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flag Kuwait Kuwait: Economic and Political Outline

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline


Economic Indicators

Kuwait is a rich country, a welfare state financed by oil revenues (52% of the GDP and 94% of export revenues in 2013), to benefit inhabitants with a high per capita income of over 49,000 USD in 2013. The country has 10% of the world oil reserves and registered, for the 14th consecutive year, in 2013 a budget surplus estimated at around 270 billion USD over 14 years. Kuwait is trying to position itself as the entrance gate for investment in the area. The public sector dominates the economy and concentrates three quarters of the country's wealth. In February 2010, a 2010-2015 plan to develop infrastructure has been signed, worth USD 100 billion, with the special aim of opening the country's economy to the private sector.

Thanks to the increases in the price per barrel of oil and the increase in production, Kuwait's financial health in the coming years is guaranteed, with budget surpluses of about 25% (30% in 2013). The country grew by 2.5% in 2013 (after 6.2% in 2012).

The income from the country's oil allows to fuel a particularly generous welfare system (automatic access to public employment, artificial maintenance of public prices and prices of basic products at a very low level, high subsidies for home-buyers, generous medical insurance, etc.). However oil production is nearing its full capacity and this is impacting on a slowing down growth.

Despite its economic and financial health, Kuwait wants to move from a rentier economy to a more open and diverse economy. The authorities are also concerned about the enlarged public sector, built on and funded by oil revenues, the limits of which are already being felt in terms of job creation and investment.

Main Indicators 20112012201320142015 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 154.10174.08175.79e179.33e180.97
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 10.28.3-0.41.4e1.8
GDP per Capita (USD) 41,85345,99745e44,850e44,032
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP)
Inflation Rate (%)
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labor Force)
Current Account (billions USD) 67.1779.2171.22e73.23e69.82
Current Account (in % of GDP) 43.645.540.540.838.6

Source: IMF - World Economic Outlook Database , Last Available Data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Agriculture is very limited in the country due to lack of water and arable land. Agriculture contributes only 0.3% to GDP.

With 100 billion barrels of oil in reserve (i.e. 9% of the world's total and representing 100 years of production), the country's industry is based on oil exploitation. Income from this sector represents more than half of GDP and more than 90% of exports, i.e. more than 95% of the country's income. By 2030, Kuwait is also planning to invest more than USD 87 billion in the oil sector, especially in creating new oil refineries. The indusrty sector has represented 50.6% of the GDP in 2013 and employed 22% of the active population.

The non-oil sector is dominated by services, mostly real estate and financial services, which were relatively hit by the financial crisis. The sector represents 49.1% of the GDP and employs 77% of the active population.

For further information, consult the "Doing Business in Kuwait" guide by the National Bank of Kuwait.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 2.7 20.6 76.0
Value Added (in % of GDP) 0.4 73.3 26.3
Value Added (Annual % Change) 1.0 11.6 2.9

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.

Monetary Indicators 20092010201120122013
Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.


Learn more about Market Analyses about Kuwait on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Moderately Free
World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Distribution of Economic freedom in the world
Source: 2014 Index of Economic freedom, Heritage Foundation


Business environment ranking


The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

World Rank:

Source: The Economist - Business Environment Rankings 2014-2018


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.


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Foreign Trade in Figures

Kuwait is highly dependent on foreign trade, which represents nearly 95% of the GDP. The country depends particularly on imports of food products, consumer goods (over 40% of the total in 2013) and semi-finished products (38% of the total), which ranks it among countries with the highest per capita import rate. The imports have been increasingly quickly due to the country’s undertaking of large projects and a high private consumption demand.

Representing almost all export earnings of the country and almost two-thirds of the GDP in 2013, the Kuwaiti oil (10% of world reserves) is sold mostly to Asian countries. Significant reserves of non-associated gas were discovered in the north of the country. Their exploitation, due to start shortly, should cover the needs of local consumption (power generation, desalination of sea water ...) and generate a portion of oil production for export.

Kuwait’s largest suppliers in 2013 have been the United States, China, Saudi Arabia and India. Imports from other Gulf countries have increased since the introduction of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). The main products imported are cars, agricultural and food products, as well as mechanical industrial products, electric and electronic products.

Kuwait’s exports quadrupled since 2002. Exports of crude oil and refined products accounted for 94% of the total in 2013, the remaining amount consisting of re-exports, mainly of machinery and transportation equipment. Kuwait’s main clients are the Asian countries, especially Japan, South Korea, and China but also the United States and India. The trade balance of Kuwait is largely positive due to the high prices of oil.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20092010201120122013
Imports of Goods (million USD) 20,34122,67525,88227,25929,500
Exports of Goods (million USD) 51,93769,978103,205118,546115,000
Imports of Services (million USD) 11,29714,20316,2219,413-
Exports of Services (million USD) 10,4258,4299,2389,413-
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) --5.24.8-
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) --13.47.3-
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 29.430.425.926.326.5
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 59.566.773.274.771.6
Trade Balance (million USD) 35,89447,56180,25795,40189,992
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 33,72240,78571,34183,14174,237
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 88.997.099.1101.098.1

Source: WTO - World Trade Organization ; World Bank , Last Available Data


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
China 0.9%
United Arab Emirates 0.8%
India 0.6%
Saudi Arabia 0.6%
Iraq 0.5%
See More Countries 96.6%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
China 13.5%
United States 9.9%
United Arab Emirates 8.9%
Japan 7.5%
Germany 6.7%
See More Countries 53.5%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data


Main Products

- bn USD of products exported in 2013
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 69.1%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 21.8%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.3%
Polymers of ethylene, in primary formsPolymers of ethylene, in primary forms 1.2%
Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated,...Acyclic alcohols and their halogenated, sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives 1.0%
See More Products 3.5%
- bn USD of products imported in 2013
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 13.7%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony,...Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 2.7%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 2.7%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.6%
Articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of...Articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal (excl. articles > 100 years old) 1.9%
See More Products 76.4%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

See More Products
More imports (Intracen Data)
More exports (Intracen Data)

Main Services

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministry of Finance (in Arabic)
Statistical Office
 Statistic and Census Sector, Ministry of Planning
Central Bank
Central Bank of Kuwait
Stock Exchange
Kuwait Stock Exchange
Search Engines
Kuwait Links
Economic Portals
Economic Arab portal

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Political Outline

Executive Power
The chief of state is the Emir, a hereditary title. The Emir has absolute executive power including dissolving parliament, promulgating laws, referring bills back to the parliament for reconsideration, and appointing military officers. The Emir appoints the Prime Minister, who acts as the head of the government for an indefinite period of time. The Council of Ministers is appointed by the Prime Minister, after being approved by the Emir. The Emir has the power to dissolve parliament but must call anticipated elections within 60 days.
Legislative Power
The legislative power in Kuwait is unicameral. The parliament, called National Assembly, has 50 members which are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The parliament has the power to dismiss the Prime Minister or any other members of his cabinet by going through a series of constitutional procedures. The people of Kuwait enjoy limited political rights.
Main Political Parties
Formation of political parties is not permitted, but political groupings, such as parliamentary blocs, have been allowed to emerge. These include Islamist and secular blocs, but most members of parliament are primarily concerned with the interests of their tribe.
Current Political Leaders
Emir: Sheikh SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (since January 2006)
Prime Minister: Sheikh NASIR al-Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah (since February 2006)
Next Election Dates
National Assembly: in 2016

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


The world rankings, published annually, measures the violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire sent to partner organizations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and activists of human rights, including the main criteria - 44 in total - to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
14 places down compared to 2013

Source: Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2014, Reporters Without Borders


Indicator of Political Freedom


The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Partly Free
Political Freedom:

Map of freedom 2014
Source: Freedom House


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Last Updates: January 2015