Starting a Business in Kuwait
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Why Start A Business In Kuwait?
Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the world. It's a small fish in a big pond: the Middle East. It must be hard to keep a low profile in the Middle East, everybody's up to something. Kuwait hasn't had it easy either, but things have got much better since the 80s. While the rest of the world was preoccupied with new wave and hairspray, Kuwait was busy lending money to Iraq and then being invaded by it. There's gratitude for you. But Kuwait had the last laugh. Since the fall Saddam Hussein, confidence, private investment and commercial activity have returned to the Kuwaiti economy with veritable vigour, now foreign investors are highly interested in starting a business in Kuwait.
Kuwaiti businesses are very involved in the re-emerging Iraqi market, and they are keen to join with UK companies in the opportunism now available. Kuwait's geographical locality acts as a natural gateway to this market.
Kuwait has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited. Oil and soot accumulation has contaminated the soil and has made eastern and south-eastern parts of Kuwait inhospitable.
Kuwait is divided into six governorates; Al Ahmadi, Al Farwaniyah, Al Asimah, Al Jahra, Hawalli, ans Mubarak Al-Kabeer; and these governorates are subdivided into districts.
The major cities are the capital, Kuwait City, and Jahrah. The main residential and business areas are Salmiya and Hawalli and the main industrial area is Shuwaikh within the Al Asimah Governorate.
You are required to carry ID documents while you are in Kuwait as it is common for labour officials to carry out spot checks on businesses to check that there are no workers employed illegally.
How is the climate?
Kuwait has a warm, arid, subtropical climate with extremely hot and dry conditions in the summer from May to October. The shamal, a north-westerly wind common during June and July, causes dramatic sandstorms. In the winter season, from November through to April it is cool with some precipitation and very cold night temperatures.
Kuwait has a rich and relatively open economy. When juxtaposed with its neighbouring nations, it is comparatively more liberal, too. Kuwait is a highly industrialised country and is the forth richest country in the world per capita. It also accommodates the world's fifth largest proven oil reserve.
Petroleum and petroleum products account for nearly 95% of export revenues and 80% of government income. The recent increase in the price of oil has caused a big surge in Kuwait's economy, and therefore the government is keen on decreasing its dependence on oil by transforming it into a regional trading and tourism hub.
The climate limits agricultural development and so, with the exception of fish, the country depends almost wholly on food imports. Alongside food, Kuwait's other main imports are construction materials, vehicle parts, and clothing. Their import partners are: US, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, China, UK, and Italy.
The country's main exports are oil and refined products and fertilizers with the export partners; Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, US, Netherlands, and China.
Other major companies apart from oil are shipping, construction, cement, water desalination, financial services and construction materials.
What are the essentials to know?
Business hours - Business hours are usually 0800 - 1230 and 1630 - 2000. The working week is Saturday - Wednesday and a half-day on Thursday. These days change during the month of Ramadan.
Working hours - Individuals usually work between 40 and 48 hours per week.
Minimum Wage - There is no minimum wage. Salaried employees must be paid at least once a month, and those on hourly and weekly wages must be paid every two weeks.
Holidays - An employee is entitled to one full day off a week without pay. An employee with up to five years continuous service is entitled to 14 days leave a year and for more than five years' work, the employee is entitled to 21 days.
- Kuwaitis prefer to do business with those with whom they have a good relationship and therefore they spend a lot of time getting to know people
- Meetings may be interrupted if they interfere with prayer times
- Kuwaiti's like to reach decisions carefully. If you are impatient, you will cause offence and risk your business relationship
- Although negotiating is done in English, contracts are written in Arabic
- Business cards are usually offered to everyone that one meets
Helpful contacts for setting up a business in Kuwait
The following contacts will provide you with useful information about setting up a business in Kuwait:
UK Offices - UK Trade and Investment
Tel: +44 (0)20 7215 4710
Fax:+44 (0)20 7215 4366
PO Box 300
Tel: + 965 2403334/5/6
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