Population (2017): 2.9 million
GDP (2017): US$120.4 billion (S$162.5 billion)
World Bank “Ease of Doing Business” Rank (2018): 96
Bilateral Trade with Singapore (2017): S$4.7 billion
Kuwait offers abundant opportunities for business due to its strategic location in the north-western corner of the Gulf and important neighbouring markets such as economic giant Saudi Arabia. With three ports and the upcoming Gulf Railway which will link all six Gulf Cooperation Council states, the country is poised to become the northern Gulf’s transportation hub.
The business environment in Kuwait may be tricky to negotiate at times, but it is getting easier. The government has demonstrated its commitment to foreign investment by introducing new laws governing tax and the private sector, as well as initiatives to streamline the formation of public-private partnerships. There is no better time to do business in Kuwait, and the opportunities for foreign investors will only increase in years to come.
Kuwait's economy is dominated by oil, but the government recognises the need for long-term economic diversification. In January 2017, the New Kuwait 2035 Strategic Plan was unveiled. It aims to transform the country into a regional, financial and commercial hub. Goals include an 11% increase in infrastructure investment and nurturing of 3,500 new small businesses. Various projects are underway, including the development of Mubarak al-Kabeer Port and the establishment of an SME incubator. Diversification is in progress with the non-oil economy growing by 3.3% in 2017, up 2% from the previous year1.
1: National Bank of Kuwait, 2018
Kuwait boasts relatively liberal trade policies with no quantitative restrictions on imports, though a few products are prohibited for religious, health, and security reasons. There are also no restrictions on capital transfers, as Kuwait’s exchange market features free convertibility and total transferability.
Kuwait has no personal income tax, nor excise, property and transfer taxes. Foreign companies engaged in commercial activities, directly or indirectly, are liable to pay corporate earnings tax at a flat rate of 15%. However, non-Kuwaiti shareholders can enjoy tax holidays of up to 10 years on profits from qualifying projects.
Since 2003, the Kuwaiti government enacted the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Law which allows 100% foreign ownership in a number of sectors including infrastructure, tourism, software development and many others. Singapore companies may find Kuwait as an attractive location for investment and partnerships.