Category Archives: Housing

What You Need to Know about Kuwait’s Silk City

What You Need to Know about Kuwait’s Silk City

Kuwait is among the top 10 crude oil producers in the world and has the fourth-largest sovereign wealth fund. That, along with its relatively small population of 4.26 million, places Kuwait among the richest countries in the world per capita.

Similar to nearby countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the health of Kuwait’s economy is largely tied to the price of oil. In 2016, the country faced its first budget deficit in almost two decades as a result of declining oil prices. The aforementioned nations have taken significant steps to diversify their respective economies. However, Kuwait has been slower to adapt as a result of substantial sovereign assets and government-legislator frictions.

Nonetheless, the country’s non-oil revenue grew by 3 percent in 2019 and was projected to grow at a similar rate in 2020. And, like Saudi Arabia has done with mega projects like Neom and Qiddiya, Kuwait is tying its economic aspirations to a planned city development.

The World’s Tallest Building and Other Plans

New Kuwait 2035 is a government plan that aims to transform the Middle East country into a global financial hub with less economic reliance on oil revenues. Silk City (Madinat Al-Hareer in Arabic) is integral to that plan. If realized, the master-planned, 250-square-kilometer city in northern Kuwait will be the world’s largest marine-front project.

The area where Silk City will be built is on the northern end of the Gulf bordering Iran and Iraq around the Shatt-Al-Arab waterway. It is accessible from Kuwait City, the country’s capital, via the newly-constructed, $3.6 billion Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah Causeway. Construction thus far has been limited to a power station, scattered houses, and a few roads.

That isn’t to say Kuwait doesn’t have grand plans for Silk City. Rather, the government’s aims to transform the region into a capital capable of housing 700,000 citizens, which would make it the most populous city in the country. Kuwait also intends to build the 1-kilometer-high Mubarak Al-Kabir Tower, which will surpass Dubai’s Burj Khalifa as the world’s highest tower.

Other plans include a rail network; a free-trade zone for Bubiyan Island’s Mubarak Al-Kabeer Port; a logistics and industrial hub; an Olympic stadium; and an international airport. These were all announced as part of Silk City’s $86-billion Phase 1 in February 2019.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative

China will be heavily involved in the development of Silk City. The country signed a cooperation agreement with Kuwait for the city’s development in 2014. The two parties signed another agreement in 2018. Additionally, a 35-member Chinese delegation visited Kuwait in February 2019.

At that point it was agreed that the Chinese Construction and Communications Company would oversee the first phase of the project via either public-private partnerships or long-term leasing. This is in line with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to expand trade networks as well as the republic’s political and economic influence.

China is particularly interested in the Mubarak Al-Kabeer Port which, upon completion, will be among the closest sea ports to Central Asia. “China is involved in Khalifa port in Abu Dhabi, Duqm port in Oman, Jizan in Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Port Said in Egypt,” notes Zayed University professor Jonathan Fulton. “Kuwait can be part of this, while also connecting to the overland routes of the New Silk Road through Asia and down into Iran and Iraq.”

Peaceful Protests

Despite the relative wealth of Kuwait and the obvious benefits of Silk City, not everyone in the country supports the ambitious project. Kuwait City experienced significant flooding during winter 2018 and, one year later, many streets remained in poor shape. While some residents spoke of corruption regarding road-surfacing contracts, the government spent considerably more time focusing on plans for Silk City.

This culminated in November 2019 with thousands of citizens converging at Al-Erada Square to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. Not long after, he was removed and replaced by Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah.

Political Hurdles

The removal of Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah might have satisfied the demands of protesters, but it hasn’t addressed all of the political hurdles associated with Silk City. The project is being managed by the eldest son of Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Sheikh Nasser. He has faced substantial opposition from MPs concerned with some of the language in legislation for Silk City.

Among other problems, it was believed that the proposal included placing the city outside of parliamentary oversight and allowing the consumption of alcohol. MP Safa al-Hashem called it the “most dangerous law I have ever seen.” Others have argued that the project has not been fleshed out. In particular, plans lack a breakdown of how the $86 billion will be spent.

By contrast, proponents of the project cite its ability to help Kuwait begin to transition away from its economic reliance on oil exports—which, as of 2019, comprised nearly 90 percent of state income. More than half of the country’s population is under the age of 25 and Silk City could create as many as 200,000 jobs, which would alleviate concerns of an overstaffed public sector.

Everything You Need to Know about the SCA’s Future Projects Forum

Everything You Need to Know about the SCA’s Future Projects Forum

Recognizing the importance of its construction sector in growing non-oil revenues and achieving the goals of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia, through the Saudi Contractors Authority (SCA), launched the Future Projects Forum (FPF) in 2019. The impetus for the forum was to allow contractors, banks, and other relevant parties a space in which to collaborate on… Continue Reading

What You Need to Know about Saudi Arabia’s Proposed Mega-City

What You Need to Know about Saudi Arabia’s Proposed Mega-City

As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to shift its economic reliance away from crude oil due to a drastic decline in prices, it has placed an emphasis on developing tourism and mega-city projects. Its ambitious Red Sea Project aims to transform 50 untouched islands into a world-renowned resort and hospitality destination, while another 10,230-square-mile… Continue Reading

4 UAE Infrastructure Developments You Need to Know About

4 UAE Infrastructure Developments You Need to Know About

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has one of the healthiest economies in the world and, as a result, it has been able to invest heavily in its infrastructure sector. A recent study conducted by Agility, a prominent logistics firm, ranked the UAE as having the best quality of infrastructure in the entire Middle East and… Continue Reading

Spotlight – Egypt’s Wonderful New City of the Future

Spotlight – Egypt’s Wonderful New City of the Future

The most-populated city in Egypt, Cairo serves as the country’s administrative and financial capital, but this won’t be the case for much longer. In March 2015, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced plans to develop a New Administrative Capital, which will stress sustainability, place emphasis on technology in design, ecology, and culture practices, and alleviate national… Continue Reading

This Is How Dubai Is Going Green

This Is How Dubai Is Going Green

Dubai is a city known for attaining big achievements at a rapid pace. While the city was primarily known as a small trading port and fishing hub prior to the 1960s, the Middle East’s bourgeoning oil and real estate industries have spurred incredible growth in what is now one of the world’s most technologically advanced,… Continue Reading

Dubai: This Is the Surprising History of the World’s Tallest Building

Dubai: This Is the Surprising History of the World’s Tallest Building

Dubai is home to extraordinary history, innovative technology, and flavorful cuisine. It is also home to some amazing architecture, including the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa (Arabic for Khalifa Tower). Reaching a total height of 2,722 feet (and breaking all height records), the tower has instituted a new breed of high rise… Continue Reading