KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - Kuwait has said it will establish a free economic zone on five islands close to the shorelines of regional heavyweights Iraq and Iran with large investments open to the private sector.
The decision was taken by the Gulf state's supreme planning council which met late Wednesday (Dec 16), the state-run KUNA news agency reported.
Planning Minister Hind al-Sabeeh said the project is based on inviting local, regional and international private sectors to finance, execute and operate the zone.
She said the zone will be the economic gateway for the northern Gulf once completed.
The new venture comes amid a sharp fall in oil income which contributes over 90 percent of Kuwait's revenues.
Bubiyan, the emirate's largest island where Kuwait is already building a multi-billion-dollar container harbour, is part of the project.
The first phase of Bubiyan's state-of-the-art port is due to come on line soon.
The islands spread over an area of several thousand square kilometres and are in close proximity to Kuwait's planned Silk City project in Subbiya.
Work is underway on a 25-kilometre, US$2.6 billion (S$3.7 billion) causeway linking the capital with Subbiya.
Kuwait has awarded projects worth a record US$30 billion so far this year despite falling oil revenues, according to Middle East Economic Digest (MEED).
MEED said Kuwait, which gave contracts worth US$24 billion in 2014, has projects worth more than US$251 billion planned or underway.
In February, parliament approved a five-year development plan that envisages spending the equivalent of US$112 billion.
Planned projects include a metro system worth US$18.5 billion, a railway project as part of the GCC railway link at US$6.6 billion and a $8-billion power plant.
Last month, Kuwait awarded contracts worth US$13 billion to foreign firms to build a 615,000-barrel per day refinery.