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Thu 18 Mar 2010 07:17 AM

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Kuwait must change to fulfil potential - Blair

Former British PM warns that future will be 'uncertain' if country continues current path.

Kuwait needs to change if it is to fulfil its potential and avoid an "uncertain future", former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

He said the GUlf state needs to make a fundamental decision about its future to ultimately be a regional powerhouse of the future.

"Kuwait's history is great with a proud tradition of entrepreneurship and trading. Its potential is enormous and its people are talented and creative. But the plain truth is, that without a change in direction, this potential will not be realised," Blair said in comments published by KUNA News Agency on Vision Kuwait 2035 launch.

He said Kuwait had the potential to become "a regional powerhouse of the future" but added that if it adopts a "no-change scenario" the future "will be uncertain".

Kuwait's population is set to more than double by 2035 with the vast majority of Kuwaiti citizens employed in the public sector.

At present oil revenues drive up to 90 percent of GDP but Blair warned of the impact of a global shift away from carbon due to worries over climate change.

Blair said the education and health systems have higher levels of expenditure than the EU average "but achieve far lower outcomes".

He added: "There is a realistic risk that already in the next decade the government budget will run into a structural deficit. The timeframe will of course depend on the oil price, but all our economic analysis and simulations show that radical change is necessary under most potential scenarios."

"Kuwait cannot sustain its present path. It changes direction or it declines."

The government recently announced an ambitious five-year plan for the economy and public sector and Blair said Kuwait's leadership must now build upon this momentum and follow through in making necessary changes for the future.

"This is a time for decisiveness: if Kuwaitis are to achieve the future they deserve, a thorough, deep and radical set of changes must be introduced. Our Kuwait Vision 2035 Report proposes such a set of changes," he said.

The report proposes detailed reforms to further develop the oil, trade and finance sectors, reforms to the business environment, freeing up industry; reforms to the health and education system.

It also proposes reforms of the public sector "to reduce its waste and get it focussed on quality outcomes".

"The challenge may be immense but meeting it will be exciting, invigorating and ultimately, fulfilling," Blair said.

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John 10 years ago

Blair's leadership of the UK has been trashed completely, yet he still struts the world stage as if he created a model society, not one with feral youths, prams as attack weapons piloted by three generations of single mothers, an economy in ruins, celebrity status the only news ... Kuwait is doing just fine without his wisdom.

Marijke 10 years ago

I wonder what makes him think he can tell other countries, and he has a habit of minglnig in the business of GCC countries, what to do. He has made a mess in his own country, is beinng questioned for his involvement in the Iraq war, and yet he has the nerve to open his mouth again.

RBB 10 years ago

Putting our ego and various prejudices towards the west aside, what Blair is saying is pretty much what every educated and aware Kuwaiti already knows. The state of the society is totally driven by its complete dependence on the government which in turn is completely dependent on the price of oil. Now I am not a believer that oil dependence will disappear in the near future but if we look at 30 years from now I don’t think anyone will argue the importance of oil will considerably decrease over the coming years. That means chaos for GCC societies (not only Kuwait). There is no easy way to put it but the region is heading for a disaster and Blair is one of the few western diplomats who is calling it as he sees it. Others are just worried about funding their bailouts and as long as GCC foots the bill the current system will be the best according to these punters. I’m not a Blair fan, on the other hand I outright dislike the guy due to his policies but no one can claim that even the biggest idiot can have a few wise words to say that others can benefit from. Let’s keep an open mind and that is the single biggest challenge for the region, having an “Open mind”.

George 10 years ago

As a Brit I saw Tony Blair leadership from start to finish. The ridiculously one sided and biased comment from John in Dubai annoyed me enough to post my first comment to this news service. Tony Blair made have made some mistakes, but he also had some incredible personal achievments which people are quick to forget. For example, he was instrumental in solving the Northern Ireland conflict, which I for one thought was going to be as hard to solve as the Israeli-Palestinian thing. For me, he was an inspirational orator when abroad promoting British bsuiness interests, which he did exceedingly well. Although I am not really a labour supporter, I think Tony Blair's great skills must be acknowledged. I would very much like to get hold of a copy of the 2035 report on Kuwait some day.

Sq8 10 years ago

It's a pity that some of the comments are directed at Tony Blair and not at the fact of what he said. The question is not who Tony Blair is or what he has done for his country, it is rather what is happening in Kuwait. I've been in Kuwait for over 15 years now and I should say that the current system does not allow progress in any fields. Infrastructural development has been pretty poor or pretty close to zero. I live in Mahboula and the building that I live in has no water supply connection nor any other buildings in the vicinity. The road does not have a number and I have not been able to get a telephone connection even after waiting for over an year now! No new rods have been constructed in the last 15 years and if I am right, the last road was the 1st Ring Road that was finished soon after the invasion. The economy still depends on oil and sadly enough the 4th refinery which has been in talks for ever a decade is still in the dreams only! For a country that sits on billions in budget surplus, the infrastructural development is pretty poor. Tony Blair just said it right and there is no point in mud slinging him for what he said.

Rajesh Gandhi 10 years ago

That oil is major advantage for Kuwait is a fact, that they are proud of. They need to understand that with the "Go Green" initiative and the development of alternatives to oil, as a primary fuel, is driving other techonologies to develop and mature. Oil may not be that lucarative if the demand falls. So any country's economy cannot solely depend on some abundance of high-income-low-labor resources to survive. If for some reasons, oil were to stop, can the country depend on any other sector to drive its economy. Its high time that Kuwait build up alternative streams of sustainable revenues in the long run, if it were to progress.

Jack Murphy 10 years ago

Who wants to hear what Phony Tony has to blabber? He is the most discredited European ex-politician of them all.

sleak76 10 years ago

I'm not writing this to defend Tony Blair and how he lead/mislead the UK during his time as PM. However, everyone needs to know that Tony did not just come out and blurted his thoughts about Kuwait and it's future. The Kuwaiti Goverment has signed up Tony's private Consulation Firm to look into the country and it's short comming and asked his firm to come up with recommendations for how the country can move forward. That is all to this. To bash him for speaking is unfair as he was only carrying out his duty for a contract he has received and signed to do.

John Mackay 10 years ago

The only thing that annoys me is that everyone knows that Kuwait has to change for the future....there are enough comments about it on AB and everywhere else by all of us...difference is Blair gets paid a small fortune to say them.....where did I go wrong !