Êuwait -- Geography --
Official Name: State of Kuwait
National name: Dawlat al-Kuwayt
Capital City: Kuwait City
Time Zone: +3 UT
Languages: Arabic 78% (official); Kurdish 10%; Farsi 4%; English
Official Currency: Kuwaiti dinar
Religions: Sunni Muslim 45%; Shi'i Muslim 30%; other Muslim 10%; other 15% (of which Christian 6%)
Location: Southwest Asia, Middle East
Geographical position in extreme co-ordinates: North: 30° N / South: 28° N / East: 48° E / West: 46° E
Ethnic Groups: Kuwaiti Arab 41%; non-Kuwaiti Arab 38%; various Asian 21%
Land Area: 17,820 sq. km
Borders (land): Saudi Arabia, Iraq
Landforms: Almost entirely flat desert plain (highest elevation point--306 m).
Land Divisions: 6 governorates, including: Al Ahmadi, Al Farwaniyah, Al 'Asimah, Al Jahra' and Hawalli, Mubarak Al-Kabeer
Êuwait -- 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, which became an autonomous sheikdom by 1756, by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar. 'Abd Rahim of the al-Sabah became the first sheik, and his descendants continue to rule Kuwait today.
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. Oil was discovered there in the 1930s, and Kuwait proved to have 20% of the world's known oil resources. Since 1946 it has been the world's second-largest oil exporter.
In July 1990, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein blamed Kuwait for falling oil prices. After a failed Arab mediation attempt to solve the dispute peacefully, Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, set up a pro-Iraqi provisional government, and drained Kuwait of its economic resources.
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.
Êuwait -- Economy --
GDP(purchasing power parity): $138.6 billion 2007
GDP - real growth rate: 5.6% 2007
GDP - per capita (PPP): $55,300 2007
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 0.4% ,industry: 54.7%, services: 44.9%
Budget: revenues: $66.92 billion, expenditures: $36.39 billion 2007
Oil - proved reserves: 104 billion bbl (1 January 2006 )
Natural gas - production: 11.8 billion cu m (2005)
Current account balance: $51.49 billion (2007)
Kuwait is one of the richest countries in the world with a GDP of US$138.6 billion and an economy based mainly on export-oriented oil production and petrochemical units. Oil price increases have boosted Kuwait’s economy even further. The government continues to invest heavily in the travel and tourism industry in order to decrease its economic dependence on oil. The country has developed a 20-year tourism plan together with the World Tourism Organization; the plan includes the development of new hotels and resorts.
Kuwait is a small, desert country, but it possesses a strategic stretch of Persian Gulf coastline and significant petroleum reserves. Kuwaiti citizens, who are Arab Muslims, make up less than half of the country’s population—most of the remainder are immigrant workers.
Kuwait is a highly industrialized country. It 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. 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.
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.
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). Kuwait has the fifth-largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, and Iraq. 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.
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.
Oil revenues have allowed Kuwait to build an extensive educational system, yielding a literacy rate of 84 percent. Public school is free and compulsory from the age of 6 to 13, and several private schools also teach this age group. Kuwait University (founded in 1966) is also free and offers programs in a wide range of professional and scientific fields at several campuses.
While efforts have been made to encourage local agriculture and industry, Kuwait imports most products, including a wide range of food and manufactured goods. Imports totaled $7.9 billion in 2001, while exports amounted to $16.2 billion. Leading purchasers of Kuwait’s exports are Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Singapore; chief sources for imports are the United States, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
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.
Kuwait has no lakes and rivers and few sources of fresh water. Water for drinking and irrigation is available only from underground aquifers and through desalination (removal of salt) of seawater. There is little vegetation except for marsh plants along the coast and grasses and scattered thorn trees inland. Kuwait’s only significant natural resource is petroleum, the country’s main economic product. Without the economic resources available from oil, the Kuwaiti environment would be too harsh to support a substantial population.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
The banking, financial services, logistics, telecommunications, and construction sectors, in particular, have grown in the last two years.
With remarkable infrastructure sector growth in the last few years, Kuwait has been one of the major drivers of the construction boom in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. The country's construction industry was valued at US$1.64bn in 2006. In its newly released Kuwait Infrastructure Report Q407, BMI forecasts the construction industry to grow at an average rate of about 4.22% during 2012.
Kuwait’s transportation system is modern and efficient, with a road system that is well developed by regional standards. Roads total 5,749 km (3,572 mi), of which 85 percent are paved, and most people travel by automobile. A small public bus system serves mainly foreign workers. An international airport is located on the southern outskirts of the Kuwait city metropolitan area and Kuwait Airways is the national airline. The country has three modern seaports, one of which specializes in oil exports.
Like its transportation system, Kuwait's modern telecommunications system was heavily damaged during the Iraqi occupation. The government has made strides at reconstruction, but in 1993 work remained to restore the system to its prewar level of excellence. In 1989 there were 285,000 telephones, or fourteen telephones per 100 inhabitants. High-capacity coaxial cables and radio-relay systems linked Kuwait with its neighbors.
Kuwait is still one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The Kuwaiti govemment holds reserves with a value estimated in excess of $80 billion. The country earns more from its investments than it does ftom petroleum exports.
Êuwait -- Culture --
When you peek into the culture in Kuwait, you will find that there is an amalgamation of the old and the new, conservativeness and modernism, tradition and creativeness.
Architecture in Kuwait is very unique and it reflects the presence of both typical traditional architecture and modern architectural styles. The only architectural features that were present in the Kuwait City during the 18th century comprised of a wall with five gates and two forts, one inside the city and the other one at Jahara. Another important aspect of Kuwait Culture features the Art and Crafts in Kuwait which is acclaimed all over the world and enriches the culture further more. The Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts, established in 1973 encourages the budding future artists in the field of theatrical arts and ethics, and promotes widespread theatrical appreciation and awareness. Another important institute which gives much boost to the art and craft in Kuwait is the Bayt Lothan in Kuwait.
While discussing about the culture in Kuwait, one cannot leave out the Music and Dance in Kuwait which is quite rich and old. The music is a mixture of the music of East Africa and India that was brought back by the Kuwaiti traders.
The culture of Kuwait completes with rich flavors aromas and delicacies which can be best described as Kuwait cuisine.
Kuwait is predominantly an Islamic country and mosques are in every town and city. Mosques are the Muslims' place of worship where people visit every day to do their five daily prayers as a united group.
The Kuwaiti culture, just like many other Arabian cultures, takes great pride in hospitality. Guests in people homes are treated with great warmth and respect. Host exhibit their polished manners and expect the same back from their guest while conversing and setting a good example from their behaviours.
Kuwaitis traditionally greet each other by shaking hands and kissing cheeks. Traditionally men and women do not exchange more than a possible handshake to greet each other in respect.
Hospitality in Kuwait is often portrayed through the serving of tea and coffee. It is very uncommon for a guest to enter a house, office, or even some stores without being offered tea or coffee. In Kuwaiti bedouin custom, a guest's refusal of tea, coffee, or such offerings is sometimes viewed as insulting by the host, as it is as if the guest is denying the host's efforts of being hospitable and generouse.
Food plays a large part in Kuwaiti culture. Because of its location right on the coast, there are many variations in seafood dishes. One traditional food of Kuwait known as "Machboos" consists mainly of mutton, chicken, or fish placed over or mixed in a large mass of well-cooked and prepared rice.
Kuwaiti men like to hang out in Diwaniah's, which is a gathering place in a house. Diwaniahs are usually held in the evening, and every group of family members or friends have their diwaniahs in a day of the week. On average, a Kuwaiti man attends at least two diwaniahs a week. Diwaniahs are unique institutions, in that no other Middle Eastern country has it. It is a place where men gather and discuss issues about life, culture, sports and most importantly politics. Talking about politics is what makes it unique, because in almost all other Middle Eastern countries criticizing the government is illegal and could get you in trouble.
Most Kuwaiti men wear a modified form of traditional gown called the dishdasha along with Arab headdress. Kuwaiti women wear a wide variety of clothing, from jeans to loosely fitting gowns and head coverings. Foreigners tend to dress the way they would in their home countries, although more revealing clothing, such as shorts, is frowned upon.
Ardha is a type of folkloric dance performed by the Bedouin tribes of the Arabian peninsula, especially the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. It was traditionally performed before going to war, but nowadays is performed at celebrations or cultural events, such as the Jenadriyah festival. The dance, which is performed by men carrying swords or canes, is accompanied by drums and spoken verse.
Sawt (literally "voice") is a kind of popular music found in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, especially in Kuwait and Bahrain.
Two men perform the dance, which is called “Zaffan”. Al-Sout is performed only at night gatherings of men. It is called “Samra” (nightly chat).
Fidjeri is the specific repertoire of vocal music sung by the pearl divers of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf (especially Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar). A lead singer is backed up by a chorus of accompanying singers and clapping. The accompanying instruments to a fidjeri ensemble are a small double-sided hand-drum, known as the mirwas and the jahlah, a clay pot played with both hands.There are eight genres of fijiri: Sanginni (sung on the beach, not on the boat), Bahri, Adsani, Mkholfi, Haddadi, Hasawi, Zumayya, and Dan, the last two actually being sub-genres of Hasawi and Mkholfi respectively. Bahri and Adsani are the two main genres. Pearl diver singers are referred to in Arabic as nahham.Salem Allan and Ahmad Butabbaniya are two of the most well-known fijiri singers from Bahrain.
Êuwait -- Political system, law and government --
Principal Government Officials
Amir--His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Crown Prince--His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Prime Minister--His Highness Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah
First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Interior--Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs--Faisal Mohammed Al-Hajji
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister--Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah
National Assembly Speaker--Jassem Al-Khorafi
Ambassador to the United States--Sheikh Salim Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al Sabah
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Ambassador Abdullah Al-Murad
The type of government is Constitutional hereditary emirate.
Kuwait is independent since June 19, 1961 (from U.K.).
The Constitution was approved and promulgated on November 11, 1962.
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.
Administrative subdivisions: Six governorates (muhafazat): Al 'Asimah, Hawalli, Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra', Mubarak Al-Kebir, and Al Farwaniyah.
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.
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.
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 legislature 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.