Extending loans to finance development and infrastructure projects, whilst also providing technical assistance and training, the Kuwait Fund´s objective has long been to assist Arab countries, as well as others, in advancingtheir socio-economic progress. Talking to Worldfolio, the General-Director of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development Abdulwahab A. Al-Bader elaborates on Kuwait Fund´s fundamental role in the Muslim world for over half a century.
How would you describe the positive growth of the Kuwait Fund as an institution, from its beginnings in a newly independent country, to the increasing power of good that is has become today in unison with the great economic journey of the nation as a whole?
Kuwait Fund has made great stride on all frontiers since it was established in 1961, the same year Kuwait declared independence. Initially, the operations of the Fund were confined to Arab countries. However, in 1974, the activities of the Fund were extended to include the provision of assistance to developing countries in general. Moreover, the Fund's authorized capital was increased from Kuwaiti Dinars 200 Million to Kuwait Dinars 1000 Million. Another milestone in the growth of the Fund, was achieved in 1981, when the Fund's authorized capital was increased to Kuwait Dinars 2000 Million, which is now fully paid-up. Also, in that same year, its mandate was extended to include, subscription to capital stocks of development finance institutions as well as capital stocks of corporate bodies which are of developmental nature. It is evident, that Kuwait Fund has grown substantially over the past years both in terms of its resources and range of activities to provide concessionary loans as well as grants to 104 developing countries.
With this growth, what kind of increasing contribution would you say the Fund has made to the developing world (and the Arab/Muslim world in-particular) over the last half century, especially in terms of poverty alleviation and the economic empowerment of the poor?
It is well known that Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), were officially established by the United Nations in 2000. The first of these goals is: Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Kuwait Fund, has been keen since its inception, to address the issue of poverty alleviation and the economic empowerment of the poor. This particular focus was highlighted by committing about 17 billion US$ by the Fund to concessionary loans to developing countries, covering sectors such as: agriculture, services, and other vital infrastructure projects that provide substantial employment to poor people in developing countries and hence improve tremendously their living standards. Furthermore, the Fund participated significantly in several initiatives to reduce poverty including HIPC initiative, and MDGs.
In what way would you say the Kuwait Fund helps to hold up its country as a true example of generosity and how this reflects the good natured spirit of the people of Kuwait and the honourable values of Islam altogether?
A conventional measure of generosity is the ratio of aid to Gross National Income (GNI). This measure, was advocated by the UN in 1970, when it called on countries to give a minimum of 0.7% of their GNI as official development assistance. Kuwait has been generous by international standards, as it exceeded the 0.7% ratio for many years. Also generosity is reflected in the substantial magnitude of the Grant Element of Kuwait Fund loans to developing countries.
In what manner would you say the Kuwait Fund contributes to the socio-economic development of its own country?
Kuwait Fund contributes to the socio-economic development of Kuwait in several ways including: provision of funds to the Public Authority for Housing Welfare in Kuwait, the establishment in 2002 of a training center to train new engineering graduates who are Kuwaiti nationals so as to enhance their chances of securing employment in the private sector, assist Kuwaiti Contractors and Consultants in their endeavours, and provision of advice to ministries and other organizations in Kuwait as requested.
One of the main challenges of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (apart from increasing cooperation between member states in addressing the problems of economy, poverty and conflict) has been the rapprochement between cultures, particularly between the Muslim world and the West, in the quest for achieving greater tolerance and understanding. What are your views on this increasingly complex relationship, your own personal perception of the West, and what you see as key to developing a greater tolerance from both sides?
As Kuwait Fund is primarily involved in the provision of assistance and aid to developing countries, with a view to enabling them to develop their economies and to promote cooperation and friendship between the State of Kuwait and other nations, we believe that a room exist between our institutions and other development finance institutions whether in the West or other countries for working together to achieve shared values and goals of reducing poverty and enhancing living standards of other developing countries. Kuwait extends a hand of friendship to all nations, cultures, and ethnic and religious groups.