Ease of Doing Business Rank: 83
The State of Kuwait is a Middle Eastern country located in the north of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf.
Iraq lies to the north, Saudi Arabia lies to the west, the Arabian Peninsula lies to the south and the Persian Gulf and Iran lie to the east.
Kuwait’s official language is Arabic spoken by 90% of the population. However, English is widely-spoken, often used in business and taught as a compulsory second language in schools.
Farsi, Hindi, Bangla, and Malayalam are also spoken within immigrant populations.
The 2020 population estimate is 4.43 million.
According to 2016 data, Kuwait City is the largest city (3.05 million), followed by Al Aḩmadī (637,411), Ḩawallī (164,212) and As Sālimīyah (147,649).
The top industries in Kuwait are petroleum, petrochemicals, cement, shipbuilding and repair, desalination, food processing and construction materials.
The Times World University Rankings includes one university in Kuwait in the top 1,000 in the world.
The Legatum Prosperity Index ranks Kuwait’s educational system 85th out of 167 countries.
The most common type of business entities in Kuwait are Limited Liability Company, Shareholding Company, Partnership and Joint Venture Company.
The majority of businesses are in the form of a Limited Liability Company.
Kuwait allows 100% foreign ownership in selected industrial sectors such as infrastructure, insurance, hospitals, housing, tourism and entertainment.
The country also offers a five-year tax holiday to non-Kuwaiti founders and shareholders forming investment and leasing companies.
Kuwait provides incentives to foreign investors involved in the transfer of advanced technology to the country, job creation for Kuwaiti nationals and the use of local suppliers for operational purchases. Companies providing training courses for Kuwaiti nationals or those using small and medium-sized Kuwaiti enterprises may also enjoy benefits.
Benefits may include a partial or total customs duties exemption on imports, tax credits for a particular number of years and eligibility for the recruitment of foreign labor.
Kuwait also has five Free Trade Zones which offer corporate and personal tax exemptions and 100% ownership. Goods imported and exported from these regions are also exempt from custom duties and companies are free to move capital without foreign exchange restrictions.
The country may recognize taxes paid abroad up to the maximum Kuwaiti tax due, providing the country has a DTT with Kuwait.
Kuwait City is the capital and financial center of the country.
Kuwait’s population is almost entirely urbanized within Kuwait City. As a result, the city holds most attractions.
The Grand Mosque is the largest in the country and has the highest minaret. It cost US$46 million to build and it includes a gold-plated central dome and imported stained glass, marble, mosaics, chandeliers and teak wood. The mosque and courtyard can hold 17,000 worshippers.
Kuwait City also includes many modern architectural marvels. The three striking, slender Kuwait Towers adorned with spheres jut out of the landscape. Some spheres hold water, while others house a restaurant, reception hall and lounge.
The capital city also includes many novel attractions such as an ice rink and the artificial Green Island, the first in the Persian Gulf region. The island includes sandy beaches, parks, barbeque areas and walking trails in a family-friendly environment.
Another unusual attraction is the House of Mirrors. The exterior and interior, including the ceiling, floors and walls and furniture, are adorned with intricate colored mirror mosaics fashioned by an Italian and Kuwaiti artistic couple.
Kuwait City is also home to the Kuwait National Museum that explores Kuwaiti heritage. The Kuwait Heritage Museum, Planetarium, Archaeological Museum and Boom Al Mouhallab, a Kuwaiti sailing vessel, are housed in five separate buildings. The city also has an impressive botanical garden and zoo.
Just north of the capital lies Doha Village Entertainment City, a huge outdoor amusement park. The park features extreme rides, live entertainment, exotic gardens and even a Roman amphitheater.
Failaka Island lies just offshore. It includes archaeological excavations and remnants of the 1990’s Persian Gulf War. The island was mostly abandoned, but bullet-riddled 1950s buildings, bomb casings, cartridges, tanks and other military vehicles remain.
Kubbar Island is known for its coral reefs and a favorite for scuba diving, snorkeling and watersports. It is also a stopover for migratory flamingos.
Kuwait was home to many ancient peoples including the Mesopotamian, Dilmun, Babylonian, Greek, Persian and Sassanid civilizations.
The first Europeans to reach the area were the Portuguese in the 15th century. They seized a number of trading ports, including the bay of Kuwait. Meanwhile, an Arab tribe founded a series of small villages in what is now Kuwait City in 1613. It became a major a fishing and pearl diving site.
Meanwhile, Ottoman Turks fought the Persians in Basra on the southern coast of Iraq. The Kuwaiti region benefited as trade was diverted away from Basra to Kuwait instead. It became the principal transport hub between India, Muscat, Baghdad and Arabia in the 18th century.
The Persians eventually withdrew from Basra and the Ottomans appointed a Basra governor in 1779, who also administered Kuwait. Kuwait became a shipbuilding center and trade expanded.
In 1899, the Kuwaiti sheik sought British assistance to stave off Ottoman and German interference in the area. Kuwait became an informal British protectorate, but in 1913 Britain signed a convention with the Ottomans defining the limits of its territory. Kuwait then became an autonomous region of the Ottoman Empire.
The defeat of the Ottoman Empire led to a land struggle between Iraq and Kuwait. By 1923, lines were drawn, and Iraq and Kuwait had recognized, distinct geographical regions.
Oil was discovered in Kuwait in 1938. Britain took control of the region during World War II. After the war, Kuwait prospered due to oil revenues. The British protectorate ended in 1961.
Kuwait supplied Iraq with aid during the Iran/Iraq War of 1980-88. Iran attacked Kuwaiti oil tankers, but the U.S. intervened. Later, Iraq invaded and annexed it, claiming it was actually an Iraqi province. The First Gulf War followed and Iraq was expelled. However, Iraqi troops set Kuwait’s oil wells ablaze as they retreated.
In 1991, Kuwait’s leader and the government returned to the country. They instituted sweeping political reforms, including parliamentary elections in 1992.
During the 20th century, Kuwait undertook an ambitious urban master plan which led to improved infrastructure and countless cultural, tourist, and business structures.
Today, Kuwait operates under a constitutional monarchy. They have a mixed economic system.
According to 2018 data, most inhabitants identify as Kuwaiti (30.4%), followed by other Arab (27.4%), Asian (40.3%), African 1% and others (.9%).
According to 2013 data, most Kuwaiti are Muslim (74.6%), followed by Christian (18.2%), other and unspecified religions (7.2%).
According to Forbes’ 2019 Best Countries for Business, Kuwait is the 71st best country in the world for conducting business.
The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom rates the Kuwait 90th globally and states, “Although the government routinely pledges reforms to reduce reliance on hydrocarbons, Kuwait’s failure to diversify its economy or bolster the private sector stems from an entitlement culture that stifles economic dynamism, as well as from a poor business climate, institutional deficiencies, a large and inefficient public sector that employs three-quarters of the workforce, and friction between the legislative and executive branches that has stymied most reforms. The judicial system is subject to political influence and lacks transparency.”
World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings rate the Kuwait 83rd for ease of doing business in the world.