided unparalleled assistance during Operation Iraqi Freedom by establishing and operating the Humanitarian Operations Center for Iraq.

At the 2003 Madrid Conference, the Government of Kuwait pledged $1.5 billion in assistance to Iraq. KFAED is responsible for disbursing and overseeing as much as $560 million of that assistance through grants. In 2005, KFAED contributed $50 million to Pakistan earthquake relief, pledged $500 million for Hurricane Katrina relief, and made significant contributions to tsunami relief efforts.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Following independence in June 1961, Kuwait faced its first major foreign policy problem arising from Iraqi claims to Kuwait’s territory. The Iraqis threatened invasion but were dissuaded by the U.K.’s ready response to the Amir’s request for assistance. Kuwait presented its case before the United Nations and preserved its sovereignty. U.K. forces were later withdrawn and replaced by troops from Arab League nations, which were withdrawn in 1963 at Kuwait’s request.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Through U.S. efforts, a multinational coalition was assembled, and, under UN auspices, initiated military action against Iraq to liberate Kuwait. Arab states, especially the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates), Egypt, and Syria, supported Kuwait by sending troops to fight with the coalition. Many European and East Asian states sent troops, equipment, and/or financial support.

After liberation, Kuwait concentrated its foreign policy efforts on development of ties to states which had participated in the multinational coalition. Notably, these states were given the lead role in Kuwait’s reconstruction. Kuwait’s relations with those nations that supported Iraq, among them Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, and Cuba, were slow to recover. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasir Arafat’s support for Saddam Hussein during the war also affected Kuwait’s attitudes toward the PLO though Kuwait supports the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The Government of Kuwait has abandoned its previous policy of limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. In August 2001, the Interior Minister announced that there were no longer any special restrictions or permits required for Palestinian workers wishing to return to the country. At the end of 2002, there were approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians, 30,000 to 40,000 Jordanians, and 5,000 Yemenis resident in Kuwait.

Since liberation from Iraq, Kuwait has made efforts to secure allies throughout the world, particularly UN Security Council members. In addition to the United States, defense arrangements have been concluded with the United Kingdom, Russia, and France. Ties to other key Arab members of the Gulf War coalition—Egypt and Syria—also have been sustained.

During the 2002-03 buildup to and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Kuwait was a vital coalition partner, reserving a full 60% of its total land mass for use by coalition forces and donating significant assistance in kind to the effort. Kuwait continues to provide generous assistance in kind to ongoing coalition operations in Iraq. Kuwait has been consistently involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq, pledging $1.5 billion at the October 2003 international donors’ conference in Madrid, and consulting closely with Iraqi officials, including former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaffari, who visited Kuwait in late October 2005, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who visited in July 2006. Kuwait has been an active and vocal public supporter of the political process in Iraq, welcoming the January 2005 elections and praising Iraq’s October 2005 successful constitutional referendum. Iraqi President Talibani visited Kuwait in September 2006.

Kuwait is a member of the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank (IBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); African Development Bank (AFDB), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), Arab League, Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Group of 77 (G-77), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), INMARSAT, International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labor Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization, Interpol, IOC, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

DEFENSE

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait maintained a small military force consisting of army, navy, and air force units. The majority of equipment for the military was supplied by the United Kingdom. Aside from the few units that were able to escape to Saudi Arabia, including a majority of the air force, all of this equipment was either destroyed or taken by the Iraqis. Much of the property returned by Iraq after the Gulf War was damaged beyond repair. Iraq retained a substantial amount of captured Kuwaiti military equipment in violation of UN resolutions.

Since liberation, Kuwait, with the help of the United States and other allies, has made significant efforts to increase the size and modernity of its armed forces. These efforts are succeeding. The government also continues to improve defense arrangements with other Arab states, as well as UN Security Council members. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, Kuwaiti military elements successfully operated missile defense systems.

A separately organized National Guard maintains internal security. The police constitute a single national force under the purview of civilian authorities of the Ministry of Interior.

U.S.-KUWAITI RELATIONS

The United States opened a consulate in Kuwait in October 1951, which was elevated to embassy status at the time of Kuwait’s independence 10 years later. The United States supports Kuwait’s sovereignty, security, and independence, as well as its multilateral diplomatic efforts to build greater cooperation among the GCC countries.

Strategic cooperation between the United States and Kuwait increased in 1987 with the implementation of a maritime protection regime that ensured the freedom of navigation through the Gulf for 11 Kuwaiti tankers that were reflagged with U.S. markings.

The U.S.-Kuwaiti strategic partnership intensified dramatically again after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The United States spearheaded UN Security Council demands that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and its authorization of the use of force, if necessary, to remove Iraqi forces from the occupied country. The Untied States also played a dominant role in the development of the multinational military operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait. The U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship has remained strong in the post-Gulf War period. Kuwait and the United States worked on a daily basis to monitor and to enforce Iraq’s compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and Kuwait also provided the main platform for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Since Kuwait’s liberation, the United States has provided military and defense technical assistance to Kuwait from both foreign military sales (FMS) and commercial sources. All transactions have been made by direct cash sale. The U.S. Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait is attached to the American embassy and manages the FMS program. There are currently 98 FMS contracts between the U.S. military and the Kuwait Ministry of Defense totaling $6.84 billion. Principal U.S. military systems currently purchased by the Kuwait Defense Forces are Patriot Missile systems, F-18 Hornet fighters, the M1A2 main battle tank, and the Apache helicopter.

Kuwaiti attitudes toward American products have been favorable since the Gulf War. In 1993, Kuwait publicly announced abandonment of the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab boycott of Israel (those aspects affecting U.S. firms). The United States is currently Kuwait’s largest supplier of goods and services, and Kuwait is the fifth-largest market in the Middle East. U.S. exports to Kuwait totaled $902 million in 2002. Provided their prices are reasonable, U.S. firms have a competitive advantage in many areas requiring advanced technology, such as oil field equipment and services, electric power generation and distribution equipment, telecommunications gear, consumer goods, and military equipment. Kuwait also is an important partner in the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and intelligence arenas and also supporting efforts to block financing of terrorist groups. In January 2005, Kuwait Security Services forces engaged in gun battles with local extremists, resulting in fatalities on both sides in the first such incident in Kuwait’s history.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

KUWAIT (E) Address: Al-Masjed AlAqsa Street, Bayan, Plot 14; APO/FPO: PSC 1280, Box #, APO AE 09880; Phone: (965) 259-1001; Fax: 965-538-0282; Workweek: Sat-Wed/0800-1600; Website: http://Kuwait.usembassy.gov.

AMB:Richard B. LeBaron
AMB OMS:Janice G. Smith
DCM:Matthew H. Tueller
DCM OMS:Barbara Simpson
POL:Donald Blome
CON:Santiago Busa, Jr.
MGT:Brian R. Moran
AFSA:Willeah E. Cato
CLO:Lizbeth Rice/Ghana H. Conord
CUS:James C. Piatt
DAO:Lt. Colonel Robert Friedenberg U.S. Army
DEA:Amembassy Cairo
ECO:Timothy Lenderking
EEO:Tanya Anderson
FAA/CASLO:FAA-Amemb Manama
FCS:Erik Hunt
FMO:James C. Maher
GSO:Beverly Rochester-Johnson
IBB:Gaines Johnson
ICASS Chair:Jim Piatt
IMO:George M. Navadel
IPO:Dwayne E. Singleton
IRS:Kathy Beck
ISO:Anup Y. Shah
ISSO:Anup Y. Shah
LAB:Mark Rosenshield
MLO:Brig Gen Mark Solo
PAO:Tanya C. Anderson
RSO:Mark S. Conord
State ICASS:Santiago Busa, Jr.

Last Updated: 1/23/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : November 29, 2006

Country Description: Kuwait is a small, oil-rich constitutional monarchy with 10% of proven world oil reserves. Foreign workers constitute approximately 80% of the labor force. Kuwaiti citizens constitute only 34% of the country’s population of 2.9 million, and enjoy the benefits of a generous social welfare system that guarantees employment, housing, education and medical care. Facilities for travelers are widely available.

Entry/Exit Requirements: Pass-ports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. U.S. citizens can obtain visitor visas for a fee at the port of entry in Kuwait. Travelers who overstay their visas may face serious fines when leaving Kuwait. Travelers who leave Kuwait without completing Kuwaiti exit procedures may face serious fines if they return to and attempt to depart from Kuwait. This includes travelers proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq. For further information on entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318. Visit the Kuwait Information Office – USA web site at http://www.kuwait-info.org/ for the most current visa information. Kuwaiti officials are sensitive about travel to Iraq. There have been instances in which Americans, especially those of Iraqi descent, have been detained for questioning at ports of entry/exit. Americans seeking to travel to Iraq through Kuwait have also on occasion been turned around and/or detained. On a number of occasions the border between Iraq and Kuwait has been closed without notice, stranding Americans on either side of the border.

Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, or involved in unresolved financial disputes with local business partners, are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. In purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor pledges funds equal to the amount in dispute. Once such legal orders are in place, the U.S. Embassy can assist American citizens in obtaining legal representation, but cannot overcome the ban on exit from the country until the matter is resolved.

Safety and Security: Americans in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Americans considering travel to Kuwait should review the Department of State’s Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement.

All U.S. citizens in Kuwait should exercise caution, maintain a low profile, and avoid areas where Westerners are known to congregate. Heightened security awareness should be exercised in all hotels and residential complexes, as terrorists in the past have specifically targeted hotel chains perceived as Western and a variety of Western housing facilities. Military members, as well as civilians and contractors related to military interests, are also possible targets.

Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings and assassinations. Increased security at official U.S. facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas and apartment complexes, schools and places of worship, oil-related facilities and personnel, and public areas where people congregate including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. U.S. citizens are advised to immediately report any unusual or suspicious activity in Kuwait to the Kuwaiti police or to the U.S. Embassy.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement and Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait has an active warden program and records warden notices in both English and Arabic for audio playback. The English-language notices can be heard by calling +965-259-1048 and the Arabic-language notices are available at +965-259-1049.

Crime: The crime threat in Kuwait is assessed as low. Violent crimes against expatriates are rare, but do occur. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States or any other large city abroad. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems. The Kuwaiti police accept crime reports at the police station with jurisdiction where the crime occurred. If filing a crime report, it is advisable that an American citizen be accompanied by a person who speaks Arabic or a local attorney (the Embassy’s List of Attorneys is available on the Embassy website at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/attorneys.html). Filing a crime report can take several hours as a police investigator will take the victim’s statement orally while composing his investigative report. In all cases of abuse, the victim must obtain a medical report from a Kuwaiti hospital in order to file a police report.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: The health care system continues to develop, with many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards, and staffs often have no U.S. experience or training.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Kuwait is hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speeding on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 2.8 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. In 2005, reported vehicular accidents rose again over the previous year to 56,253. In 2005, there were 451 traffic-accident-related deaths, also an increase over the previous year. The average age of death was between 21 and 30 years. There are now over one million motor vehicles registered in Kuwait. Incidents of road rage, inattention and distraction on the part of drivers, poor driving skills, and highway brinkmanship are common in Kuwait, and can be unsettling to Western drivers in Kuwait who are accustomed to more rigid adherence to traffic laws.

The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus services throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes, which are widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Call-taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations upon telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark. It is now possible to hail taxis on streets. Taxis have meters, but fares are more commonly negotiated.

Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf. The Government of Kuwait may provide American citizens with a Kuwaiti driver license if their valid American driver license is first certified by the American Embassy. This service costs 9KD and is available from the American Citizens Services Unit of the Consular Section. The Embassy’s certification must be authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American permit must be translated by an approved translation service. Additional information is available at the Embassy’s Consular Section. If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. The use of seatbelts in the front seats is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender. When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.

Kuwait has one of the highest rates of cellular telephone ownership per capita in the world. Using a cellular telephone while driving remains legal. Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and are often not trained paramedics. Visit the website of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior at www.moi.gov.kw for information and statistics in Arabic about traffic safety and road conditions in Kuwait.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Kuwait’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Kuwait’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: The workweek in Kuwait is Saturday through Wednesday for most businesses and government offices; it is Sunday through Thursday for commercial banks. Kuwaiti customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of items such as firearms, religious material, pornography, and alcohol. Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Travelers with prescription medications should carry them in their original packaging or bottle, as dispensed, and carry a copy of their prescription in case customs authorities question their importation into Kuwait. Kuwaiti customs authorities screen the baggage of all travelers entering Kuwait. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington or Kuwait’s Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Photographing government and public buildings, military installations, and economic infrastructure, particularly that related to the oil industry, is against the law and can result in arrest, investigation, and prosecution. Also, some traditionally-dressed women find being photographed to be offensive and may complain to the local police. If photographing public scenes or persons, visitors should take care not to inadvertently cause offense that could lead to an official complaint to the authorities.

Humiliating a person, a police officer, or a public official is a crime in Kuwait similar to disorderly conduct or harassment in the United States. A person charged with humiliating another is subject to police investigation and possible prosecution. Persons under investigation can be prevented from departing Kuwait. Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kuwaiti laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Kuwait. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid AlAqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is P.O. Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-259-1001 or 259-1002. The fax number is 965-259-1438 or 538-0282. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy’s Internet web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov.

International Parental Child Abduction : February 2007

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Kuwait is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Kuwait and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Kuwait are subject to the jurisdiction of Kuwait courts, as well as to the country’s laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Kuwait with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes: Cases involving divorce and the custody of minor children are adjudicated in religious courts. If the marriage partners are Muslim, disputes will be resolved before an Islamic Shari’a court which will apply principles of the Islamic sect (Shia or Sunni or mixed) of the parties involved. A Shari’a court would also hear a dispute between a Muslim husband and non-Muslim wife. Marriage between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is prohibited in Kuwait. In the case of Christians, the court will be an Ecclesiastical Court composed of clergymen from the appropriate religious community, who will refer to the principles governing family status in the Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church or other Christian denomination.

In both theory and practice, Muslim and Christian courts in Kuwait differ very little in how they resolve disputes over the custody of children of divorced or separated parents. The relevant laws all give priority for custodianship to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. However, once the children reach adolescence, the father can appeal for custody, except in the Sunni sect where the daughter stays with her mother until marriage. If a court finds the mother not fit to have custody, a maternal grandmother living in Kuwait or a paternal grandmother (if the maternal grandmother is not living in Kuwait) will be given custody until the children reach the age at which the father may appeal for custody.

In actual practice, the conditions placed on the mother’s primary right to custody often enable the father to maintain a great deal of influence over the rearing of the children, even though he may not have legal custody. For example, the mother must seek his approval to depart Kuwait with the children. Frequently, the father is actually able to assume legal custody against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet the conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights.

A mother can lose her primary right to custody of a child in a number of ways. The court can determine that she is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. The mother can void her right to custody by re-marrying a party considered “unmarriageable,” or by residing in a home with people who might be “strangers” to the child. The mother may not deny visitation rights to the father or the paternal grandfather and may not travel outside Kuwait with the child without the father’s approval and the approval of the court. In general, a Kuwaiti man divorcing his non-Kuwaiti wife may be awarded legal custody of their children if the court determines that any of the above conditions have not been met. Under Shari’a law, if a mother removes a child from the father thus denying him access, the mother’s custody rights can be severed. An attempt to remove children from Kuwait without permission from the father is considered a criminal act in Kuwait. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Kuwaiti government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Kuwaiti law. A Kuwaiti father can remove his children from Kuwait without approval from the mother. A mother can seek a travel ban to prevent the father from taking the children out of Kuwait.

Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Kuwaiti court should retain an attorney in Kuwait. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office.

U.S. Embassy Kuwait
P.O. Box 77 Safat
13001 Safat
Kuwait
Phone: [965] 539-5307/5308
After hours emergency phone number: [965] 538-2097/2098
Fax: [965] 539-2484
Workweek: Saturday through
Wednesday

Office of Children’s Issues
SA-29
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520-2818
Phone: (202) 736-9090
Fax: (202) 312-9743

Specific questions regarding child custody in Kuwait should be addressed to an attorney practicing in Kuwait or to the Embassy of Kuwait at:

Embassy of the State of Kuwait
2940 Tilden Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 966-0702
Fax: (202) 966-0517

Enforcement of Foreign Judgements: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Kuwait if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices.

Visitation Rights: In cases where the father has custody of a child, the mother is guaranteed visitation rights. It has been the experience of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait that the father and the paternal grandparents of the child are generally very open and accommodating in facilitating the right of the mother to visit and maintain contact with the child.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized under Kuwaiti law. Children of Kuwaiti fathers automatically acquire Kuwaiti citizenship at birth, regardless of where the child was born. Women cannot transmit citizenship. Kuwaiti citizens must enter and exit the country on Kuwaiti passports.

Travel Restrictions: Exit visas are not required to leave Kuwait. However, a mother may face serious legal difficulties if she attempts to take her children out of Kuwait without the permission of the father. Immigration officials at the airport or border often ask to see permission from the father in writing before allowing children to exit, and have even been known to confirm a written request by contacting the father. If a woman has not placed a travel ban preventing a father from removing children from Kuwait, a father will usually be permitted to exit Kuwait with his children without difficulty.

Criminal Remedies: For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org.

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State at (202) 736-9090 or visit its web site on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

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Kuwait

Kuwait

Type of Government

Kuwait is governed by a constitutional monarchy with a hereditary emir as the head of state and a prime minister, appointed by the emir, as the head of the government. In addition, the Kuwaiti government includes a unicameral legislature, the Majlis al-ʾUmma, or National Assembly, consisting of fifty members who are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. Kuwait operates under a constitution ratified in 1962 that declares Islam the state religion and justice, equality, and liberty the pillars of society.

Background

Kuwait is a flat, barren country that is located on the northwest coast of the Persian Gulf. Its only major natural resource is oil. On its landward sides, Kuwait is bounded by Iraq to the west and north and by Saudi Arabia to the south. It comprises a land area of 6,880 square miles, which is about the size of New Jersey. Its livable, developed area, however, is much smaller, leading nearly all of the population to live in or near Kuwait City, the capital. Citizens of Kuwait are significantly outnumbered by immigrant laborers. Of the roughly three million people who live in Kuwait, approximately two-thirds are noncitizens who are working in Kuwait, including 22 percent Arabs from other countries and 39 percent Asian non-Arabs. The remainder comprises Bedouns (Arabs who have no formal citizenship) and Bedouins (traditional nomads).

Kuwait’s modern history dates to the early seventeenth century, when several tribes migrated to the coast from the Arabian Desert. Kuwait’s ruling family, the al-Sabahs, trace their lineage to the reign of Sheikh Sabah ibn Jaber I (d. 1762) starting in 1756. In 1899, seeking to guard against advances in the area by the Ottoman Turks (and to secure funding for the royal family), Kuwait’s leader, Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah (1837–1915), signed a treaty that assured British protection of the tiny nation in return for Kuwaiti help in promoting British interests in the region. The arrangement was formalized again in 1914, when Kuwait was officially recognized by Britain as an independent nation under its protection. On June 19, 1961, the agreement with the United Kingdom was terminated by mutual consent, and Kuwait became a fully sovereign and independent nation.

Prior to the discovery of oil in 1938 and its exploitation starting in the 1940s, Kuwait was poor, with an economy dependent upon pearl diving, fishing, and ship building. Kuwait controls about 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Only Saudi Arabia and Iraq have larger proven reserves. As oil is essentially Kuwait’s only natural resource, other than fish from the Persian Gulf, nearly all food products and agriculture must be imported into Kuwait.

Government Structure

Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (1929–) has been the head of the state of Kuwait since January 2006. As such, he appoints the prime minister, who serves as the head of the government. A cabinet-level Council of Ministers is appointed by the prime minister and approved by the monarch. Kuwait’s unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, consists of fifty members elected by popular vote to four-year terms. In addition, all cabinet ministers serve as members of the National Assembly by virtue of their cabinet positions.

Kuwait’s first National Assembly was elected in 1963, but from 1976 to 1981 the National Assembly was suspended by the emir, who holds the right to dissolve parliament when an impasse is reached. Elections occurred in 1981 and again in 1985, but the National Assembly was again dissolved. When the Kuwaiti government fled to Saudi Arabia during the 1990 occupation of its country by Iraq, the emir promised that political reforms would take place once he could return to Kuwait. The Iraqis were ousted in 1991, and new elections for the Kuwaiti National Assembly occurred in 1992. In 2006 the emir dissolved the National Assembly after its members determined they could not reach an agreement on redistricting the country’s electoral constituencies. Members of parliament were advocating consolidating districts in an effort to reduce corruption and eliminate opportunities for election tampering. Elections to replace parliament were conducted in June 2006, and the new government quickly approved a plan that designated five constituencies which would each elect ten representatives to the National Assembly.

The Kuwaiti legal code is a mix of civil law and Islamic sharia law, with the latter used for all disputes related to family and personal matters. At the local level lay courts deal with both civil and criminal cases. Courts of Appeal, however, are separated into those that hear personal and civil cases and those that hear criminal and commercial cases. Respective Sunni and Shia courts decide family law matters for Muslims, and a separate domestic court functions for non-Muslims. Kuwait’s constitution guarantees an independent judiciary, but the executive branch (the emir) appoints the judges and retains control over its budget.

Another arm of the government, created specifically for the independent oversight of the government’s finances, is the Kuwait Audit Bureau. It monitors the expenditure of public funds. Using its oil and investment revenues, the Kuwaiti government provides many public services to its citizens. Public education, including undergraduate studies at college, is free for students, and health care is provided for all citizens without charge. Kuwaitis are provided with retirement income, marriage bonuses, and employment.

The right to vote in Kuwait is restricted to individuals who are twenty-one years old and have been Kuwaiti citizens for at least twenty years. However, members of the police or military are not allowed to vote. Women were granted voting rights in May 2005 and participated as voters and candidates in parliamentary elections for the first time in June 2006.

Political Parties and Factions

Political parties and organizations are not legally sanctioned in Kuwait. However, a number of political groups act as de facto parties, and like-minded members of the National Assembly (such as Shia activists, secular liberals, tribal groups) do act as voting blocs. Sunni Muslims outnumber Shia and other Muslims by a ratio of two to one.

Although trade unions are permitted, less than 5 percent of the labor force are union members, and the only legal trade union is the Kuwait Trade Union Federation, which is supervised and financially subsidized by the government.

Major Events

From the time of its declaration of independence in June 1961, Kuwait has had an uneasy relationship with its neighbor Iraq, which claimed Kuwait’s land as its own, based on territory once held by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Kuwait’s oil fields and ports were highly sought after by landlocked Iraq. Although the United Nations upheld Kuwaiti sovereignty, and in 1963 Iraq formally recognized Kuwait’s independence, tensions between the two nations, and between the Sunni and Shia Muslim groups, continued to grow over many years. In the 1980s Kuwait supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, an act that angered Kuwait’s Shia minority, which launched terrorist acts in protest. The American embassy was bombed and a Kuwait Airways plane was hijacked. Explosions killed civilians in bombings at waterfront cafes.

In 1987, at the request of the Kuwaiti government during the Iran-Iraq War, U.S. military forces were used to protect Kuwaiti oil vessels in the Persian Gulf. Because the U.S. Navy is prohibited by law from escorting vessels operating under foreign ownership, the oil tankers were given U.S. registry and flew American flags for the duration of the operation.

In 1990 Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (1927–2006) accused Kuwait of waging economic warfare against Iraq by, among other charges, overproducing oil to drive down prices and illegally drilling oil from the shared Rumaila oil field. That summer, on August 2, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, asserting that Iraq was reclaiming its rightful territory. Kuwait’s royal family and much of its population fled to Saudi Arabia. When Iraq did not withdraw from Kuwait as ordered by the United Nations, an offensive was orchestrated by an international coalition of military forces with the United States in the lead. Iraqi forces retreated on February 26, 1991 (setting fire to many oil fields along the way). Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair the infrastructure damage caused by the invasion, and vast tracts of land polluted by the oil fires remained unusable into the twenty-first century. In 1994 Iraq formally recognized the independence and borders of Kuwait, although it continued to perform threatening military maneuvers near the Kuwait-Iraq border. As a result, the United States, the United Nations, and others continued to keep military and peace-keeping operations in Kuwait.

Twenty-First Century

In 2003 Kuwait allowed the U.S. military to use its country for staging the American invasion of Iraq that successfully ousted the regime of Hussein. With the threat of its aggressive neighbor removed, Kuwait turned its attention to domestic issues. The most significant development in Kuwaiti government since 2000 has been the entrance of women into national politics. After more than forty years of debate, women were granted the right to vote and to hold office in May 2005. Shortly afterward Massouma Mubarak (1951–) was named a cabinet minister, and she became the first woman to hold a government post in the history of Kuwait. However, in June 2006, in the first election in which women were able to participate as both candidates and electors, none of the twenty-eight female candidates won a seat in the assembly. Instead, Islamic reformists strengthened their numbers in the parliament. In June 2007 the assembly passed legislation that barred women from working between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. and codified the types of businesses in which women would be allowed to work. While many observers quickly criticized the discriminatory nature of the law, religious conservatives applauded the decision as a step toward preserving Islamic tradition with respect to women’s role in society.

Casey, Michael S. The History of Kuwait . Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007.

Cordesman, Anthony J. Kuwait: Recovery and Security after the Gulf War . Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook , “Kuwait.” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ku.html (accessed August 15, 2007).

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Kuwait

Kuwait

  • Area: 6,880 sq mi (17,820 sq km) / World Rank: 155
  • Location: Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, in the Middle East, bordering Iraq to the north and west, the Persian Gulf to the east, and Saudi Arabia to the south and southwest.
  • Coordinates: 29°30′N, 45°45′E
  • Borders: 288 mi (464 km); Iraq, 150 mi (242 km); Saudi Arabia, 138 mi (222 km)
  • Coastline: 310 mi (499 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Unnamed location, 1,004 ft (306 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 109 mi (176 km) NE-SW; 127 mi (205 km) SE-NW
  • Longest River: None of significant length
  • Natural Hazards: Damaging rainstorms and flooding, sandstorms
  • Population: 2,041,961 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 142
  • Capital City: Kuwait city, on Kuwait Bay
  • Largest City: Kuwait, population 1,187,000 (2000 metropolitan est.)

OVERVIEW

Kuwait is a small Middle Eastern country located at the head of the Persian Gulf and surrounded by the much larger neighboring states of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. Located on the coastal plain that rings much of the gulf, Kuwait has one deeply indented bay, on which its capital and major population center is located, and another coastal indentation that is the site of several uninhabited islands. Otherwise, its terrain is largely composed of flat or rolling desert land, with maximum elevations reached at its western and southwestern corners. Kuwait is located on the Arabian Tectonic Plate.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Kuwait has no actual mountain ranges or distinct plateaus. Its terrain gradually rises from near sea level at the coast to elevations of about 650 ft (198 m) in the northwest and to about 1,000 ft (305 m) at its westernmost edge. The country's two other noticeable points of elevation are the Az Zawr escarpment on the northern shore of Kuwait Bay, which rises to 475 ft (145 m), and the Al-Ahmadj ridge south of the bay (450 ft / 137 km), where the coastal town of Mjna Al-Ahmadj is located. Also of note is Ash-Shaqaya Peak in the western corner of the country, rising to a height of 951 ft (290 m).

INLAND WATERWAYS

Some of Kuwait's wadis, or desert basins, fill with water during the winter rains, but the country has no permanent rivers or lakes. There is an oasis at Al Jahrah, at the western end of Kuwait Bay.

THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN

Oceans and Seas

Kuwait is located at the northwestern edge of the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf, which empties into the Arabian Sea by way of the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

Major Islands

There are nine islands off the coast of Kuwait, of which the largest are Bsbiyan and Warbah, both uninhabited. The only one that is inhabited is Faylakah, at the edge of Kuwait Bay.

The Coast and Beaches

Kuwait Bay is the only major coastal indentation entirely within Kuwait. The city of Kuwait, the national capital, lies near the mouth of the bay, which is the sole deepwater harbor on the western coast of the Persian Gulf. Kuwait's low-lying coast is characterized by areas of marshland, as well as mud flats, sand bars, and islets.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

Kuwait has a desert climate, with elevated humidity in the coastal region due to the proximity to the Persian Gulf. Summer temperatures average about 90°F (32°C), with daytime highs commonly reaching 110°F (43°C) or higher. Readings as high as 130°F (54°C) have been recorded. Winter temperatures average between 50°F and 60°F (10°C and 15°C). The prevailing northwesterly wind, which exerts a cooling influence in summer, is called the shamal.

Rainfall

Average annual rainfall is less than 10 in (25 cm), and less than 5 in (13 cm) in the southern part of the country. The rainy season occurs between October and April and is characterized by cloudbursts—sudden, violent storms bringing tremendous amounts of rain that can cause severe property damage.

Deserts

The Kuwaiti desert is undulating and gravelly, with few hills or ridges. The only trees apart from those in the date gardens at the oasis of Al Jahrah are tamarisks found in Kuwait City and a few villages, and the most characteristic vegetation consists of low, hardy bushes and scrub. The most common desert shrub is the arfaj, which grows to a maximum height of 2.5 ft (0.7 m). For a brief period in the spring, if winter rains have been adequate, the wadi beds (desert basins) are covered with grass and flowering desert shrubs. The spring green period, however, is very brief, for the May sun dries the grass and withers the shrubs and the June winds soon bury everything in driving sand.

HUMAN POPULATION

Almost the entire population lives in urban areas, with more than 90 percent occupying the cities of the coastal strip between Al-Jahrah and Mjna''Abd Allah. This region, which includes Kuwait City, is collectively

Population Centers – Kuwait
(1995 POPULATION ESTIMATES)
Name Population
Hawalli 150,000
Salmiya 130,000
Kuwait City (capital) 85,000
SOURCE : Projected from United Nations Statistical Division data.
Governates – Kuwait
POPULATIONS FROM 1995 CENSUS
Name Population
Ahmadi 263,960
Asima 305,694
Jahra 224,515
Farwaniya 427,018
Hawalli 467,103
SOURCE : Ministry of Planning, Kuwait.

called the Metropolitan Area. Most of the desert is uninhabited.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Kuwait's primary natural resource is petroleum, which has been the primary basis of its economy since the 1930s. The country also has natural gas reserves and a fishing and shrimping industry.

FURTHER READINGS

Anscombe, Frederick F. The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation ofKuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Facey, William, and Gillian Grant. Kuwait by the FirstPhotographers. London: I. B. Tauris, 1999.

KuwaitOnLine. Kuwait.http://www.kuwaitonline.com/ (Accessed April 8, 2002).

Longva, Anh Nga. Walls Built on Sand: Migration, Exclusion, and Society in Kuwait. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.

Rahman, H. The Making of the Gulf War: Origins of Kuwait'sLong-standing Territorial Dispute with Iraq. Reading, England: Ithaca, 1997.

Robison, Gordon, and Paul Greenway. Bahrain, Kuwait &Qatar. London: Lonely Planet, 2000.

Vine, Peter, and Paula Casey. Kuwait: A Nation's Story. London: Immel, 1992.

GEO-FACT

Distilled water is the main source of drinking water in Kuwait, which has some of the world's most sophisticated desalination facilities.

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Kuwait

Kuwait

At a Glance

Official Name: State of Kuwait

Continent: Asia (Middle East)

Area: 6,880 square miles (17,820 sq km)

Population: 2,041,961

Capital City: Kuwait City

Largest City: Salmiya (130,215)

Unit of Money: Kuwaiti dinar

Major Languages: Arabic (official), English

Literacy: 79%

Land Use: 8% meadow, 92% other

Natural Resources: Petroleum, fish, shrimp, natural gas

Government: Nominal constitutional monarchy

Defense: 2.9 billion

The Place

Kuwait is in the Middle East, and is one of the region's smaller countries. It measures 120 miles (200 km) from north to south and 110 miles (170 km) from east to west.

To the east, 310 miles (499 km) of coastline front the Persian Gulf. The country consists mostly of mainland, but it also has several small islands in the gulf. The largest island is Bubiyan, which is uninhabited. Faylakah is the most important island, and it lies about 12 miles (19 km) from the mainland.

Most of the mainland terrain is flat desert with occasional hills. The country's highest elevation is 1,000 feet (305 m) above sea level. Its lowest point is sea level along the coast.

Kuwait's climate is very hot from April to September. Temperatures usually exceed 120° F (49° C). In January, the temperature drops to around 60° F (16° C). The rainiest part of the year is between December and March, when about 6 inches of precipitation falls.

The People

Almost all of the Kuwaiti population is urban. The majority of the people live near or on the coast. Most people live in and around Kuwait City. The average population density is 300 people per square mile (116 people per sq km).

Because of solid profits from the oil industry, Kuwait enjoys a healthy economy. The government provides free medical care to everyone in the country, including foreign citizens. Life expectancy is 77 years. To take advantage of these good benefits and continuous work, many people have moved to Kuwait. Palestinians have been the largest immigrant group, although many left during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Because of this large influx of foreigners, Kuwaitis have become a minority in their own country.

For the last 50 years, Kuwaiti women have enjoyed more freedom and opportunities than women in other Middle Eastern countries. Although they cannot vote, Kuwaiti women earn college degrees and work outside the home.

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Kuwait

KUWAIT

Compiled from the November 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.


Official Name:
State of Kuwait


PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
DEFENSE
U.S.-KUWAITI RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 17,820 sq. km. (6,880 sq. mi.); approximately the size of the State of New Jersey.

Cities: Capital— Kuwait City, pop. (2002 est.) 413,170. Other cities — Ahmadi, Jahra, Fahaheel.

Terrain: Almost entirely flat desert plain (highest elevation point—306
m).

Climate: Summers are intensely hot and dry with average highs ranging from 42°-46°C (108°-115°F); winters are short (Dec.-Feb.) and cool, averaging 10°-30°C (50°-80°F), with limited rain.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Kuwaiti(s).

Population: (2003 est.) 2.42 million, including about 1.5 million non-Kuwaiti citizens.

Annual growth rate: 4.8%.

Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 38%, other Arab 22%, non-Arab (primarily Asian) 36%, stateless 5%.

Religion: Muslim 85% (Sunni 70%, Shi' a 30% among Kuwaitis), with small Hindu, Christian and Sikh communities.

Languages: Arabic (official), English is widely spoken.

Education: Compulsory from ages 6-14; free at all levels for Kuwaitis, including higher education. Adult Literacy (age 15 and over) — 83.5% for the overall population (male 85.1%, female 81.7%), 91.2% for Kuwaitis (male 91.4%, female 90.8%).

Health: Infant mortality rate —11 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—75 yrs. male, 77 yrs. female.

Work force: (2002 actual) 1.364 million (of which about 19% are Kuwaiti nationals. 62.7% male; 37.3% female).


Government

Type: Constitutional hereditary emirate.

Independence: June 19, 1961 (from U.K.).

Constitution: Approved and promulgated November 11, 1962.

Branches: Executive—Amir (head of state); prime minister (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by prime minister and approved by the Amir. Legislative—unicameral elected National Assembly (Majlis al-'Umma) of 50 members who serve 4-year terms. Judicial—High Court of Appeal.

Administrative subdivisions: Six governorates (muhafazat) Al 'Asimah, Hawalli, Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra', Mubarak Al-Kebir, and Al Farwaniyah.

Political parties: None; formal political parties are banned although de facto political blocs exist.

Elections: There are no executive branch elections; the Amir is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the Amir. Legislative branch elections were last held July 5, 2003 (next National Assembly election is due in 2007)

Suffrage: Adult males who have been citizens for 20 years and are not in the security forces (about 14% of all citizens).


Economy

GDP: (2002) $335.5 billion.

Real GDP growth rate: (2002) 4%.

Per capita GDP: (2002) $14,234.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, fish.

Agriculture: (about 0.3% of GDP) With the exception of fish, most food is imported. Cultivated land—1%.

Industry: (about 60% of GDP) Types—petroleum extraction and refining, fertilizer, chemicals, desalination, construction materials.

Services: (about 39% of GDP) public administration, finance, real estate, trade, hotels and restaurants

Trade: (2002) Exports —$15.474 billion: oil (91.3%). Major markets — Japan 25%, South Korea 13%, U.S. 12%, Singapore 10%, Netherlands 4.5%. Imports—$7.424 billion: food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing. Major suppliers—U.S. 13%, Japan 11%, Germany 9%, U.K. 6%, Saudi Arabia 6%.




PEOPLE

Over 90% of the population lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Although the majority of people residing in the State of Kuwait are of Arab origin, less than half are originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1938 drew many Arabs from nearby states. Following the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the Kuwaiti Government undertook a serious effort to reduce the expatriate population by specifically limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. Kuwait later abandoned this policy, and it currently has a sizable foreign labor force (over 60% of the total population).


The national census does not distinguish between Sunni and Shi'a adherents, but an estimated 1.6 million residents, including the ruling family and 600,000 Kuwaiti nationals, belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. An estimated 400,000 Muslims are Shi'a including about 300,000 Kuwaitis. Estimates of the Christian population range from 250,000-500,000 residents, including about 200 citizens. There also are communities of Hindus (estimated at 100,000) and Sikhs (estimated at 10,000).


Kuwait's 83% literacy rate, one of the Arab world's highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system. Public school education, including Kuwait University, is free, but access is restricted for foreign residents. The government sponsors the foreign study of qualified students abroad for degrees not offered at Kuwait University. About 3,000 Kuwaitis are currently enrolled in U.S. universities.



HISTORY

Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait's nine islands, suggests it was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. Failaka appears to have continued to serve as a market for approximately 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. Despite its long history as a market and sanctuary for traders, Failaka appears to have been abandoned as a permanent settlement in the 1st century A.D. Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar.

Threatened in the 19th century by the Ottoman Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups, Kuwait sought the same treaty relationship Britain had already signed with the Trucial States (UAE) and Bahrain. In January 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah —"the Great"—signed an agreement with the British Government that pledged himself and his successors neither to cede any territory, nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent, in exchange for protection and an annual subsidy. When Mubarak died in 1915, the population of Kuwait of about 35,000 was heavily dependent on shipbuilding (using wood imported from India) and pearl diving.


Mubarak was succeeded as ruler by his sons Jabir (1915-17) and Salim (1917-21). Kuwait's subsequent rulers have descended from these two brothers. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah ruled Kuwait from 1921 until his death in 1950, a period in which oil was discovered and in which the government attempted to establish the first internationally recognized boundaries; the 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 sq. km. (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait's southern border.


Kuwait achieved independence from the British under Sheikh Ahmed's successor, Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah. By early 1961, the British had already withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.


Kuwait enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity under Amir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah, who died in 1977 after ruling for 12 years. Under his rule, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement dividing the Neutral Zone (now called the Divided Zone) and demarcating a new international boundary. Both countries share equally the Divided Zone's petroleum, onshore and offshore. The country was transformed into a highly developed welfare state with a free market economy.


In August 1990, Iraq attacked and invaded Kuwait. Kuwait's northern border with Iraq dates from an agreement reached with Turkey in 1913. Iraq accepted this claim in 1932 upon its independence from Turkey. However, following Kuwait's independence in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, arguing that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the "Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters."

Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a UN-mandated coalition led by the United States began a ground assault in February 1991 that liberated Kuwait. During the 7-month occupation by Iraq, the Amir, the Government of Kuwait, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia and other nations. The Amir and the government successfully managed Kuwaiti affairs from Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and war-related expenses. Following liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and the 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in UN Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883.




GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by princes (Amirs) who have been drawn from the Al Sabah family for over 200 years. The 1962 constitution provides for an elected National Assembly and details the powers of the branches of government and the rights of citizens. Under the Constitution, the National Assembly has a limited role in approving the Amir's choice of the Crown Prince, who succeeds the Amir upon his death. If the National Assembly rejects his nominee, the Amir then submits three names of qualified candidates from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, from which the Assembly must choose the new Crown Prince. Successions have been orderly since independence.

For almost 40 years, the Amir has appointed the Crown Prince as Kuwait's Prime Minister. However, in an unprecedented development, the Amir formally separated the two positions and appointed a new Prime Minister in July 2003.


Kuwait's first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to 1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. On May 4, 1999, the Amir once again dissolved the National Assembly. This time, however, it was done through entirely constitutional means, and new elections were held on July 3, 1999. The most recent general election, held in July 2003, was considered free and fair, although there were some credible reports of vote buying by the government and the opposition.


The government bans formal political parties, but de facto political blocs exist and are typically organized along ideological lines. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decision-making, with powers to initiate legislation, question Cabinet ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation.

Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 2/3/04


Amir: Sabah, JABIR, al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al

Prime Min.: Sabah, SABAH, al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al

First Dep. Prime Min.: Sabah, NAWWAF, al-Ahmad Al

Dep. Prime Min.: Sabah, JABIR MUBARAK, al-Hamad Al

Dep. Prime Min.: Sharar, Muhammad Dayfallah al-

Min. of Communications: Sabah, AHMAD ABDALLAH, al-Ahmad Al

Min. of Defense: Sabah, JABIR MUBARAK, al-Hamad Al

Min. of Education & Higher Education: Hamad, Rashid Hamad Muhammad al-

Min. of Electricity & Water: Sabah, AHMAD FAHD, al-Ahmad Al

Min. of Finance: Nuri, Mahmud Abd al-Khalid al-

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Sabah, MUHAMMAD, al-Sabah al-Salim Al

Min. of Health: Jarallah, Muhammad Ahmad al-, Dr.

Min. of Information: Abul Hasan, Muhammad Abdallah Abbas

Min. of Interior: Sabah, NAWWAF, al-Ahmad Al

Min. of Justice: Baqr, Ahmad Yaqub

Min. of Oil: Sabah, AHMAD FAHD, al-Ahmad Al

Min. of Public Works: Humaydi, Badr Nasir al-

Min. of Religious Endowment & Islamic Affairs: Matuq, Abdallah al-

Min. of Social Affairs & Labor: Sabah, MUHAMMAD, al-SABAH al-Salim Al

Min. of Trade & Industry: Tawil, Abdallah Abd al-Rahman al-

Min. of Transportation & Planning: Sabah, AHMAD ABDALLAH, al-Ahmad Al

Min. of State for Administrative Development Affairs (Acting): Harun, Musaid Rashid Ahmad al-

Min. of State for Amiri Diwan Affairs: Sabah, NASIR, Muhammad Ahmad Al

Min. of State for Cabinet Affairs: Sharar, Muhammad Dayfallah al-

Min. of State for Housing Affairs: Humaydi, Badr Nasir al-

Min. of State for National Assembly Affairs: Sharar, Muhammad Dayfallah al-

Speaker, Parliament: Khurafi, Jasim al-

Governor, Central Bank: Sabah, SALIM, Abd al-Aziz Saud Al

Ambassador to the US: Sabah, SALIM, al-Abdallah Jabir Al

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Mulla, Nabila Abdallah al-

Kuwait maintains an embassy in the United States at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. [1] (202)-966-0702).




ECONOMY

Kuwait has a small, relatively open economy dominated by the oil industry and government sector. Its proved crude oil reserves of about 98 billion barrels—10% of world reserves—account for nearly half of GDP, 95% of export revenues, and 80% of government income. During the 1970s, Kuwait benefited from the dramatic rise in oil prices, which Kuwait actively promoted through its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The economy suffered from the triple shock of a 1982 securities market crash, the mid-1980s drop in oil prices, and the 1990 Iraqi invasion and occupation. The Kuwaiti Government-in-exile depended upon its $100 billion in overseas investments during the Iraqi occupation in order to help pay for the reconstruction. Thus, by 1993, this balance was cut to less than half of its preinvasion level. The wealth of Kuwait is based primarily on oil and capital reserves, and the Iraqi occupation severely damaged both.


In the closing hours of the Gulf War in February 1991, the Iraqi occupation forces set ablaze or damaged 749 of Kuwait's oil wells. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damage. Oil production was 1.5 million b/d by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait's current production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million b/d. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million b/d by 2005.

Oil

In 1934, the ruler of Kuwait granted an oil concession to the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), jointly owned by the British Petroleum Company and Gulf Oil Corporation. In 1976, the Kuwaiti Government nationalized KOC. The following year, Kuwait took over onshore production in the Divided Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. KOC produces jointly there with Texaco, Inc., which, by its 1984 purchase of Getty Oil Company, acquired the Saudi Arabian onshore concession in the Divided Zone.


Offshore, the Divided Zone, the Arabian Oil Company (AOC)—80% owned by Japanese interests and 10% each by the Kuwaiti and Saudi Governments—produced on behalf of both countries from 1961 until 2000, when its concession in the Saudi zone expired. AOC gave up its drilling rights in the Kuwaiti sector 3 years later. The Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Company—KPC) has assumed AOC's offshore operations.


The KPC, an integrated international oil company, is the parent company of the government's operations in the petroleum sector, and includes Kuwait Oil Company, which produced oil and gas; Kuwait National Petroleum Co., refining and domestic sales; Petrochemical Industries Co., producing ammonia and urea; Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Co., with several concessions in developing countries; Kuwait Oil Tanker Co.; and Santa Fe International Corp. The latter, purchased outright in 1982, gives KPC a worldwide presence in the petroleum industry.


KPC also has purchased from Gulf Oil Co. refineries and associated service stations in the Benelux nations and Scandinavia, as well as storage facilities and a network of service stations in Italy. In 1987, KPC bought a 19% share in British Petroleum, which was later reduced to 10%. KPC markets its products in Europe under the brand Q8 and is interested in the markets of the United States and Japan.

Kuwait has about 96.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil; only Saudi Arabia and Iraq have larger proven reserves. Estimated capacity before the occupation was about 2.4 million barrels per day (b/d). During the Iraqi occupation, Kuwait's oil-producing capacity was reduced to practically nothing. However, tremendous recovery and improvements have been made. Oil production was 1.5 million b/d by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait's production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million b/d. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million b/d by 2005.


Social Benefits

The government has sponsored many social welfare, public works, and development plans financed with oil and investment revenues. Among the benefits for Kuwaiti citizens are retirement income, marriage bonuses, housing loans, virtually guaranteed employment, free medical services, and education at all levels. Foreign nationals residing in Kuwait obtain some, but not all, of the welfare services. The right to own stock in publicly traded companies, real estate, and banks or a majority interest in a business is limited to Kuwaiti citizens, and citizens of GCC states under limited circumstances.


Industry and Development

Industry in Kuwait consists of several large export-oriented petrochemical units, oil refineries, and a range of small manufacturers. It also includes large water desalinization, ammonia, desulfurization, fertilizer, brick, block, and cement plants. During the invasion, the Iraqis looted nearly all movable equipment of value, especially high-technology items and small machinery. Much of this has been replaced with newer equipment.


Agriculture

Agriculture is limited by the lack of water and arable land. The government has experimented in growing food through hydroponics and carefully managed farms. However, most of the soil which was suitable for farming in south central Kuwait was destroyed when Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells in the area and created vast "oil lakes." Fish and shrimp are plentiful in territorial waters, and largescale commercial fishing has been undertaken locally and in the Indian Ocean.


Shipping

The Kuwait Oil Tankers Co. has 35 crude oil and refined product carriers and is the largest tanker company in an OPEC country. Kuwait also is a member of the United Arab Shipping Company.


Trade, Finance, and Aid

The Kuwaiti dinar is a strong currency pegged to a basket of currencies in which the U.S. dollar has the most weight. Kuwait ordinarily runs a balance-of-payments surplus.


Government revenues are dependent on oil revenues. Although government expenditures increased by about 8%, Kuwait's fiscal surplus in 2003 was some 18% of GDP.


The government's two reserve funds—the Fund for Future Generations and the General Reserve Fund—which totaled nearly $100 billion prior to the invasion in 1990, were the primary source of capital for the Kuwaiti Government during the war. While these funds were depleted to $40-$50 billion after the war, they currently are estimated around $50-$60 billion. The bulk of this reserve is invested in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Southeast Asia. In order of importance, foreign assets are believed to be invested in stocks and bonds, fixed yield instruments (mostly short term), and real estate. Kuwait follows a generally conservative investment policy.


Kuwait has been a major source of foreign economic assistance to other states through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, an autonomous state institution created in 1961 on the pattern of Western and international development agencies. In 1974, the fund's lending mandate was expanded to include all-not just Arab-developing countries.

Over the years aid Kuwait has provided aid to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization. During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait also gave significant aid to the Iraqis. The Kuwait fund issued loans and technical assistance grants totaling over $419 million during its fiscal year ending March 31, 2003.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

Following independence in June 1961, Kuwait faced its first major foreign policy problem arising from Iraqi claims to Kuwait's territory. The Iraqis threatened invasion but were dissuaded by the U.K.'s ready response to the Amir's request for assistance. Kuwait presented its case before the United Nations and preserved its sovereignty. U.K. forces were later withdrawn and replaced by troops from Arab League nations, which were withdrawn in 1963 at Kuwait's request.


On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Through U.S. efforts, a multinational coalition was assembled, and, under UN auspices, initiated military action against Iraq to liberate Kuwait. Arab states, especially the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates), Egypt, and Syria, supported Kuwait by sending troops to fight with the coalition. Many European and East Asian states sent troops, equipment, and/or financial support.


After liberation, Kuwait concentrated its foreign policy efforts on development of ties to states which had participated in the multinational coalition. Notably, these states were given the lead role in Kuwait's reconstruction. Kuwait's relations with those nations that supported Iraq, among them Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, and Cuba, were slow to recover. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasir Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein during the war also affected Kuwait's attitudes toward the PLO though Kuwait supports the Arab-Israeli peace process.


The Government of Kuwait has abandoned its previous policy of limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. In August 2001, the Interior Minister announced that there were no longer any special restrictions or permits required for Palestinian workers wishing to return to the country. At the end of 2002, there were approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians, 30,000 to 40,000 Jordanians, and 5,000 Yemenis resident in Kuwait.


Since liberation from Iraq, Kuwait has made efforts to secure allies throughout the world, particularly UN Security Council members. In addition to the United States, defense arrangements have been concluded with the United Kingdom, Russia, and France. Ties to other key Arab members of the Gulf War coalition—Egypt and Syria—also have been sustained.


During the 2002-03 build up to and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Kuwait was a vital coalition partner, reserving a full 60% of its total land mass for use by coalition forces and donating upward of $350 million in assistance in kind (primarily fuel) to the effort. In the aftermath of OIF, Kuwait has been consistently involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq, pledging $1.5 billion at the October 2003 international donors' conference in Madrid.


Kuwait is a member of the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank (IBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); African Development Bank (AFDB), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), Arab League, Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Group of 77 (G-77), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), INMARSAT, International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labor Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization, Interpol, INTELSAT, IOC, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (LORCS), Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).




DEFENSE

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait maintained a small military force consisting of army, navy, and air force units. The majority of equipment for the military was supplied by the United Kingdom. Aside from the few units that were able to escape to Saudi Arabia, including a majority of the air force, all of this equipment was either destroyed or taken by the Iraqis. Much of the property returned by Iraq after the Gulf War was damaged beyond repair. Iraq retained a substantial amount of captured Kuwaiti military equipment in violation of UN resolutions.


Since liberation, Kuwait, with the help of the United States and other allies, has made significant efforts to increase the size and modernity of its armed forces. These efforts are succeeding. The government also continues to improve defense arrangements with other Arab states, as well as UN Security Council members. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, Kuwaiti military elements successfully operated missile defense systems.


A separately organized National Guard maintains internal security. The police constitute a single national force under the purview of civilian authorities of the Ministry of Interior.


U.S.-KUWAITI RELATIONS

The United States opened a consulate in Kuwait in October 1951, which was elevated to embassy status at the time of Kuwait's independence 10 years later. The United States supports Kuwait's sovereignty, security, and independence, as well as its multilateral diplomatic efforts to build greater cooperation among the GCC countries.


Strategic cooperation between the United States and Kuwait increased in 1987 with the implementation of a maritime protection regime that ensured the freedom of navigation through the Gulf for 11 Kuwaiti tankers that were reflagged with U.S. markings.


The U.S.-Kuwaiti strategic partnership intensified dramatically again after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The United States spearheaded UN Security Council demands that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and its authorization of the use of force, if necessary, to remove Iraqi forces from the occupied country. The Untied States also played a dominant role in the development of the multinational military operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait. The U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship has remained strong in the post-Gulf War period. Kuwait and the United States worked on a daily basis to monitor and to enforce Iraq's compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and Kuwait also provided the main platform for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.


Since Kuwait's liberation, the United States has provided military and defense technical assistance to Kuwait from both foreign military sales (FMS) and commercial sources. All transactions have been made by direct cash sale. The U.S. Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait is attached to the American embassy and manages the FMS program. U.S. military sales to Kuwait total $6.8 billion since 1992. Principal U.S. military systems currently purchased by the Kuwait Defense Forces are Patriot Missile systems, F-18 Hornet fighters, the M1A2 main battle tank, and the Apache helicopter.


Kuwaiti attitudes toward American products have been favorable since the Gulf War. In 1993, Kuwait publicly announced abandonment of the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab boycott of Israel (those aspects affecting U.S. firms). The United States is currently Kuwait's largest supplier of goods and services, and Kuwait is the fifth-largest market in the Middle East. U.S. exports to Kuwait totaled $902 million in 2002. Provided their prices are reasonable, U.S. firms have a competitive advantage in many areas requiring advanced technology, such as oil field equipment and services, electric power generation and distribution equipment, telecommunications gear, consumer goods, and military equipment.


Kuwait also is an important partner in the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and intelligence arenas and also supporting efforts to block financing of terrorist groups.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Kuwait (E), Al Masjeed Al Aqsa Street, Plot 14, Block 14, Bayan Plan 36302; P.O. Box 77 Safat, 13001 Safat, Kuwait • Unit 69000, APO AE 09880-9000, Embassy Duty Hours Tel [965] 539-5307/5308, after-hours Tel 538-2097/2098, Fax 538-0282; GSO Fax 539-0938; CON Fax 539-2484; FCS Fax 538-0281; PAS Fax 538-0294; OMC-K Fax 539-0974; DIALO Fax 538-0443; Workweek: Sat–Wed.

AMB: Richard H. Jones
AMB OMS: Carol R. Johnson
DCM: Frank C. Urbancic
POL: Richard K. Bell
POL/MIL: Gerald J. Meyer, Jr.
ECO: Todd P. Schwartz
FCS: Patricia M. Gonzalez
CON: Sean Murphy
MGT: John D. Lavelle
RSO: Thomas K. Depenbrock
PAO: John G. Moran
IMO: Michael J. Gallagher
OMC-K: BG Thomas Csrnko, USA
IBB: David M. Sites
CUS: James Piatt
ATO: Ronald Verdonk (res. Dubai)
FAA: Lynn Osmus (res. Brussels)
DEA: Jeffrey Starum (res. Islamabad)


Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003




TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
December 31, 2003


Country Description: Kuwait is a constitutional hereditary emirate with a mixed economy. Facilities for travelers are widely available. The workweek in Kuwait is Saturday through Wednesday for most businesses and government offices; it is Sunday through Thursday for commercial banks.


Entry and Exit Requirements: Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. For further information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone


(202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318. Information also may be obtained from the Consulate's Internet home page at http://www.undp.org/missions/kuwait. Additional information may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy Kuwait home page at http://usembassy.state.gov/kuwait/.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of the relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Travelers who overstay their visas may face serious fines when leaving Kuwait. Travelers who leave Kuwait without completing Kuwaiti exit procedures may face serious fines if they return to and attempt to depart from Kuwait. This includes travelers proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq.


Areas of Instability: Unexploded bombs, mines, booby traps, and other items from the 1991 Gulf War remain present in some areas in Kuwait. U.S. Embassy personnel are advised to use caution if traveling off paved surfaces outside Kuwait City.


Safety and Security: Americans in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. In January 2003 a U.S. contractor was murdered in a terrorist attack. Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel to the extent possible, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. U.S. citizens are also urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects and to report the presence of such objects to local authorities. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait urges all Americans to be wary of unexpected visitors and to pay particular attention to suspicious vehicles. Any suspicious activities or vehicles should be reported immediately to the Embassy's Regional Security Office. American citizens are advised to avoid apartment complexes where Americans or other Westerners are generally known to live or visit in large numbers. Americans should also increase their security awareness at other public places where Americans or other Westerners are known to congregate or visit in large numbers, avoid them, or switch to other locations. Americans living in or visiting Kuwait should read the current Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement and the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement. Americans resident in or visiting Kuwait should also check the Department of State web page http://travel.state.gov for updated Travel Warnings, Public Announcements and Consular Information Sheets.


Crime: The crime rate in Kuwait is low. Violent crimes against expatriates are rare, but do occur. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems.


The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.


U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/.


Medical Facilities: The health care system continues to develop, with many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards, and staffs often have no U.S. experience or training. Laws and procedures governing health care can be complex.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect-bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, please consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety And Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.


Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
to Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor


Driving in Kuwait can be hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speeding on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 2.8 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. In 2000, there were 27,696 reported vehicular accidents, and 331 traffic-accident-related deaths for a population of about 2.2 million. In 2003, five U.S. citizens were killed in separate highway accidents.


The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus service throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes and is widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Two types of taxi service are available: (1) orange taxis work a fixed route and pick up passengers anywhere along that route and may be shared, and (2) call-taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations upon telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark.


Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf.


If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive.


The use of seatbelts in the front seats is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.


Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender.


When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.


Kuwait has one of the highest rates of cellular telephone ownership per capita in the world. Using a cellular telephone while driving remains legal.


Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and are often not trained paramedics. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.


Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Kuwait's civil aviation authority as Category 1 — in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Kuwait's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.


Customs Regulations: Kuwaiti customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of items such as firearms, religious material, pornography, and alcohol. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington or Kuwait's Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United Sates and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kuwait's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, manufacture, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.


Local Law and Prohibited Practices: Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam. Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, or involved in unresolved financial disputes with local business partners, are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. In purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor pledges funds equal to the amount in dispute.

Currency Regulations: Travelers' checks and credit cards are widely accepted. Kuwaiti currency is readily convertible to U.S. dollars.


Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone 1-888-407-4747.


Embassy Location and Registration: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and enroll in the Embassy's emergency alert network in order to obtain updated information on travel and security in Kuwait. Initial registration may be done online at http://usembassy.state.gov/kuwait/wwwhregistration-main.html. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Plot 14, Block 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is P.O. Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-539-5307 or 539-5308. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be found at the Embassy's website at http://usembassy.state.gov/kuwait/.


International Parental Child Abduction

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, American Citizen Services. For more information, please read the Guarding Against InternationalChild Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov


General Information: Kuwait is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Kuwait and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Kuwait are subject to the jurisdiction of Kuwait courts, as well as to the country's laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Kuwait with dual national children should bear this in mind.


Custody Disputes: Cases involving divorce and the custody of minor children are adjudicated in religious courts. If the marriage partners are Muslim, disputes will be resolved before an Islamic Shari'a court which will apply principles of the Islamic sect (Shia or Sunni or mixed) of the parties involved. A Shari'a court would also hear a dispute between a Muslim husband and non-Muslim wife. Marriage between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is prohibited in Kuwait. In the case of Christians, the court will be an Ecclesiastical Court composed of clergymen from the appropriate religious community, who will refer to the principles governing family status in the Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church or other Christian denomination.


In both theory and practice, Muslim and Christian courts in Kuwait differ very little in how they resolve disputes over the custody of children of divorced or separated parents. The relevant laws all give priority for custodianship to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. However, once the children reach adolescence, the father can appeal for custody, except in the Sunni sect where the daughter stays with her mother until marriage. If a court finds the mother not fit to have custody, a maternal grandmother living in Kuwait or a paternal grandmother (if the maternal grandmother is not living in Kuwait) will be given custody until the children reach the age at which the father may appeal for custody.

In actual practice, the conditions placed on the mother's primary right to custody often enable the father to maintain a great deal of influence over the rearing of the children, even though he may not have legal custody. For example, the mother must seek his approval to depart Kuwait with the children. Frequently, the father is actually able to assume legal custody against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet the conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights.


A mother can lose her primary right to custody of a child in a number of ways. The court can determine that she is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. The mother can void her right to custody by re-marrying a party considered "unmarriageable," or by residing in a home with people who might be "strangers" to the child. The mother may not deny visitation rights to the father or the paternal grandfather and may not travel outside Kuwait with the child without the father's approval and the approval of the court. In general, a Kuwaiti man divorcing his non-Kuwaiti wife may be awarded legal custody of their children if the court determines that any of the above conditions have not been met.


Under Shari'a law, if a mother removes a child from the father thus denying him access, the mother's custody rights can be severed. An attempt to remove children from Kuwait without permission from the father is considered a criminal act in Kuwait. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Kuwaiti government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Kuwaiti law.


A Kuwaiti father can remove his children from Kuwait without approval from the mother. A mother can seek a travel ban to prevent the father from taking the children out of Kuwait.

Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Kuwaiti court should retain an attorney in Kuwait. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office.


U.S. Embassy Kuwait
P.O. Box 77 Safat
13001 Safat Kuwait
Phone: [965] 539-5307/5308
After hours emergency phone number: [965] 538-2097/2098
Fax: [965] 539-2484 Workweek: Saturday through Wednesday


Office of Children's Issues
SA-29 U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520-2818
Phone: (202) 312-9700
Fax: (202) 312-9743


Specific questions regarding child custody in Kuwait should be addressed to an attorney practicing in Kuwait or to the Embassy of Kuwait at:


Embassy of the State of Kuwait
2940 Tilden Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 966-0702
Fax: (202) 966-0517


Enforcement of Foreign Judgments: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Kuwait if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to a parent will not be honored in Kuwait if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Kuwait. Nor will Kuwaiti courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Kuwait to pay child support. However, a court hearing a custody case in Kuwait may take into consideration the law of the country of the father's nationality. An American father with a U.S. court order granting him custody might find that order helpful (though not binding) in a custody proceeding in Kuwait.


Visitation Rights: In cases where the father has custody of a child, the mother is guaranteed visitation rights. It has been the experience of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait that the father and the paternal grandparents of the child are generally very open and accommodating in facilitating the right of the mother to visit and maintain contact with the child.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized under Kuwaiti law. Children of Kuwaiti fathers automatically acquire Kuwaiti citizenship at birth, regardless of where the child was born. Women cannot transmit citizenship. Kuwaiti citizens must enter and exit the country on Kuwaiti passports.


Travel Restrictions: Exit visas are not required to leave Kuwait. However, a mother may face serious legal difficulties if she attempts to take her children out of Kuwait without the permission of the father. Immigration officials at the airport or border often ask to see permission from the father in writing before allowing children to exit, and have even been known to confirm a written request by contacting the father. If a woman has not placed a travel ban preventing a father from removing children from Kuwait, a father will usually be permitted to exit Kuwait with his children without difficulty.

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Kuwait

Kuwait

POPULATION 2,111,561
SUNNI MUSLIM 59.5 percent
SHIITE MUSLIM 25.5 percent
BUDDHIST, CATHOLIC, HINDU, PROTESTANT, SIKH, AND OTHER 15 percent

Country Overview

INTRODUCTION

Kuwait is a small country situated on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula at the head of the Persian Gulf. It is bounded by Iraq to the north and west and by Saudi Arabia to the south. Its territories include the islands of Bubiyan, Warba, and Faylaka, as well as other islands and islets. Its land is mainly flat and arid with little ground water.

Although it never played a major role in the strategic Persian Gulf region until the twentieth century, Kuwait was important in the religious development of the area's nomadic Arab tribes. When Islam spread to Iraq and Persia, Kuwait functioned as a passage for Muslim missions, armies, and trade. During the medieval Islamic period, Kuwait remained an indistinguishable tribal land. The development of Kuwait proper, especially its religious character, did not occur until the economic and political prospects of the gulf region as a whole changed in the eighteenth century, by which time migrating 'Utub tribesmen from eastern Arabia were increasing their control over Kuwait. More specifically, the 'Utub were determined to defend Kuwait against attacks by Wahhabi reformists.

Despite the increasing proportion of expatriates in Kuwait's population (more than 60 percent in late 2003), Muslims continue to make up the great majority of its inhabitants. Indeed, all but a few Kuwaiti citizens and most non-Kuwaiti Arabs in the country are Muslims. The vast majority of non-Muslims in contemporary Kuwait consists of expatriates from South and Southeast Asia, Lebanon, and the West.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

The Kuwaiti spirit of tolerance inherited from the pristine teaching of Islam, as elaborated in the teachings of the imam Malik ibn Anas (died in 797), is captured in Kuwait's 1962 constitution. Article 29 states, "All people are equal in human dignity, and in public rights and duties before the law, without distinction as to race, origin, language, or religion." Article 35 is more specific: "Freedom of belief is absolute. The state protects the freedom of religious practice in accordance with established customs, provided that it does not conflict with public policy or morals."

Kuwait's constitution, however, specifies that Islam is the state religion. Islamic law, the Shari'ah, is "a main source of legislation." The ruling Sabah family and many other prominent Kuwaiti families belong to the Sunni tradition of Islam. Some 25 to 30 percent of the population belong to the Shiite tradition.

From 1911 Shaykh Mubarak Al-Sabah (died in 1915) welcomed the Dutch Reformed Church of the United States, which opened hospitals in the capital, Kuwait. The presence of more Christians resulted in the erection of a church adjacent to the hospitals in 1931. Since that time the church has been known as the National Evangelical Church, and it offers services in both Arabic and English.

There are several legally recognized expatriate congregations and churches in contemporary Kuwait, including a Catholic diocese and several Protestant churches. Expatriates who are members of such other religions as Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism may not build places of worship but may worship privately in their homes. The government prohibits missionaries from proselytizing among Muslims; however, missionaries may serve expatriate congregations. The government also prohibits Muslims from converting to other religions.

The law does not allow religious education for religions other than Islam, though this statute does not appear to be rigidly enforced. In addition, non-Muslims may not become citizens.

Kuwait has enjoyed amicable relations among its various religionists. Indeed, Kuwaiti citizens generally are open and tolerant of other religions, though there is a small minority of ultraconservatives opposed to the presence of non-Muslim groups.

Major Religion

ISLAM

DATE OF ORIGIN mid-seventh century c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 1.8 million

HISTORY

Islam spread to the Persian Gulf region as early as the 630s, during the reigns of the caliphs Abu Bakr (died in 634) and 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (died in 643). But the formation of Kuwait as a political entity began only with the migration of the loose tribal confederation known as the 'Utub from eastern Arabia toward the end of the seventeenth century. The tribesmen succeeded in maintaining a dual orientation toward nomadism and a seafaring way of life. With the growth of regional trade and increasing stability in the region—particularly after the arrival of the Portuguese, Dutch, and British—some 'Utub settled in what eventually became known as Kuwait around the beginning of the eighteenth century. From that time Islam, buttressed by Arab tribalism, was endorsed as the basis of the new state.

Responding to the existing pearling industry and trade, the settled 'Utub tribesmen developed Kuwait as a port in the eighteenth century. In 1756 the Sabah dynasty of the 'Utub was established. Toward the end of the century, the 'Utub succeeded in defending the port against the onslaught of the Wahhabis; however, it did not entirely escape their radical Islamic reformism. Nevertheless, Kuwait's rulers insisted on maintaining the country's association with the Malikite legal school, which gave it a distinctive Sunni-Malikite identity. Benefiting from the thriving regional trade in the nineteenth century, Kuwait skillfully maintained close diplomatic ties with the Ottoman authorities in Basra and Baghdad as well as British interests in the Persian Gulf. The port attracted diverse trading communities and job seekers, including Shiites from other gulf countries.

In response to pressure from Islamist groups like the Islamic Reform Society, the Islamic Heritage Revival Society, and the Shiites in the late 1970s, Kuwait's government made positive symbolic gestures toward Islamization. For example, the government tightened the ban on alcohol, increased religious broadcasting, and supported the Islamic Finance House (Bayt al-Mal), which derives most of its funds from the religious taxes paid by Muslims in the country. In the 1980s the Iran-Iraq War forced the government to take harsher measures against the Shiites, who were suspected of launching violent attacks on important facilities in the capital, particularly after the closure of the Assembly in July 1986. More and more Kuwaiti Shiites were suspected of supporting the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran and thus suffered discrimination or deportation. Indeed, indirect Iranian attacks on Kuwait's institutions and missions worsened conditions for Shiites in Kuwait, forcing them to become more adaptive toward—or even loyal to—the Kuwaiti government.

In contemporary Kuwait the Shiite community has faced a similar predicament. For instance, until recently Shiite leaders have claimed that Shiites who aspire to serve as imams have been forced to seek appropriate training and education abroad because of the lack of Shiite jurisprudence courses at Kuwait University. A plan thus is underway to establish a private college for the training of Shiite clerics within the country. If approved, the new college could reduce Kuwaiti Shiites' dependence on foreign educational institutions, particularly in Iraq and Iran, for the training of their clerics.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

The dominance of the ruling class in a relatively small country like Kuwait undermined the growth of an autonomous religious establishment. Religious leaders in Kuwait emerged among functionaries appointed by the ruler. Indeed, before 1969 the state mufti was appointed by the ruler. For instance, Sheikh 'Abd Allah ibn Khalid al-'Adsani (died in 1917), the first state mufti, was appointed by Sheikh Salim al-Mubarak al-Sabah (reigned 1916–20). Interestingly, the ruling class generally has avoided any direct exercise of authority in purely religious matters.

Muslim leaders in Kuwait have come from the ranks of Malikite scholars. Yet the customary reliance on the existing Malikite texts concerning various religious matters and issues has limited the emergence of well-known independent scholars.

A watershed in the field of religious ruling in Kuwait came in 1969, when the government formed a committee on the subject under the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. Sheikh 'Abd Allah al-Nuri (died in 1981) was among the most influential members of this committee.

After independence in 1961, Kuwait experienced intensive religious ties with other Muslim countries, which led to the expansion of various modern Islamic organizations in the country, including the Egypt-based Muslim Brothers and the self-proclaimed scripturalists, the Salafis. The Muslim Brothers formed the Social Reform Society, which was led by Yusif Jasim al-Hajj, who later led the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic affairs.

Prior to the Iranian Revolution in February 1979, Shiites in Kuwait formed a political group under the leadership of such religious and merchant families as the al-Kazimi, Ma'rifi, Bahbahani, Qabazard, and Dashti. Indeed, with government support, in 1975 the Shiites won ten seats in the 50-seat Assembly. When the younger generations, responding to the revolution in Iran, wanted to alter this leadership, the government adopted stern countermeasures, including the deportation of the exiled Iranian 'Abbas al-Mahr in September 1979.

In recent years Kuwait has seen the emergence of Islamist leaders with interests in both regional and international affairs. Contemporary Shiite leaders like Muhammad Baqir al-Mahri and Abu al-Qasim Dibaji, for example, were critical of the harsh policies of the Baathist regime toward the Shiites in southern Iraq. Al-Mahri has gained prominence as a spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Najaf.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

Under the conservative political regime, the Sunni majority in Kuwait has had little reason to oppose the ruling class, especially after a conservative religious bureaucracy was established, first under the mufti and, later, under the powerful Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. One of the leading muftis, Sheikh al-Nuri, published his religious rulings in a book titled Sa'aluni (1971; They Asked Me).

More recently Kuwait has seen the emergence of promising Islamic writers. In 1999 Yusuf bin Eisa al-Qana'i (died in 1973) was awarded a national medal (Wisam al-Takrim) for his contribution to the advancement of the study of modern Islamic thought. Sheikh Khalid Rashid writes a regular Islamic column in the well-known journal al-Wa'y al-Islami (Islamic Awakening).

Proponents of the orthodox school and the more reformist or literalist advocates, which include the Muslim Brothers and Salafis of different shades, have engaged in debate concerning faith and creed. For example, 'Abd al-Razzaq ibn Khalifah Shayiji defended the status quo against the radical Salafi movement in two works published in 1994 and 1996.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

Built near the the emir's palace in Kuwait City in 1986, the grand mosque of Kuwait has become the main venue for worship and religious celebrations. In addition, more than 1,350 local mosques, including 39 specifically for Shiites, have been built.

WHAT IS SACRED?

Under the increasing influence of Salafism (fundamentalism), Kuwaitis have abandoned most un-Islamic signs of sacredness as well as the religious veneration of certain objects and, especially, those practices that are considered to be the results of superstition or accretion (corruption of the pure faith through extraneous additions). Nevertheless, the Shiites continue to venerate such objects as papers or stones taken from the holy centers of Najaf and Karbala' in Iraq. Moreover, the expression of reverence for the Koran can be found in its daily recitation, the artistic presentation of its verses in important places, and the presence of copies of the Holy Scripture in living rooms, cars, and shops.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

The Muslim festivals celebrated annually in Kuwait are common to all Islam. At the popular level, celebrations associated with the births and deaths of local religious figures are commonly organized, though major public celebrations have almost disappeared. Shiites in Kuwait enthusiastically commemorate famous moments in the lives of their imams, particularly the martyrdom of Imam Husayn near Karbala', the focus of the Ashura celebration, and the Prophet's declaration of Imam Ali's leadership, marked in the Ghadir Khum festival on 18 Dhu-l-Hijja (the month of pilgrimage). Nevertheless, the greatest festivals for all Muslims in Kuwait, as for those in other Middle Eastern countries, remain the celebration of the Days of Sacrifice (Id al-Adha), which begins on 10 Dhu-l-Hijja and lasts for four days, and the end of the fasting month of Ramadan (Id al-Fitr).

MODE OF DRESS

Proud of their Bedouin Arab culture, Kuwaiti men and women commonly dress in traditional garb. More and more Kuwaitis, however, particularly youths and students, have become accustomed to wearing clothes of Western design. Working women often prefer to wear Western-style clothing in their offices and then change into the long dress and abaya (a silky black cloak) for shopping and other activities.

Most Kuwaiti men wear a distinctive, floor-length white robe (dishdasha) and pristine headdress, a symbol of national unity. During summer a white cotton blend fabric is preferred. When the temperature drops, a wide variety of colors appear, especially dark blues, grays, tans, and browns in soft wool blends.

DIETARY PRACTICES

As Muslims the Kuwaitis are expected not to drink alcohol or consume pork. The consumption of pork is, practically speaking, impossible; however, abstinence from alcohol has become a challenge for some Kuwaitis, as it is available at major establishments that cater to Westerners.

RITUALS

Kuwaitis undertake five daily prayers. The majority perform them privately, while others pray in congregation at mosques. The Friday prayer, which is preceded by a sermon, must be offered in a special congregation at the mosque. Sunnis have had their Friday prayer since Islam's beginning, but the Shiites have had a formally organized Friday prayer only since September 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini authorized a Kuwaiti Shiite leader named 'Abbas al-Mahr to publicly lead the prayer in congregation. Kuwaitis also perform pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina. In addition, Kuwaiti Shiites travel to Iraq and Iran to visit the tombs of Shiite imams, especially those of Imam Husayn at Karbala', Imam Ali at Najaf, and Imam Musa at Kazimayn near Baghdad.

The social institution known as the diwaniya, a place for informal get-togethers, has a long tradition in Kuwait. For men the diwaniya has been a common custom throughout the country's history. Women also have their own gatherings for socializing.

Large weddings are also a tradition in Kuwait. Men and women gather separately for the occasion, and the women's reception usually lasts through breakfast the next morning. Such all-night celebrations, in which both families as well as the bride and groom participate, show the continuing strength of the family in Kuwaiti society.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Kuwaitis, like other Arabs, have introduced Islamic elements into major life transitions, including birth, adolescence, and death. Customary rites related to birth and adolescence have disappeared or are performed only among core family members at home, as most Kuwaiti children are now born in hospitals, and boys are circumcised in clinics at a young age. When a person dies, the funeral occurs soon after, for burial normally takes place within a few hours of death. Given the increasing importance of the family home as a setting for the performance of certain rites of passage and the effects of modernization and Islamic reformism, many facets of public rites have been reduced or even abandoned.

MEMBERSHIP

Kuwaitis, like Muslims elsewhere, have no special occasion to mark the admission of new members, except in the case of adult conversion, which is customarily accompanied by a ceremony and the recitation of the two confessions (shahadatan). Children of Muslim parents—or at least Muslim fathers—are Muslim by default and, as babies, are given Islamic names, which are recited with the call to prayer (adhan) and the two confessions.

Since January 1982 private organizations, in cooperation with the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, have launched alms centers to help the needy, especially orphans, and to support missionary activities among expatriate workers abroad in Africa and other parts of Asia. With the strong financial support generated by the centers, Muslim groups have established organized missionary activities via the distribution of aid, publications, and the Internet.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Islamic social justice has been implemented in Kuwait by the ruling family through the state welfare system. The Islamic religious tax (zakat) obliges Muslims to put aside a portion of their income for the needy. Since January 1982 alms centers have been set up to mobilize and distribute religious tax revenues and alms more effectively in Kuwait and abroad. For example, during the month of fasting in 2003 a religious ruling (fatwa) was issued by the Fatwa Unit requiring delivery of zakat to the Palestinians.

Contemporary affluence and the continuing need for an expatriate work force have created social ambivalence among Kuwaitis. On the one hand, they offer lucrative incomes to expatriate workers; on the other hand, they are uneasy with the dominance of expatriates in key professions and in production. Several mechanisms, indeed, work negatively for the work conditions and rights of these expatriates. For example, in order to secure a supply of jobs for Kuwaiti nationals, expatriate workers are subject to vague labor laws that allow their exploitation—even deportation. In response to the problems faced by expatriates and their children, Islamic organizations, such as the various Salafi movements and the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, have collected special funds to assist with their education, training, and socioreligious activities.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Social arrangements involving family and marriage have grown out of traditional intergroup relations in Kuwaiti society. Indeed, the tribal worldview and traditions, more than anything else, continue to inspire Kuwaiti social organization, especially at the level of family and kinship relations. Families remain influential in the choice of spouses, reflecting the traditional emphasis on maintaining and strengthening kinship ties.

POLITICAL IMPACT

The obvious and deep impact of Islam on political life in Kuwait can be seen in the emergence of the al-Sabah dynasty. The emirate, or dawla, inherited the political principles endorsed for centuries by diverse Islamic polities in the region. Maintaining tribal loyalty and promoting Islamic solidarity, al-Sabah won the sheikhdom and loyal subjects. In other aspects of government and state, Islam inspired the Kuwaitis after World War I to demand political representation in the form of an assembly and to organize their community life based on Arab tribalism and Islamic teachings.

The causes of Shiite social and political activism in Kuwait are complex and partly homegrown. Their struggle for political recognition embodied the Shiites' collective frustration with their exclusion and second-class status and provided an alternative to the dominant state ideology. Shiite leaders in the country have, however, prudently avoided openly criticizing the prevailing socioreligious arrangements supported by the Sabah regime.

In the Kuwait-Iraq war of 1991, Kuwaiti Shiites found themselves in conflict with the mostly Shiite Iraqi army. Iraq may have hoped to neutralize, at least, the Kuwaiti Shiite population. Overall, however, Kuwaiti Shiites demonstrated loyalty to the state.

In addition to Islamist and secularist approaches to statehood, a third platform has emerged on the Shiite political scene in Kuwait. It advances a secularist—or, at least, non-Islamist—agenda but is nevertheless committed to promoting Shiite interests and redressing grievances. This pioneering platform faced uncertainty following elections in July 2003, when Islamist candidates—Sunni and Shiite—won 17 of 50 seats in the National Assembly. Moreover, the religio-political environment in the gulf region following the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq has paved the way for increased political solidarity among Shiites.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

The first carriers of HIV/AIDS in Kuwait were discovered in 1984. By the mid-1990s most noncitizen carriers of the disease had been deported. By late 1998 some 40 Kuwaiti citizens had died as a result of the AIDS infection. The overwhelming majority of Kuwaitis consider the religious community and Islamic values important in AIDS prevention.

Cases of drug addiction in Kuwait have increased since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when a U.S.-led military force drove the invading Iraqi army from Kuwait. The government, through the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, and the Salafi movements have called for the eradication of drug abuse and the moral and religious reeducation of addicts and have urged the public, especially families, to take an active role in preventing such abuse among loved ones.

Women in Kuwait have continued to experience legal and social discrimination. For example, in the family courts, which operate primarily according to Islamic law, one man's testimony is sometimes given the same weight as the testimony of two women. In the civil, criminal, and administrative courts, however, the testimony of women and men is considered equally. Unmarried women 21 years of age and older are free to obtain passports and travel abroad at any time. In accordance with Islamic law, however, a married woman who applies for a passport must obtain her husband's signature on the application.

CULTURAL IMPACT

Closely connected geographically and culturally to the Arab world, itself almost synonymous with Islam, Kuwait is fully immersed in Arabo-Islamic culture. Its literature, architecture, painting, dance, and music grow in breadth along with Arab culture in general. Yet, Kuwait has developed certain traits and characteristics, especially in architecture, related to its own environment and interaction with the wider world. Arabo-Islamic expression in architecture can still be observed in mosques and houses, however, despite the onslaught of modern architecture.

Islam's impact on Kuwaiti music and dance can be seen in the strength of the traditional form in these fields. For example, despite the influence of Indian and East African music, the dominance of the oud (a lutelike instrument) in Kuwaiti music shows the strong presence of Arabo-Islamic elements. In dance Kuwaitis closely follow and elaborate such tribal and war dances as 'Arda (a war dance accompanied by poetry reading) and Samri, Khamari, and Tanburi, which predominate at weddings and other family and social gatherings.

Although calligraphy has been traditionally favored among Arabo-Islamic formative arts, in recent years, especially since the oil boom, Kuwait has produced internationally recognized painters and paintings.

Muslim prayer beads (misbah) have occupied a special place in Kuwaiti culture. Traditionally, the beads are strung in sets of 33, 66, or 99 to correspond with the names of God. The 33-beaded misbah is the most popular among Kuwaitis. A devout Muslim customarily touches each bead in sequence, reciting "Glory to Allah" (subhana Akbar) 33 times, and then repeats the process with the phrases "Praise to God" (al-hamd lillah) and "God is the Greatest" (Allah Akbar). Twirling the beads has become a popular pastime, though many still use them for religious purposes.

Other Religions

The immigration of workers to Kuwait has had a major impact on the fluctuating percentages of Muslims and non-Muslims in the country. The total number of non-Muslims in Kuwait changes rapidly and frequently.

Estimates of the nominal Christian population range from 250,000 to 400,000 and include approximately 200 citizens, most of whom belong to 12 large families. Kuwait's Christian community includes the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church; the National Evangelical Church; the Roman Catholic Church, with two churches and an estimated 100,000 members; and various Orthodox churches.

There are many other unrecognized, and thus unregistered, Christian denominations in the country, with tens of thousands of members. These denominations include Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Mar Thoma Church, and the Indian Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

Also in Kuwait are members of religions predominant in other pasts of Asia, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Bahá'ís, and Buddhists. They may not build places of worship but are allowed to worship privately in their homes. In January 2002, in the face of mounting pressure from Kuwaiti residents in the district of Salwa, the government ordered the closure of the Sikh temple Gurudwara.

Several ministries and other government agencies handle non-Muslim affairs in Kuwait. Officially recognized churches must deal with a variety of government entities for permits. In contemporary Kuwait seven Christian churches have some form of official recognition and thus are able to operate openly. Interestingly, the three oldest churches in the country have traditionally enjoyed some recognition by the government and are allowed to operate compounds officially designated as churches: the Roman Catholic Church (including the Maronite Church), the Anglican Church, and the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait. Although the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches are allowed to operate openly, hire employees, and invite religious speakers, their compounds are, according to government records, registered only as private homes. No other churches have legal status in Kuwait, but they are allowed to operate in private homes. Their adherents are able to worship without government interference, provided that they do not disturb their neighbors and do not violate laws regarding assembly and proselytizing.

Informal instruction in non-Muslim religions is permitted in private homes and church compounds without government interference. From time to time government inspectors make on-the-spot checks in public and private schools outside church compounds to ensure that non-Islamic religions are not being taught.

Although there is a small community of Christian citizens, a law passed in 1980 prohibits the naturalization of non-Muslims. Citizens who were Christians before 1980 (and children born to such citizens since that date) are allowed to transmit their citizenship to their children. According to the law, a non-Muslim male must convert to Islam when he marries a Muslim woman if the wedding is to be legal in the country. A non-Muslim female is not required to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim male, but it is to her advantage to do so. Failure to convert may mean that, should the couple later divorce, the Muslim father would be granted custody of any children.

The Roman Catholic embassy accredited to Kuwait, Bahrain, and Yemen was upgraded from chargé d'affaires to full ambassadorial status in September 2001. The Vatican ambassador to all these countries resides in Kuwait City.

Iik A. Mansurnoor

See Also Vol. 1: Islam, Shiism, Sunnism

Bibliography

Burrell, R.M. "al-Kuwayt." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 5. Leiden; London: Brill, 1986.

Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Fuller, Graham E., and Rend Rahim Francke. The Arab Shi'a: The Forgotten Muslims. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Lawson, Fred H. "Gulf States." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Edited by John L. Esposito, Shahrough Akhavi, et al. Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Russell, Sharon S., and Muhammad A. al-Ramadhan. "Kuwait's Migration Policy since the Gulf Crisis." International Journal of Middle East Studies 26 (1994): 569–87.

State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. "Kuwait." International Religious Freedom Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002.

Tétreault, Mary Ann. "A State of Two Minds: State Cultures, Women, and Politics in Kuwait." International Journal of Middle East Studies 33 (2001): 203–22.

Vine, Peter, and Paula Casey. Kuwait: A Nation's Story. London: Immel Publishing, 1992.

Ziadeh, Farhat J. "Law: Sunni Schools of Law." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islamic World. Edited by John L. Esposito, Shahrough Akhavi, et al. Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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Kuwait

KUWAIT

Compiled from the August 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
State of Kuwait


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 17,820 sq. km. (6,880 sq. mi.); approximately the size of the State of New Jersey.

Cities: Capital—Kuwait City, pop. (2002 est.) 413,170. Other cities — Ahmadi, Jahra, Fahaheel.

Terrain: Almost entirely flat desert plain (highest elevation point—306 m).

Climate: Summers are intensely hot and dry with average highs ranging from 42º-46ºC (108º-115ºF); winters are short (Dec.-Feb.) and cool, averaging 10º-30ºC (50º-80ºF), with limited rain.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Kuwaiti(s).

Population: (2003 est.) 2.42 million, including about 1.5 million non-Kuwaiti citizens.

Annual growth rate: 4.8%.

Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 38%, other Arab 22%, non-Arab (primarily Asian) 36%, stateless 5%.

Religions: Muslim 85% (Sunni 70%, Shi'a 30% among Kuwaitis), with small Hindu, Christian and Sikh communities.

Languages: Arabic (official), English is widely spoken.

Education: Compulsory from ages 6-14; free at all levels for Kuwaitis, including higher education. Adult Literacy (age 15 and over)—83.5% for the overall population (male 85.1%, female 81.7%), 91.2% for Kuwaitis (male 91.4%, female 90.8%).

Health: Infant mortality rate −11 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy—75 yrs. male, 77 yrs. female.

Work force: (2002 actual) 1.364 million (of which about 19% are Kuwaiti nationals. 62.7% male; 37.3% female).

Government

Type: Constitutional hereditary emirate.

Independence: June 19, 1961 (from U.K.).

Constitution: Approved and promulgated November 11, 1962.

Branches: Executive—Amir (head of state); prime minister (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by prime minister and approved by the Amir. Legislative—unicameral elected National Assembly (Majlis al-'Umma) of 50 members who serve 4-year terms. Judicial—High Court of Appeal.

Administrative subdivisions: Six governorates (muhafazat) Al 'Asimah, Hawalli, Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra', Mubarak Al-Kebir, and Al Farwaniyah.

Political parties: None; formal political parties are banned although de facto political blocs exist.
Elections: There are no executive branch elections; the Amir is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the Amir. Legislative branch elections were last held July 5, 2003 (next National Assembly election is due in 2007)

Suffrage: Adult males who have been citizens for 20 years and are not in the security forces (about 14% of all citizens).

Economy

GDP: (2003) $42.8 billion.

Real GDP growth rate: (2003) 9.9%.

Natural resources: Oil, natural gas, fish.

Agriculture: (about 0.3% of GDP) With the exception of fish, most food is imported. Cultivated land—1%.

Industry: (about 60% of GDP) Types—petroleum extraction and refining, fertilizer, chemicals, desalination, construction materials.

Services: (about 39% of GDP) public administration, finance, real estate, trade, hotels and restaurants

Trade: (2002) Exports —$15.474 billion: oil (91.3%). Major markets — Japan 25%, South Korea 13%, U.S. 12%, Singapore 10%, Netherlands 4.5%. Imports—$7.424 billion: food, construction materials, vehicles and

parts, clothing. Major suppliers—U.S. 13%, Japan 11%, Germany 9%, U.K. 6%, Saudi Arabia 6%.


PEOPLE

Over 90% of the population lives within a 500-square kilometer area surrounding Kuwait City and its harbor. Although the majority of people residing in the State of Kuwait are of Arab origin, less than half are originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of oil in 1938 drew many Arabs from nearby states. Following the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991, the Kuwaiti Government undertook a serious effort to reduce the expatriate population by specifically limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. Kuwait later abandoned this policy, and it currently has a sizable foreign labor force (over 60% of the total population).

The national census does not distinguish between Sunni and Shi'a adherents, but an estimated 1.6 million residents, including the ruling family and 600,000 Kuwaiti nationals, belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. An estimated 400,000 Muslims are Shi'a including about 300,000 Kuwaitis. Estimates of the Christian population range from 250,000-500,000 residents, including about 200 citizens. There also are communities of Hindus (estimated at 100,000) and Sikhs (estimated at 10,000).

Kuwait's 83% literacy rate, one of the Arab world's highest, is the result of extensive government support for the education system. Public school education, including Kuwait University, is free, but access is restricted for foreign residents. The government sponsors the foreign study of qualified students abroad for degrees not offered at Kuwait University. About 3,000 Kuwaitis are currently enrolled in U.S. universities.


HISTORY

Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait's nine islands, suggests it was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. Failaka appears to have continued to serve as a market for approximately 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. Despite its long history as a market and sanctuary for traders, Failaka appears to have been abandoned as a permanent settlement in the 1st century A.D. Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar.

Threatened in the 19th century by the Ottoman Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups, Kuwait sought the same treaty relationship Britain had already signed with the Trucial States (UAE) and Bahrain. In January 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah —"the Great"— signed an agreement with the British Government that pledged himself and his successors neither to cede any territory, nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent, in exchange for protection and an annual subsidy. When Mubarak died in 1915, the population of Kuwait of about 35,000 was heavily dependent on shipbuilding (using wood imported from India) and pearl diving.

Mubarak was succeeded as ruler by his sons Jabir (1915-17) and Salim (1917-21). Kuwait's subsequent rulers have descended from these two brothers. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah ruled Kuwait from 1921 until his death in 1950, a period in which oil was discovered and in which the government attempted to establish the first internationally recognized boundaries; the 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 sq. km. (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait's southern border.

Kuwait achieved independence from the British under Sheikh Ahmed's successor, Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah. By early 1961, the British had already withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On June 19, 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.

Kuwait enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity under Amir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah, who died in 1977 after ruling for 12 years. Under his rule, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement dividing the Neutral Zone (now called the Divided Zone) and demarcating a new international boundary. Both countries share equally the Divided Zone's petroleum, onshore and offshore. The country was transformed into a highly developed welfare state with a free market economy.

In August 1990, Iraq attacked and invaded Kuwait. Kuwait's northern border with Iraq dates from an agreement reached with Turkey in 1913. Iraq accepted this claim in 1932 upon its independence from Turkey. However, following Kuwait's independence in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, arguing that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. In 1963, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the "Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters."

Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a UN-mandated coalition led by the United States began a ground assault in February 1991 that liberated Kuwait. During the 7-month occupation by Iraq, the Amir, the Government of Kuwait, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia and other nations. The Amir and the government successfully managed Kuwaiti affairs from Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and warrelated expenses.

Following liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and the 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in UN Security Council Resolutions 773 and 883.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by princes (Amirs) who have been drawn from the Al Sabah family for over 200 years. The 1962 constitution provides for an elected National Assembly and details the powers of the branches of government and the rights of citizens. Under the Constitution, the National Assembly has a limited role in approving the Amir's choice of the Crown Prince, who succeeds the Amir upon his death. If the National Assembly rejects his nominee, the Amir then submits three names of qualified candidates from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, from which the Assembly must choose the new Crown Prince. Successions have been orderly since independence.

For almost 40 years, the Amir has appointed the Crown Prince as Kuwait's Prime Minister. However, in an unprecedented development, the Amir formally separated the two positions and appointed a new Prime Minister in July 2003.

Kuwait's first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to 1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. On May 4, 1999, the Amir once again dissolved the National Assembly. This time, however, it was done through entirely constitutional means, and new elections were held on July 3, 1999. The most recent general election, held in July 2003, was considered free and fair, although there were some credible reports of vote buying by the government and the opposition.

The government bans formal political parties, but de facto political blocs exist and are typically organized along ideological lines. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decision-making, with powers to initiate legislation, question Cabinet ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 10/13/04

Amir: Sabah , JABIR al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al
Prime Min.: Sabah , SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al
First Dep. Prime Min.: Sabah , NAWWAF al-Ahmad Al
Dep. Prime Min.: Sabah , JABIR MUBARAK al-Hamad Al
Dep. Prime Min.: Sharar , Muhammad Dayfallah al-
Min. of Communications: Sabah , AHMAD ABDALLAH al-Ahmad Al
Min. of Defense: Sabah , JABIR MUBARAK al-Hamad Al
Min. of Education & Higher Education: Hamad , Rashid Hamad Muhammad al-
Min. of Energy & Oil: Sabah , AHMAD FAHD al-Ahmad Al
Min. of Finance: Nuri , Mahmud Abd al-Khalid al-
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Sabah , MUHAMMAD al-Sabah al-Salim Al
Min. of Health: Jarallah , Muhammad Ahmad al-, Dr.
Min. of Information: Abul Hasan , Muhammad Abdallah Abbas
Min. of Interior: Sabah , NAWWAF al-Ahmad Al
Min. of Justice: Baqr , Ahmad Yaqub
Min. of Public Works: Humaydi , Badr Nasir al-
Min. of Religious Endowment & Islamic Affairs: Matuq , Abdallah al-
Min. of Social Affairs & Labor: Sabah , MUHAMMAD al-SABAH al-Salim Al
Min. of Trade & Industry: Tawil , Abdallah Abd al-Rahman al-
Min. of Transportation & Planning: Sabah , AHMAD ABDALLAH al-Ahmad Al
Min. of State for Administrative Development Affairs (Acting): Harun , Musaid Rashid Ahmad al-
Min. of State for Amiri Diwan Affairs: Sabah , NASIR Muhammad Ahmad Al
Min. of State for Cabinet Affairs: Sharar , Muhammad Dayfallah al-
Min. of State for Housing Affairs: Humaydi , Badr Nasir al-
Min. of State for National Assembly Affairs: Sharar , Muhammad Dayfallah al-
Speaker, Parliament: Khurafi , Jasim al-
Governor, Central Bank: Sabah , SALIM Abd al-Aziz Saud Al
Ambassador to the US: Sabah , SALIM al-Abdallah Jabir Al
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Mulla , Nabila Abdallah al-

Kuwait maintains an embassy in the United States at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. [1] (202)-966-0702).


ECONOMY

Kuwait has a small, relatively open economy dominated by the oil industry and government sector. Its proved crude oil reserves of about 98 billion barrels—10% of world reserves—account for nearly half of GDP, 95% of export revenues, and 80% of government income. During the 1970s, Kuwait benefited from the dramatic rise in oil prices, which Kuwait actively promoted through its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The economy suffered from the triple shock of a 1982 securities market crash, the mid-1980s drop in oil prices, and the 1990 Iraqi invasion and occupation. The Kuwaiti Government-in-exile depended upon its $100 billion in overseas investments during the Iraqi occupation in order to help pay for the reconstruction. Thus, by 1993, this balance was cut to less than half of its pre-invasion level. The wealth of Kuwait is based primarily on oil and capital reserves, and the Iraqi occupation severely damaged both. Kuwait has enjoyed a limited economic boom following Operation Iraqi Freedom as many companies working in Iraq have established offices in Kuwait and procured goods through Kuwaiti companies. The banking and construction sector, in particular, have grown in the last year. The sustained high oil price has also provided the Kuwaiti government with a substantial windfall in 2003 and 2004.

In the closing hours of the Gulf War in February 1991, the Iraqi occupation forces set ablaze or damaged 749 of Kuwait's oil wells. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damage. Oil production was 1.5 million b/d by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait's current production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million b/d. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million b/d by 2008.

Oil

In 1934, the ruler of Kuwait granted an oil concession to the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), jointly owned by the British Petroleum Company and Gulf Oil Corporation. In 1976, the Kuwaiti Government nationalized KOC. The following year, Kuwait took over onshore production in the Divided Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. KOC produces jointly there with Texaco, Inc., which, by its 1984 purchase of Getty Oil Company, acquired the Saudi Arabian onshore concession in the Divided Zone.

Offshore, the Divided Zone, the Arabian Oil Company (AOC)—80% owned by Japanese interests and 10% each by the Kuwaiti and Saudi Governments—produced on behalf of both countries from 1961 until 2000, when its concession in the Saudi zone expired. AOC gave up its drilling rights in the Kuwaiti sector 3 years later. The Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Company—KPC) has assumed AOC's offshore operations.

The KPC, an integrated international oil company, is the parent company of the government's operations in the petroleum sector, and includes Kuwait Oil Company, which produced oil and gas; Kuwait National Petroleum Co., refining and domestic sales; Petrochemical Industries Co., producing ammonia and urea; Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Co., with several concessions in developing countries; Kuwait Oil Tanker Co.; and Santa Fe International Corp. The latter, purchased outright in 1982, gives KPC a worldwide presence in the petroleum industry.

KPC also has purchased from Gulf Oil Co. refineries and associated service stations in the Benelux nations and Scandinavia, as well as storage facilities and a network of service stations in Italy. In 1987, KPC bought a 19% share in British Petroleum, which was later reduced to 10%. KPC markets its products in Europe under the brand Q8 and is interested in the markets of the United States and Japan.

Kuwait has about 96.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil; only Saudi Arabia and Iraq have larger proven reserves. Estimated capacity before the occupation was about 2.4 million barrels per day (b/d). During the Iraqi occupation, Kuwait's oil-producing capacity was reduced to practically nothing. However, tremendous recovery and improvements have been made. Oil production was 1.5 million b/d by the end of 1992, and pre-war capacity was restored in 1993. Kuwait's production capacity is estimated to be 2.5 million b/d. Kuwait plans to increase its capacity to 3.5 million b/d by 2008.

Social Benefits

The government has sponsored many social welfare, public works, and development plans financed with oil and investment revenues. Among the benefits for Kuwaiti citizens are retirement income, marriage bonuses, housing loans, virtually guaranteed employment, free medical services, and education at all levels. Foreign nationals residing in Kuwait obtain some, but not all, of the welfare services. The right to own stock in publicly traded companies, real estate, and banks or a majority interest in a business is limited to Kuwaiti citizens, and citizens of GCC states under limited circumstances.

Industry and Development

Industry in Kuwait consists of several large export-oriented petrochemical units, oil refineries, and a range of small manufacturers. It also includes large water desalinization, ammonia, desulfurization, fertilizer, brick, block, and cement plants. During the invasion, the Iraqis looted nearly all movable equipment of value, especially high-technology items and small machinery. Much of this has been replaced with newer equipment. The Kuwaiti government has promoted the Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) agreement with the U.S. as a means to attract additional foreign investment into Kuwaiti industries and enhance the country's diversification from a purely oil-based economy.

Agriculture

Agriculture is limited by the lack of water and arable land. The government has experimented in growing food through hydroponics and carefully managed farms. However, most of the soil which was suitable for farming in south central Kuwait was destroyed when Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells in the area and created vast "oil lakes." Fish and shrimp are plentiful in territorial waters, and large-scale commercial fishing has been undertaken locally and in the Indian Ocean.

Shipping

The Kuwait Oil Tankers Co. has 35 crude oil and refined product carriers and is the largest tanker company in an OPEC country. Kuwait also is a member of the United Arab Shipping Company.

Trade, Finance, and Aid

The Kuwaiti dinar is a strong currency pegged to a basket of currencies in which the U.S. dollar has the most weight. Kuwait ordinarily runs a balance-of-payments surplus.

Government revenues are dependent on oil revenues. Although government expenditures increased by about 8%, Kuwait's fiscal surplus in 2003 was some 18% of GDP. The fiscal surplus in 2004 will likely exceed that figure by 2-3%.

The government's two reserve funds—the Fund for Future Generations and the General Reserve Fund—which totaled nearly $100 billion prior to the invasion in 1990, were the primary source of capital for the Kuwaiti Government during the war. While these funds were depleted to $40-$50 billion after the war, they currently are estimated around $50-$60 billion. The bulk of this reserve is invested in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Southeast Asia. In order of importance, foreign assets are believed to be invested in stocks and bonds, fixed yield instruments (mostly short term), and real estate. Kuwait follows a generally conservative investment policy.

Kuwait has been a major source of foreign economic assistance to other states through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, an autonomous state institution created in 1961 on the pattern of Western and international development agencies. In 1974, the fund's lending mandate was expanded to include all-not just Arab-developing countries.

Over the years aid Kuwait has provided aid to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization. During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait also gave significant aid to the Iraqis. The Kuwait fund issued loans and technical assistance grants totaling over $419 million during its fiscal year ending March 31, 2003. Kuwaiti provided unparalleled assistance during Operation Iraqi Freedom by establishing and operating the Humanitarian Operations Center for Iraq.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Following independence in June 1961, Kuwait faced its first major foreign policy problem arising from Iraqi claims to Kuwait's territory. The Iraqis threatened invasion but were dissuaded by the U.K.'s ready response to the Amir's request for assistance. Kuwait presented its case before the United Nations and preserved its sovereignty. U.K. forces were later withdrawn and replaced by troops from Arab League nations, which were withdrawn in 1963 at Kuwait's request.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Through U.S. efforts, a multinational coalition was assembled, and, under UN auspices, initiated military action against Iraq to liberate Kuwait. Arab states, especially the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates), Egypt, and Syria, supported Kuwait by sending troops to fight with the coalition. Many European and East Asian states sent troops, equipment, and/or financial support.

After liberation, Kuwait concentrated its foreign policy efforts on development of ties to states which had participated in the multinational coalition. Notably, these states were given the lead role in Kuwait's reconstruction. Kuwait's relations with those nations that supported Iraq, among them Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, and Cuba, were slow to recover. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasir Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein during the war also affected Kuwait's attitudes toward the PLO though Kuwait supports the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The Government of Kuwait has abandoned its previous policy of limiting the entry of workers from nations whose leaders had supported Iraq during the Gulf War. In August 2001, the Interior Minister announced that there were no longer any special restrictions or permits required for Palestinian workers wishing to return to the country. At the end of 2002, there were approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians, 30,000 to 40,000 Jordanians, and 5,000 Yemenis resident in Kuwait.

Since liberation from Iraq, Kuwait has made efforts to secure allies throughout the world, particularly UN Security Council members. In addition to the United States, defense arrangements have been concluded with the United Kingdom, Russia, and France. Ties to other key Arab members of the Gulf War coalition—Egypt and Syria—also have been sustained.

During the 2002-03 build up to and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Kuwait was a vital coalition partner, reserving a full 60% of its total land mass for use by coalition forces and donating upward of $350 million in assistance in kind (primarily fuel) to the effort. In the aftermath of OIF, Kuwait has been consistently involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq, pledging $1.5 billion at the October 2003 international donors' conference in Madrid.

Kuwait is a member of the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank (IBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); African Development Bank (AFDB), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), Arab League, Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Group of 77 (G-77), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), INMARSAT, International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labor Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization, Interpol, INTELSAT, IOC, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (LORCS), Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


DEFENSE

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait maintained a small military force consisting of army, navy, and air force units. The majority of equipment for the military was supplied by the United Kingdom. Aside from the few units that were able to escape to Saudi Arabia, including a majority of the air force, all of this equipment was either destroyed or taken by the Iraqis. Much of the property returned by Iraq after the Gulf War was damaged beyond repair. Iraq retained a substantial amount of captured Kuwaiti military equipment in violation of UN resolutions.

Since liberation, Kuwait, with the help of the United States and other allies, has made significant efforts to increase the size and modernity of its armed forces. These efforts are succeeding. The government also continues to improve defense arrangements with other Arab states, as well as UN Security Council members. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, Kuwaiti military elements successfully operated missile defense systems.

A separately organized National Guard maintains internal security. The police constitute a single national force under the purview of civilian authorities of the Ministry of Interior.


U.S.-KUWAITI RELATIONS

The United States opened a consulate in Kuwait in October 1951, which was elevated to embassy status at the time of Kuwait's independence 10 years later. The United States supports Kuwait's sovereignty, security, and independence, as well as its multilateral diplomatic efforts to build greater cooperation among the GCC countries.

Strategic cooperation between the United States and Kuwait increased in 1987 with the implementation of a maritime protection regime that ensured the freedom of navigation through the Gulf for 11 Kuwaiti tankers that were reflagged with U.S. markings.

The U.S.-Kuwaiti strategic partnership intensified dramatically again after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The United States spearheaded UN Security Council demands that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and its authorization of the use of force, if necessary, to remove Iraqi forces from the occupied country. The Untied States also played a dominant role in the development of the multinational military operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait. The U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship has remained strong in the post-Gulf War period. Kuwait and the United States worked on a daily basis to monitor and to enforce Iraq's compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and Kuwait also provided the main platform for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Since Kuwait's liberation, the United States has provided military and defense technical assistance to Kuwait from both foreign military sales (FMS) and commercial sources. All transactions have been made by direct cash sale. The U.S. Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait is attached to the American embassy and manages the FMS program. U.S. military sales to Kuwait total $6.8 billion since 1992. Principal U.S. military systems currently purchased by the Kuwait Defense Forces are Patriot Missile systems, F-18 Hornet fighters, the M1A2 main battle tank, and the Apache helicopter.

Kuwaiti attitudes toward American products have been favorable since the Gulf War. In 1993, Kuwait publicly announced abandonment of the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab boycott of Israel (those aspects affecting U.S. firms). The United States is currently Kuwait's largest supplier of goods and services, and Kuwait is the fifth-largest market in the Middle East. U.S. exports to Kuwait totaled $902 million in 2002. Provided their prices are reasonable, U.S. firms have a competitive advantage in many areas requiring advanced technology, such as oil field equipment and services, electric power generation and distribution equipment, telecommunications gear, consumer goods, and military equipment.

Kuwait also is an important partner in the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and intelligence arenas and also supporting efforts to block financing of terrorist groups.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

KUWAIT (E) Address: Al-Masjed Al-Aqsa Street, Bayan, Plot 14; APO/FPO: PSC 1280, Box #, APO AE 09880; Phone: 965-539-5307/5308; Fax: 965-538-0282; Workweek: Sat-Wed./0800-1600; Website: http://Kuwait.usembassy.gov

AMB:Richard B. LeBaron
AMB OMS:Janice G. Smith
DCM:Matthew H. Tueller
DCM OMS:Malgorzata Lamot
POL:Natalie E. Brown
CON:Charles L. Glatz Jr.
MGT:Marjorie R. Phillips
AFSA:Robin C. Cooke
CLO:Beth U. Alois
CUS:James C. Piatt
DAO:Lt. Colonel Ivar Tait
DEA:Amembassy Cairo
ECO:Stephen J. Carrig
EEO:Robin C. Cooke
FAA/CASLO:FAA-Amemb Manama
FCS:Peter B. Alois
FMO:James C. Maher
GSO:Beverly Rochester-Johnson
IBB:Walter Patterson
ICASS Chair:Daniel Robers
IMO:Timothy S. Williams
IPO:Christopher Hickey
ISO:Herman A. Llorin
ISSO:Herman A. Llorin
LAB:Joseph Porto
MLO:Brig General John Mullholland
RSO:Gregary J. Levin
State ICASS:Vicki L. Adair
Last Updated: 11/29/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

February 10, 2005

Country Description: Kuwait is a small, oil rich constitutional monarchy with 10% of proven world oil reserves. Foreign workers constitute approximately 80% of the labor force. Kuwaiti citizens constitute only 37% of the country's population of 2.4 million, and enjoy the benefits of a generous social welfare system that guarantees employment, housing, education and medical care. Facilities for travelers are widely available.

Entry/Exit Requirements: Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. U.S. citizens can now obtain visitor visas at the port of entry in Kuwait. Travelers who overstay their visas may face serious fines when leaving Kuwait. Travelers who leave Kuwait without completing Kuwaiti exit procedures may face serious fines if they return to and attempt to depart from Kuwait. This includes travelers proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq. For further information on entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Kuwait and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Kuwait web site for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: Americans in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Since January 2005, Kuwaiti security forces have engaged terrorists in several confrontations in the Kuwait City metropolitan area, resulting in the deaths of terrorists, security personnel, and one civilian bystander. Such incidents may continue to occur in the near term as Kuwait security forces locate terrorists belonging to this group and attempt to detain them. The Embassy reminds travelers that terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Increased security throughout Kuwait may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas, oilrelated facilities and personnel, and public areas where people congregate, including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. U.S. citizens are advised to immediately report any unusual or suspicious activity in Kuwait to the Kuwaiti police or to the U.S. Embassy.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and other Public Announcements can be found. Travelers are also referred to the Embassy's Warden Notices which are available on the Embassy website at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-07-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad, and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa.

Crime: The crime rate in Kuwait is low. Violent crimes against expatriates are rare, but do occur. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. See our information on Victims of Crime at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1748.html.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: The health care system continues to develop, with many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards, and staffs often have no U.S. experience or training.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Kuwait is hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speeding on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 2.8 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. In 2003 there were 45,376 reported vehicular accidents and 372 traffic-accident-related deaths—an increase over the previous year. The average age of death was between 21 and 30 years. Over 950,000 cars are registered in Kuwait.

The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus service throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes and is widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Two types of taxi service are available: (1) orange taxis work a fixed route and pick up passengers anywhere along that route and may be shared, and (2) call-taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations upon telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark.

Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf.

If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. The use of seatbelts in the front seats is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender. When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.

Kuwait has one of the highest rates of cellular telephone ownership per capita in the world. Using a cellular telephone while driving remains legal. Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and are often not trained paramedics.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Kuwait as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Kuwait's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances: The work-week in Kuwait is Saturday through Wednesday for most businesses and government offices; it is Sunday through Thursday for commercial banks.

Kuwaiti customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of items such as firearms, religious material, pornography, and alcohol. Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Kuwaiti customs authorities screen the baggage of all travelers entering Kuwait. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington or Kuwait's Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our information on customs regulations.

Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam. Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, or involved in unresolved financial disputes with local business partners, are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. In purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor pledges funds equal to the amount in dispute.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kuwaiti laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Kuwait. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Plot 14, Block 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is P.O. Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-539-5307 or 539-5308. The fax number is 965-539-2484. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy's Internet web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov.

Public Announcement

January 28, 2005

This public announcement is being issued to update travelers on security concerns in Kuwait following recent violent incidents and to alert Americans that terrorists may target housing areas of Westerners. This public announcement supersedes the public announcement for Kuwait issued December 23, 2004, and expires on July 25, 2005.

In two separate incidents on January 10 and 15, 2005, Kuwaiti security officials and militants engaged in fatal shootouts. The Department of State wishes to advise American citizens that the possibility exists of further violent clashes between security officials and militants as police continue attempts to locate and arrest individuals connected to the earlier shootings. The Department reminds all U.S. citizens in Kuwait to exercise caution, maintain a low profile, and avoid areas where westerners are known to congregate. Heightened security awareness should be exercised in all residential complexes, as terrorists have specifically targeted a variety of Western housing facilities in the past.

Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Increased security at official U.S. facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas and apartment complexes, oil-related facilities and personnel, and public areas where people congregate including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas.

U.S. citizens are advised to immediately report any unusual or suspicious activity in Kuwait to the Kuwaiti police or to the U.S. Embassy.

U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens abroad, including in the Persian Gulf region. U.S. citizens planning to travel to Kuwait should consult the Department's travel information and register their trip at the Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. citizens who travel to, or remain in, Kuwait should also register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait and enroll in the warden system (emergency alert network) to obtain updated information on travel and security in Kuwait. Warden messages can be found on the U.S. Embassy Kuwait website: http://kuwait.usembassy.gov.

Travelers should consult the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet for Kuwait, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, and 317-472-2328 from overseas. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays.)

International Parental Child Abduction

January 2005

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of a specific foreign country is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Kuwait is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Kuwait and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Kuwait are subject to the jurisdiction of Kuwait courts, as well as to the country's laws and regulations. American citizens planning a trip to Kuwait with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes: Cases involving divorce and the custody of minor children are adjudicated in religious courts. If the marriage partners are Muslim, disputes will be resolved before an Islamic Shari'a court which will apply principles of the Islamic sect (Shia or Sunni or mixed) of the parties involved. A Shari'a court would also hear a dispute between a Muslim husband and non-Muslim wife. Marriage between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is prohibited in Kuwait. In the case of Christians, the court will be an Ecclesiastical Court composed of clergymen from the appropriate religious community, who will refer to the principles governing family status in the Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church or other Christian denomination.

In both theory and practice, Muslim and Christian courts in Kuwait differ very little in how they resolve disputes over the custody of children of divorced or separated parents. The relevant laws all give priority for custodianship to the mother as long as certain restrictive conditions are met. However, once the children reach adolescence, the father can appeal for custody, except in the Sunni sect where the daughter stays with her mother until marriage. If a court finds the mother not fit to have custody, a maternal grandmother living in Kuwait or a paternal grandmother (if the maternal grandmother is not living in Kuwait) will be given custody until the children reach the age at which the father may appeal for custody.

In actual practice, the conditions placed on the mother's primary right to custody often enable the father to maintain a great deal of influence over the rearing of the children, even though he may not have legal custody. For example, the mother must seek his approval to depart Kuwait with the children. Frequently, the father is actually able to assume legal custody against the wishes of the mother when she is unable or unwilling to meet the conditions set by law for her to maintain her custodial rights.

A mother can lose her primary right to custody of a child in a number of ways. The court can determine that she is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious standards. The mother can void her right to custody by re-marrying a party considered "unmarriageable," or by residing in a home with people who might be "strangers" to the child. The mother may not deny visitation rights to the father or the paternal grandfather and may not travel out-side Kuwait with the child without the father's approval and the approval of the court. In general, a Kuwaiti man divorcing his non-Kuwaiti wife may be awarded legal custody of their children if the court determines that any of the above conditions have not been met.

Under Shari'ah law, if a mother removes a child from the father thus denying him access, the mother's custody rights can be severed. An attempt to remove children from Kuwait without permission from the father is considered a criminal act in Kuwait. The U.S. Embassy cannot prevent the Kuwaiti government from arresting and either deporting or prosecuting an American citizen who violates Kuwaiti law.

A Kuwaiti father can remove his children from Kuwait without approval from the mother. A mother can seek a travel ban to prevent the father from taking the children out of Kuwait.

Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Kuwaiti court should retain an attorney in Kuwait. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait maintain a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by contacting either office.

U.S. Embassy Kuwait
P.O. Box 77 Safat
13001 Safat, Kuwait
Phone: [965] 539-5307/5308
After hours emergency phone number: [965] 538-2097/2098; Fax: [965] 539-2484
Workweek: Saturday through Wednesday

Specific questions regarding child custody in Kuwait should be addressed to an attorney practicing in Kuwait or to the Embassy of Kuwait at:

Embassy of the State of Kuwait
2940 Tilden Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 966-0702; Fax: (202) 966-0517

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Kuwait if they potentially contradict or violate local laws and practices. For example, an order from a U.S. court granting custody to a parent will not be honored in Kuwait if the parent intends to take the child to live outside Kuwait. Nor will Kuwaiti courts enforce U.S. court decrees ordering a parent in Kuwait to pay child support. However, a court hearing a custody case in Kuwait may take into consideration the law of the country of the father's nationality. An American father with a U.S. court order granting him custody might find that order helpful (though not binding) in a custody proceeding in Kuwait.

Visitation Rights: In cases where the father has custody of a child, the mother is guaranteed visitation rights. It has been the experience of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait that the father and the paternal grandparents of the child are generally very open and accommodating in facilitating the right of the mother to visit and maintain contact with the child.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized under Kuwaiti law. Children of Kuwaiti fathers automatically acquire Kuwaiti citizenship at birth, regardless of where the child was born. Women cannot transmit citizenship. Kuwaiti citizens must enter and exit the country on Kuwaiti passports.

Travel Restrictions: Exit visas are not required to leave Kuwait. However, a mother may face serious legal difficulties if she attempts to take her children out of Kuwait without the permission of the father. Immigration officials at the airport or border often ask to see permission from the father in writing before allowing children to exit, and have even been known to confirm a written request by contacting the father. If a woman has not placed a travel ban preventing a father from removing children from Kuwait, a father will usually be permitted to exit Kuwait with his children without difficulty.

Criminal Remedies: For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org.

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Kuwait

Kuwait

The state of Kuwait, with Kuwait City as its capital, is a small country of 17,820 square kilometers (6,879 square miles) located in the Middle East at the top of the Persian Gulf. It is bordered by two large and powerful neighbors: Saudi Arabia to the south and Iraq to the north. Kuwait's population is 2.5 million, mostly concentrated in cities on the Persian Gulf coast. Eighty-five percent of the population is Muslim (70 percent Sunni and 30 percent Shia). The remaining 15 percent are Christian, Hindu, and other religious groups. Foreign workers make up 55 percent of the population. Kuwait's land area is almost entirely desert. Its dry desert climate alternates between extremely hot summers and short, cool winters.

history

In the eighteenth century several groups migrated from the interior of the Arabian Peninsula and settled on the site of present-day Kuwait. In 1756 Kuwait came under the control of the al-Sabah family, who established themselves as rulers, and the country enjoyed semiautonomy from the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1299–1922). In 1899, fearing direct rule by Turkey, Sheikh Mubarak "the Great" (1896–1915); signed a treaty with Britain whereby Kuwait became a British protectorate. Under this agreement Britain assumed control of Kuwait's foreign and defense affairs, while the al-Sabahs were allowed to rule over internal matters. This state of affairs continued until Kuwait's independence on June 19, 1961. At independence the sheikh was renamed an emir.

At that time Iraq renewed its claims that Kuwait was part of its territory, but British intervention forced Iraq to renege on these claims. In 1962 a constitution was approved and promulgated; it called for election of a National Assembly. During the 1980s Kuwait supported Iraq—both strategically and financially—in its war against Iran. Soon after the conflict ended, however, Iraq turned its attention back to Kuwait and, in addition to claiming Kuwait as part of its territory, alleged that the latter was stealing oil reserves from a field near its border. In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. The emir fled to Saudi Arabia during the war, where he established a government in exile.

In early 1991 an international military coalition led by the United States invaded Kuwait to liberate it from the Iraqi forces that had infiltrated the country a year before. The coalition operated under the United Nations (UN) flag and it numbered more than fifty countries (Western, Asian, and Middle Eastern), including Arab nations such as Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, who believed that the Iraqi invasion was a violation of international law and that the sovereignty of Kuwait must be restored. The Kuwaiti government returned to its homeland in March 1991, after an Iraqi withdrawal; it soon imposed a three-month period of martial law.

The Gulf War had severely damaged or destroyed much of Kuwait's infrastructure, industry, and buildings, and extensive rebuilding commenced. Kuwait's relationship with neighboring Iraq continued to be tense. Kuwait demanded an official apology from its former aggressor and compensation for the destruction caused by the invasion, but both requests were ignored. In 2003 Kuwait again hosted the soldiers of a U.S.–led campaign aimed at disarming Iraq and ousting its twenty-four-year leader Saddam Hussein, with the tiny country serving as a launching point for such attacks. In initiating its so-called preemptive strikes, the United States claimed to have received intelligence indicating the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq and a connection between Iraq and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Furthermore, the United States feared that Iraq's possession of such weapons would disrupt the already tenuous balance of power in the Middle East, a geopolitically important region.

rulers

The al-Sabah family has governed Kuwait since the eighteenth century. After Mubarak's death, Kuwait was ruled by his sons: Jabir al-Sabah (r. 1915–1917) and Salim al-Sabah (r. 1917–1921). Since 1921, succession to power usually has alternated between the two sides of the family: the lines of Jabir (1860–1917) and Salim (1864–1921). Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (1885–1950) ruled Kuwait for nearly three decades, starting in 1921. He was succeeded by his cousin Abd Allah As Salim al-Sabah, who ruled from 1950 until 1965. During the latter's reign Kuwait started to liberate itself gradually from British dominance, which ultimately led to the country's independence. Upon his death, Abd Allah As Salim al-Sabah (1899–1965) was succeeded by his brother Sabah As Salim al-Sabah (1913–1977), who governed for twelve years. His reign witnessed tremendous economic growth but little political freedom.

In December 1977 Sabah As Salim al-Sabah was succeeded by his cousin Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (b. 1928), who continued to serve as the emir of Kuwait as of 2004. His government has had to contend with dramatic events, both locally and internationally. On a local level, there were increased calls for the democratization of Kuwaiti society and freedom of the press, an assassination attempt on the emir in 1985, and economic instability. On an international level, the most important event was Iraq's invasion in 1990. The crown prince and deputy emir in 2004 was Sheikh Sa'd al-Abdallah al-Salim al-Sabah (b. 1930).

socioeconomic conditions

Kuwait is a wealthy oil-producing sheikhdom. After World War II (1939–1945), the country began exporting large quantities of oil. Oil continued to dominate the economy into the twenty-first century and accounted for approximately 90 percent of export revenues. Petroleum wealth led to large-scale construction, economic development, and the transformation of Kuwaiti society. The government owns the oil industry and thus controls most of the economy (75% of the gross domestic product, or GDP). The country's considerable oil revenues are distributed throughout the population via wide-ranging social services, such as free and compulsory education and a comprehensive health-care system. Health services meet high standards and are provided for free to all residents. With a population growth rate of almost 3.5 percent, life expectancy of seventy-seven years, and literacy rate of 84 percent, Kuwait has, as of 2003, a per capita GDP of U.S.$19,000. Kuwaiti citizens enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, often receiving, for instance, subsidies for housing and child care.

Kuwait's climate and desertlike conditions limit agricultural development, so Kuwait depends on food imports, except fish. Although fishing is a viable industry, it has not been fully exploited and still makes only a minor contribution to the overall economy. The government's efforts to diversify the economy have faced many obstacles and grown very slowly. The first real push for industrialization occurred in 1964 with the establishment of the Al-Shuaybah Industrial Zone, which comprised electricity and water distillation plants. It expanded port facilities, metal works, and manufacturing plants that produced chlorine, asphalt, cement, pilings, and prefabricated housing. The government also provided a range of incentives to private manufacturers who were predominantly Kuwaiti nationals (frequently with foreign partners).

government

Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy. It is governed according to the 1962 constitution, even though the emir has suspended some of the constitution's articles over the years. The emir and his family essentially control the political system. Kuwait is divided into five governorates, three of which are ruled by members of the royal family. The constitution, drafted by an elected constituent assembly, permits the people some role in the government while guaranteeing the al-Sabahs' dominance. It declares Kuwait an independent sovereign Arab state, with Islam being the official state religion and Shari'a (Islamic law) the main source of legislation. It further specifies that Kuwait is a hereditary emirate and mandates succession among male descendants of Mubarak al-Sabah.

In 1963 the first elections for the legislative body were held, but during two separate time periods (1976–1981 and 1986–1992) the emir, who still controls the entire political system, suspended the electoral process. He has also suspended the constitution and National Assembly several times without offering any clear reasons. In 1992 national elections were permitted, but the emir suspended the resulting National Assembly, which was dominated by opposition forces, in 1999. Elections were held again in 2003. Although the al-Sabah family dominates political events, a few other prominent families also play a powerful role in the system.

division of power

The emir enjoys considerable control over the three branches of the government, which renders them not very independent from one another. The emir holds executive power in the country and exercises it through a Council of Ministers. He appoints the prime minister (who traditionally was the crown prince or heir apparent to the emir) and deputy ministers, and approves members of the Council of Ministers, who are appointed by the prime minister. The power of the ruling family is apparent in that its members hold all major ministerial posts such as defense, foreign affairs, and the interior.

The legislative branch is made of a unicameral National Assembly or Majlis al-Umma, numbering some sixty seats—fifty elected by popular vote and ten appointed by the emir—for four-year terms. The assembly has the right to issue a no-confidence vote of the cabinet or of individual ministers, but it has rarely done so. Although the National Assembly's influence has been limited, due to the narrow electorate and the emir's right to dissolve it, the assembly, nevertheless, does have the exclusive right to pass laws and has displayed independence from the government in this area. For example, in 1999 it defeated the sheikh's attempts to change the male-dominated political structure and give women the right to vote and hold public office. The final vote was 32 to 30 against the decree of granting women full political rights. In 2005 the sheikh's attempt proved successful, and women were granted national suffrage.

The judiciary is composed of three courts: primary, appellate, and supreme (the High Court of Appeal). Even though the constitution and law provide for a degree of judicial independence, the emir appoints all judges and renewal of most judicial appointments is subject to government approval. Kuwait's legal system is modeled on European law and based on the system of civil law, with Islamic law retaining ultimate significance in personal matters, even when these cases are brought before regular courts. Although the majority of judges are Kuwaitis, the government has occasionally had to resort to hiring judges from other Arab countries due to a shortage of qualified attorneys. The judiciary branch does not have any tangible influence on the political process. Its rulings are limited to the day-to-day affairs of the state and do not affect the work of the bureaucracy or government.

the shia minority

The Shia Muslim minority, which is about 10 percent of the world's Muslim population, comprises between 15 and 25 percent of the Kuwaiti national population. The Shia are largely descendants of Arab Iranians, Saudi Arabians, or Bahrainians. The strain between the Shia minority and the Sunni majority, always present, rose in the 1980s, and much political and military activism continues to occur between the two sects.

While the Sunni majority adheres to a strict orthodox understanding of the Qur'an and obedience to the teachings of the prophet Mohammed, with a belief that all four caliphs were the rightful successors, the Shia minority believes that a leader must be directly descended from Ali, the fourth caliph and Mohammed's son-in-law and cousin. Because the members of the Shia minority hold to the belief that Ali was Mohammed's true successor, they also believe that only his direct descendants can serve as political and spiritual leaders of the nation of Islam.

The substantial oil revenues in Kuwait led to the emergence of a large bureaucratic state. Kuwait has several autonomous agencies and public corporations, whose employees, in addition to those of the various ministries, comprise the bulk of the nation's civil servants. The civil service grew tremendously in the years after independence as the state developed a large bureaucracy devoted to spending oil revenues. A second factor contributing to the growth of the bureaucracy is the government's guarantee of jobs to all citizens. Hence, the government is the largest employer in the country, which has sometimes resulted in overstaffing.

rights and liberties

Individual freedom is guaranteed to all Kuwaitis. The constitution protects individual rights such as personal liberty, freedom to hold beliefs and express opinions, freedom to form associations and trade unions, and freedom of the press. The torture and deportation of Kuwaiti citizens are prohibited.

Kuwaiti participation in the political process is limited to the election of the unicameral National Assembly. However, this participation is not open to all citizens: Before 2005 only 10 percent of all citizens were eligible to vote. Voting was limited to male voters, twenty-one years of age or older, who were naturalized for thirty years or more or who had lived in Kuwait for more than twenty years. With the passage of legislation allowing women voting rights, political participation has increased. Police and military personnel, however, are excluded from voting.

Formal censorship of the press ended in 1992, and freedom of the press was subsequently restored. Kuwait has some of the most outspoken newspapers in the Arab world, often aggressive in their coverage of politics and the government. Television and radio remain under the government's control, and the Ministry of Information censors all imported publications deemed morally offensive. The Internet is easily accessible, and in 2004 8.5 percent of the total population was reported to use it regularly. In 2002, however, the Ministry of Communications issued new directives to Internet service providers to block certain sites judged immoral as well as some political sites.

While in theory freedoms are respected, in practice, the government does impose restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of religion and movement. The formation of political parties is illegal. Although formal political parties have no legal standing, the government does tolerate umbrella organizations with strong ideological tendencies and many different views.

Women are treated differently than men under Kuwaiti law: they experience legal and social discrimination. Even though 33 percent of women of working age are employed, there are a number of professions where it is unusual to find women serving as part of the work force, such as the army, the parliament, senior government positions, the diplomatic corps, or the judiciary. In addition to women, the government discriminates against the Shia minority, also under-represented in government positions.

See also: Constitutional Monarchy; Iraq; Shari'a.

bibliography

Al-Dekhayel, Abdulkarim. Kuwait: Oil, State, and Political Legitimation. Ithaca, NY: Reading, 2000.

Anscombe, Frederick, F. The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Country Profile: Kuwait. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/791053.stm>.

Crystal, Jill. Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.

Joyce, Miriam. Kuwait: 1945–1996: An Anglo-American Perspective. London: Frank Cass, 1998.

"Kuwait." CIA World Factbook. Washington DC: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 2004. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ku.html>.

Library of Congress. Country Studies—Area Handbooks. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/>.

Middle East Research Institute. MERI Report: Kuwait. London: Croom Helm, 1985.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, 2003. <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27931.htm>.

Amal I. Khoury

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