Nation at a Glance - Kuwait

History

Kuwait has been ruled by the AL-SABAH dynasty since the 18th century. The threat of Ottoman invasion in 1899 prompted Amir Mubarak AL-SABAH to seek protection from Britain, ceding foreign and defense responsibility to Britain until 1961, when the country attained its independence. Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that liberated Kuwait in four days. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91. The AL-SABAH family returned to power in 1991 and established one of the most independent legislatures in the Arab World. The country witnessed the historic election in 2009 of four women to its National Assembly. Amid the 2010-11 uprisings and protests across the Arab world, stateless Arabs, known as bidoon, staged small protests in early 2011 demanding citizenship, jobs, and other benefits available to Kuwaiti nationals. Youth activist groups' repeated rallies in 2011 for the dismissal of a prime minister seen as being corrupt, ultimately led to his resignation in late 2011. Demonstrations renewed in late 2012 in response to an Amiri decree amending the electoral law. The opposition, led by a coalition of Sunni Islamists, tribalists, some liberals, and myriad youth groups, largely boycotted legislative elections in 2012 and 2013, which ushered in a legislature more amenable to the government's agenda. However, the opposition, expressing strong opposition to the government’s fiscal reforms, participated in the November 2016 National Assembly and won almost half of the positions. Since coming to power in 2006, the Amir has dissolved the National Assembly on seven occasions (the Constitutional Court annulled the Assembly in June 2012 and again in June 2013) and shuffled the cabinet over a dozen times, usually citing political stagnation and gridlock between the legislature and the government.

Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iraq and Saudi Arabia

Border Countries: Iraq 254 km, Saudi Arabia 221 km

Total Area: 17,818 sq km Land: 17,818 sq km Water: 0 sq km

Climate: Dry desert; intensely hot summers; short, cool winters

Terrain: Flat to slightly undulating desert plain

Natural resources: Petroleum, fish, shrimp, natural gas

Land use: Agricultural land: 8.5% arable land 0.6%; permanent crops 0.3%; permanent pasture 7.6% Forest: 0.4% Other: 91.1% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Kuwaiti 31.3%, other Arab 27.9%, Asian 37.8%, African 1.9%, Other 1.1% (includes European, North American, South American, and Australian) (2013 est.)

Languages: Arabic (official), English widely spoken

Religions: Muslim (official) 76.7%, Christian 17.3%, Other and unspecified 5.9%

Population: 2,832,776 (July 2016 est.)

Literacy: 96.3%; Male: 96.5%; Female: 95.8% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 6 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Ahmadi, Al 'Asimah, Al Farwaniyah, Al Jahra', Hawalli, Mubarak al Kabir

Economy: Kuwait has a geographically small, but wealthy, relatively open economy with crude oil reserves of about 102 billion barrels - more than 6% of world reserves. Kuwaiti officials plan to increase production to 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2020. Petroleum accounts for over half of GDP, 92% of export revenues, and 90% of government income. In 2015, Kuwait, for the first time in 15 years, realized a budget deficit after decades of high oil prices; in 2016, the deficit grew to 16.5% of GDP. Kuwaiti authorities announced cuts to fuel subsidies in August 2016, provoking outrage among the public and National Assembly, and the Amir dissolved the government for the seventh time in ten years. In 2017 the deficit was reduced to 7.2% of GDP, and the government raised $8 billion by issuing international bonds. Despite Kuwait’s dependence on oil, the government has cushioned itself against the impact of lower oil prices, by saving annually at least 10% of government revenue in the Fund for Future Generations. Kuwait has failed to diversify its economy or bolster the private sector, because of a poor business climate, a large public sector that employs about 74% of citizens, and an acrimonious relationship between the National Assembly and the executive branch that has stymied most economic reforms. The Kuwaiti Government has made little progress on its long-term economic development plan first passed in 2010. While the government planned to spend up to $104 billion over four years to diversify the economy, attract more investment, and boost private sector participation in the economy, many of the projects did not materialize because of an uncertain political situation or delays in awarding contracts. To increase non-oil revenues, the Kuwaiti Government in August 2017 approved draft bills supporting a Gulf Cooperation Council-wide value added tax scheduled to take effect in 2018.

Agriculture - products: Fish

Industries: Petroleum, petrochemicals, cement, shipbuilding and repair, water desalination, food processing, construction materials

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