By Chidi Emmanuel
KUWAIT: In line with Kuwait’s 2035 vision, which is aimed at transforming Kuwait into a financial and trade hub regionally and internationally, and becoming more attractive to investors, a recent report revealed that companies are asking the Kuwait government to allow foreigners to own and invest in real estate and in turn offer them permanent residency permits. The proposal called for granting a long-term residency permits so as to lure rare talents and to prevent local businessmen from divesting or taking their businesses out of Kuwait.
Kuwait’s 2035 vision also envisions a key role for the private sector which will lead the economic growth, creating competition and promoting production efficiency as well as providing an essential structure to cultivate a business-friendly environment.
Reacting to the report, some expats and Kuwaitis called the proposal a welcome development. “The proposal is great. If approved, it will open doors for more businesses and pave the way for healthy competition. We don’t have many companies in Kuwait compared to other countries in the GCC. Kuwait really needs to open up a little. We need jobs and opportunities,” Fahad Yousef, a Kuwait University student told Kuwait Times.
Other proposals include abolishing the sponsorship system for the investors, leniency in the rules and requirements for visit visas for investors, and reducing the percentage of the local partner or sponsor. Reacting to these proposals, Shakira Aya, an American businesswoman in Arifjan camp applauded the proposal which she called a good step in the right direction. “Kuwait should borrow a leaf from its neighbors, like, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain. The world is becoming a global village and things have to change for good. Kuwait truly needs foreign investors. Investments will provide jobs and development. Kuwait should try to diversify the economy just like other petro-dollar economies,” she advised.
Real estate ownership
In another development, a proposal that will allow foreigners living in the country to own real estate is expected to be presented to the new government. The study includes granting non-Kuwaitis the right to own a residential flat in an investment building, provided the applicant has a permanent residency permit and has not been convicted for any honor or trust crime during their entire stay in Kuwait.
More so, the flat must be used for private residence for the applicant or their family, and should not be more than 350 sq m. The person must not own another apartment in Kuwait. The current law allows an Arab expat to own only one flat in Kuwait following approval by the Cabinet and a decree in this regard. The new proposal aims at expanding this issue to include all expats, Arabs or otherwise. Title deeds will be issued by a decision from the justice minister, and not a decree by the Cabinet.
“If approved, this may open up new direct foreign investments in Kuwait. Most expats prefer to invest in their home countries because of lots of restrictions. Recent report shows that remittances exceed $20 billion annually. Just like other regional players, Kuwait need to encourage and lure investments thus creating the much-needed employment opportunities”, Hamzat Obo, a business owner explained.
“Thousands of flats are empty in Mehboula area alone. We hope things will change for good. I will be glad to own a flat and invest in Kuwait, if possible. I have lived here for over 20 years. Kuwait is like a home now,” Indian expat, Aarush Aayush said as his friends voiced their supports to the proposal.