In a speech for the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), the CEO of Palladium Jose Maria Ortiz outlines what he believes are five strategic priorities for Kuwait to rebound stronger in a post-corona world.
Firstly, Ortiz recommends a focus on food security. The best intervention here would be to bring the latest in tech advancement to the food production sector. Alongside supporting local farmers and optimising the value chain, technology will also help scale up industrial level food production in the country. According to Ortiz, this will not only progress food security efforts, but it’ll also create jobs and new technology for the market as a whole.
The second area of focus should be an overhaul of Kuwait’s energy sector, according to Ortiz. 10% of all oil production in Kuwait is put towards energy generation, which is a highly inefficient use of the resource. If energy generation was transitioned to sustainable means, then oil production could be strategically restructured to maximise its economic value.
Next on the agenda is a support system for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). To compete in the global market, SMEs in Kuwait need access to the latest in technology and more connectivity with trade and supply chains. Ortiz suggests that carefully designed policies to help SMEs in various sectors could prevent the need for subsidies in the economic segment.
Part of this policy framework should be the integration with other regional economies – Ortiz’s fourth recommendation. As an example, he points out the opportunities that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) from China could play in Kuwait specifically, and the region as a whole. Developing infrastructure to connect with other regional players is key to participating in this development story.
Lastly, Ortiz urged the government to use the renewed position of responsibility it has attained via the Covid-19 crisis to develop three key pillars for Kuwait’s economy – health, education and infrastructure. In the health space, obesity and diabetes are key issues in Kuwait, which need to be tackled through awareness about lifestyle changes.
From an education perspective, “digital, global and sustainable” should be the new priorities, which will merit some investment. Infrastructure, meanwhile, is a crucial part of Kuwait’s planned energy transition, and is also central to its objectives of playing a greater role in regional trade. Drawing foreign investment is crucial to achieve Kuwait’s infrastructure goals.
Ortiz highlighted that the government need to be responsible for all these structural changes, but must act in a support and facilitation capacity. “The government needs to create the policies and the frameworks for private sector to invest in public-private partnerships (PPPs) for both physical and social infrastructure. Building these PPPs requires strong policy, decided action, and the attraction of investment, all of which Kuwait is well-positioned to deliver, having demonstrated its resilience during this unprecedented crisis,” he said.