Your SlideShare is downloading. ×
Kuwait’s Future Prospects - الكويت: آفاق المستقبل
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.

×

Saving this for later?

Get the SlideShare app to save on your phone or tablet. Read anywhere, anytime - even offline.

Text the download link to your phone

Standard text messaging rates apply

Kuwait’s Future Prospects - الكويت: آفاق المستقبل

811
views

Published on

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, Kuwait observed its neighboring Gulf cities enjoy rapid progress as well as the world’s attention. The cities replete with oil reserves, and those …

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, Kuwait observed its neighboring Gulf cities enjoy rapid progress as well as the world’s attention. The cities replete with oil reserves, and those making do without, designed and constructed mega projects to produce infrastructure and job opportunities, not only for their current population but also for future generations. Each city promoted itself among its counterparts as a global city. Kuwait, on the other hand, has not found a way to distinguish itself like its regional neighbors. While it currently attempts to promote itself as some kind of financial and commercial center, other cities are already exploiting their global reputation and large market shares long before Kuwait ever begun. When its history of urban planning was an example for more than just the Gulf region, why does Kuwait now find itself lagging behind its Gulf neighbors? What were the circumstances that affected its progress and development during the last quarter of the twentieth century that let the 1970s 'Jewel of the Gulf' lose its luster? How is Kuwait struggling to regain its status and what are the prospects and hurdles that lie ahead?

Published in: Design, Travel

0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total Views
811
On Slideshare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
1
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
0
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

Report content
Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
No notes for slide

Transcript

  • 1. Kuwait’s Future Prospects Dr. Yasser Mahgoub During the first decade of the twenty-first century, Kuwait observed its neighboring Gulf citiesenjoy rapid progress as well as the world’s attention. The cities replete with oil reserves, andthose making do without, designed and constructed mega projects to produce infrastructure andjob opportunities, not only for their current population but also for future generations. Each citypromoted itself among its counterparts as a global city. Kuwait, on the other hand, has not founda way to distinguish itself like its regional neighbors. While it currently attempts to promote itselfas some kind of financial and commercial center, other cities are already exploiting their globalreputation and large market shares long before Kuwait ever begun. When its history of urbanplanning was an example for more than just the Gulf region, why does Kuwait now find itselflagging behind its Gulf neighbors? What were the circumstances that affected its progress anddevelopment during the last quarter of the twentieth century that let the 1970s Jewel of the Gulflose its luster? How is Kuwait struggling to regain its status and what are the prospects and hur-dles that lie ahead? Kuwait’s current situation stems from three decades of entanglement in regional and globalconflicts that disturbed the progress achieved up until late 1970s. During the 1980s, the eight-year war between its northern neighbors Iraq and Iran and the collapse of the stock exchangemarket known as Azmat Al Manakh (and until recently, the region’s most notorious financial sto-ry) weighed down Kuwait’s aspirations. Furthermore, the declines of crude oil prices caused de-lays in the implementation of plans to construct new cities north and south of the existing urbanconcentration of traditional Kuwait City. Lack of confidence also drove down private sector initi-atives, resulting in poor quality architectural projects that characterized that decade’s urban fab-ric. Then, there was the Iraqi invasion in 1990 and the subsequent liberation in 1991. Liberationhardly brought a glimpse of the optimism that Kuwait once knew. It shifted the vision of devel-opment away from concerns about its regional role towards concentrating on local problems, es-pecially the reconstruction of badly damaged infrastructure and services. As Kuwait hastilysought to preserve what it once had, the grand vision of the 50s, which also fueled the develop-ment in the 60s and 70s, seemed lost for good. In parallel, many of the ideals and beliefs thatcharged Kuwait through the 70s and 80s – namely pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism – fell shortof their promises. These notions were deemed unworthy by the act of invasion, occupation andannexation by a neighboring Arab country. Almost twenty years later, the impact of the Iraqi in-vasion; including bitterness, pessimism and negativity that clouds any ambition, is still a topiccovered almost daily in the local press. In fact, the invasion has taken its toll on every psycholog-ical, physical, social, and cultural aspect and scale of Kuwaiti society. Saddam Hussein’s uninter-rupted presence in Iraq during the 1990s prevented security and safety conditions required forKuwait to resume any semblance of normalcy, much less its development plans. The northernneighbor was always threatening the stability of the atmosphere in Kuwait. The global impacts ofthe 9/11 attacks on the US were most evident in the Gulf region when the US decided to invadeIraq and terminate Hussein’s regime. However, Kuwait’s final freedom was hitched to an evenmore complicated condition, the global war on terrorism. Kuwait was again entangled in a webof hostile international affairs as the only available entry of the liberating troops into Iraq. This
  • 2. war, which lasted only a few months, changed the political map of the region. Yet it failed to pro-duce the required regional stability that could put Kuwait back on its feet. The situation in Iraq isstill not stable; there is also the threat from Iran with its development of nuclear capabilities. Fur-thermore, Kuwait’s oil-based wealth continues to place the country in a difficult position: at thecenter of attention for an industrialized world dependent on its oil. For a time, oil had been Kuwait’s generator of urban planning. After the discovery of oil in the1940s, the Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Abdullah as Salim as Sabah appointed the British firmMonoprio, Spencely and Macfarlane to develop its First Master Plan in 1952. Consequently, themaster plan became a faithful tradition for Kuwait. It was followed by several master plans andrevisions that responded to Kuwait’s growth and expansion. This strategy proved successful dur-ing the 1960s and 70s when most of Kuwait’s modern urban landscape was established. In 1968a Second Master Plan was developed by Colin Buchanan and Partners that stretched the citynorth and south along the Gulf shores. It also called for the dissemination of the city center bycreating new centers. With the rise of oil prices after the 1973 war in the Middle East, the countryhad enough income to support its ambitious idea. In 1977 the British planning firm Shakland andCox proposed the establishment of two new cities: Ras Subiya in the north and Al Khiran in thesouth. The towns were planned to be self-sufficient with independent utilities and ample em-ployment opportunities. The new cities were not constructed during the 80s and 90s due to eco-nomic and political circumstances which only added more pressure on the existing urban areas. These two unrealized towns also revealed the Kuwaiti authority’s inability to move beyondKuwait’s seeming one city-state condition. The country’s population, nearing three million, relieson an urban center that was designed for a population only a third of that size. Urban develop-ment in Kuwait remains confined to a narrow strip of land along the Gulf coast covering no morethan 8% of the small country; 99% of Kuwait’s population resides here. This concentrationaround the traditional city and along a narrow strip overlooking the Arabian Gulf is the root ofmost of Kuwait’s major urban problems: limited expansion options, over-crowdedness, chronictraffic congestion and insufficient infrastructure and services. Recent changes to building regula-tions allow for new tower constructions to exceed one hundred floors. At the same time, the prob-lem is compounded by a seemingly unstoppable spread of villa developments outward from thecenter, attaching a continuous mat of low-density development to a suffocating city center.
  • 3. Figure: Location and Map of Kuwait. On September 3, 2008, a third master plan was issued by an Amiri decree to be applied by allgovernmental agencies. The Third Master Plan (KMP3) concluded that 99% of the populationresides in urban areas that cover only 8% of the total area of the country, and that population hadreached 2.644 million inhabitants in 2004 with an annual increase of 4.8%. The KMP3 projectedthat the population will reach 5.4 million by the year 2030. Its general tenets addressed the city’sunsuitability for its population projections. The plan is a major step towards changing currentconditions and to suggest a future direction for the existing city and new urban developments. The KMP3 raised the expected red flags. First, it warned of Kuwaits dependence upon oil as itssingle source of income. It also warned against severe infrastructure deficiencies by 2008. Fur-thermore, it warned against shortages in drinking water and electric power supplies if power sta-tions that produce electric power and desalinated drinking water are not upgraded. The expectedincrease in the number of vehicles, the continuing reliance on private automobiles for transporta-tion and the lack of an attractive public transportation system were set as real challenges. It alsocalled for the establishment of new cities north and south of Kuwait City, the construction of aninternational highway and train, a new international port in Bobyan Island, new industrial areas,and the development of Kuwait islands and coastal areas. Kuwait would no longer resemble acity-state. It could become a nation of cities. Despite its backing by Amiri decree, the master plan remains dormant. Governmental agencieseither proceed unaware of its contents or apply bureaucratic procedures that delays its implemen-tation. To add to these causes of delays, the bureaucratic system has not put into action proce-dures and approvals necessary for proposed projects to move forward : demographic studies, pro-posal to address services and infrastructure shortages, and studies to consider whether the con-struction market and workforce capabilities are prepared to handle the complexities of the pro-posals. Kuwait is no longer a small homogeneous settlement that can be wiped out in order togive way to new development. It is doubtful that the traditional paradigm of master planning canachieve the same successes it was able to achieve during the twentieth century. There is a need toemphasize relations and the dynamics of planning processes rather than the final forms of theproducts.
  • 4. Figure: Kuwait Third Master Plan. An important strategy promoted by Kuwait’s master plans was the expansion of Kuwaits de-velopment towards the north, west and south. A new city, called “Assubiya”, was proposed by thesecond master plan to be developed on the northern part of Kuwait bay. On March 2006, the SilkCity, or Madinat Al-Hareer, was presented by a number of private sector companies based on di-rections of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The HigherCouncil of Planning and Development was assigned to task of studying details of Silk City pro-ject and its developmental feasibility, as well as looking into legal aspects in preparation for a de-cision on the issue. It is estimated to cost more than $87 billion. The vision statement of the pro-posed city stresses the emergence of competing centers in the Middle East. There is no doubt thatthe proposal is a response to the pre-crisis ambitions of Dubai, as well as proposed developmentsin Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Manama, Muscat, and Doha that aims to make these places centers ofcommerce, leisure, and hospitality. At the center of the city stands Burj Mubarak Al Kabir (theTower of a Thousand and One Nights), an icon for the world to recognize. The tower is describedas a bundle of seven vertical villages combining offices, hotels, leisure, and residences into a ver-tical city center that reaches for the heavens. Proposed to supersede the world’s current tallestbuilding, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, its audacity has clouded other perhaps more important aspects ofthe new city. As the tower’s headline-grabbing bravura replaced discussion of the new city, his-torical references to ancient Arab civilizations stand in as metaphorical play for planning and ar-chitectural design. Urban issues are deferred, a lasting evidence of the Dubaization syndrome.
  • 5. Figure: The Silk City. The international economic crisis disturbed cash flows from financial institutions to developersand contractors in order to complete their projects. More severely, it has further complicated thefutures of these plans, though news accounts sometimes promise perseverance. Furthermore, re-peated parliament elections and government resignations are distracting the attention and effortaway from development and construction. Many big projects are delayed, re-bid or canceled dueto political and financial circumstances. It is feared that Kuwait’s decline, having missed onewindow of opportunistic boom, will continue its current path for the coming time. Kuwait was the first Gulf country to utilize economic prosperity to achieve modernization (andurbanization) through a comprehensive vision, professional planning and determined will. Asmuch as Dubai is a symbol of globalization today, Kuwait City was a symbol of internationaliza-tion during the twentieth century. This time the process is more difficult because the terrain is fullof more complex existing conditions. The sweeping strategies of classic master planning ap-proaches are no longer adequate. There is a need to develop new planning approaches that re-spond to changing needs and conditions of the country and provide short- and long-term solu-tions. These are needs that most cities can recognize. More specifically, for its particular condi-tion, Kuwait has to see its future beyond the exiting choked city. Instead, it must look toward thevast uninhabited 17,000 square kilometers of desert and islands that do not have to orient them-selves toward the old gates of Kuwait.