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ASAR Conference 2023 – themed “Driving Economic Growth Through Transformative PPPs in Kuwait”

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, at the Avenues Kuwait, was the place to be on Monday, 4 December, 2023. ASAR, Kuwait’s leading Tier 1 ranked law firm, hosted ASAR Conference 2023 in association with the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (KAPP), The Legal 500, and the World Association of PPP Units and Professionals (WAPPP). Due to unforeseen official commitments, H.E. Dr. Saad Al Barrak, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Oil, and Minister of State for Economic and Investment Affairs, the scheduled keynote speaker, was ultimately unable to attend. However, his support and interest in the event was greatly appreciated, as well as the presence of his undersecretary, Sheikh Namer Al Sabah, at the conference.

It was a true privileged to welcome Mr Robert Willock of the Economist Intelligence Unit, Ms. Asma Muhammad Al-Mousa, Acting General Manager at KAPP, Mr Gurpartap Basra, Head of the GC Powerlist series at The Legal 500, and Mr. Thibaut Mourgues, Co-Founder and Member of the Executive Committee of WAPPP, and Mr. Nayef Al-Haddad, Chair of WAPPP MENA Chapter along with more than 240 delegates and business professionals looking to gain insight on how economic growth in Kuwait can be stimulated through transformative Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), and how this will contribute to the achievement of the New Kuwait 2035 vision.

Mr. Sam Habbas, senior partner at ASAR, noted, “We feel immensely privileged to be able to host ASAR Conference 2023 and to deliver valuable insights to all stakeholders involved in the PPP sector. This prestigious event underscored the pivotal role of PPPs in shaping Kuwait’s economic future. Our firm remains steadfast in its commitment to participate in pioneering legal frameworks that inspire innovation, foster strategic collaboration, and serve as catalysts for sustainable progress. Our dedication to advancing Kuwait’s dynamic business landscape knows no bounds, and we eagerly anticipate the continued opportunity to contribute to Kuwaits ever-evolving journey of growth and development.”

Mr. Ahmed Barakat, managing partner at ASAR, set the stage for the event by providing a brief overview of the status of Kuwait’s economy, noting that reliance on a single industry (oil) for continued economic prosperity was not ideal. He pinpointed that the ongoing recovery from the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic, the global push towards decarbonisation, and the increasing commodity prices that have resulted in higher inflation rates are indicators that diversification of the economy was no longer an option but a necessity, to ensure sustainable economic growth and stability. Through alliances forged by PPPs, Barakat suggested that the government could harness the agility, innovation and efficiency of the private sector while aligning the private sector with the government’s goals.

The ASAR Conference 2023 drew focus on PPPs and shed light on the challenges that affect the success rate of PPP projects. The conference presented a platform for discussion for the navigation towards a hospitable investment environment that encourages PPPs and that will result in a prosperous and sustainable future for Kuwait. The conference has highlighted the opportunities that PPPs offer for private sector investment to be channeled into diverse economic sectors, including energy, infrastructure, healthcare, education, technology, communication and tourism. Barakat concluded by saying, “As Kuwait looks to grow its economy, we can see a clear role for PPPs in diversifying the economy, introducing efficiencies, innovations and sustainable practices, transferring of technology, training of the workforce and providing an alternative source of capital required for investment and stimulation of the economy.”

Currently, Kuwait is engaged in pioneering initiatives within the region, charting a course that empowers the nation. These initiatives are collectively turning the country into a hub of innovation, prosperity, and social evolution. The PPP initiatives hold a prominent position, whose primary objective is to place the country, along with its regulatory framework encompassing legal and economic policies, as one of the prime destinations for investors, fostering regional expansion and global interconnectivity.

In the past, Kuwait has had success with PPP projects; however, in recent years PPP projects have faced a number of challenges. To overcome these issues, the majority of speakers and panelists believed it would be beneficial to review the current PPP Law. Learning from past successes and failures, and drawing from the experiences of other jurisdictions and experts it is believed that Kuwait could create a strong institutional and legal framework that would strengthen and also simplify the PPP process.  Recommendations were made for the establishment of a “one stop shop”, where government personnel who are familiar and experienced with the intricacies of PPPs, could take charge and make decisions that would speed up the PPP process, and bring more projects to fruition thereby creating a much needed track record of successful PPP projects.

Importance was also placed on the need for in-house lawyers to effectively advise their employers and seek out external professional advisors to help navigate sophisticated PPP documentation. Being the premier PPP practice in Kuwait, ASAR is the preferred PPP legal advisor on PPP projects. It has advised the government, sponsors and lenders on PPP projects and can provide the necessary guidance to entities navigating the PPP process in Kuwait.

In closing, Kuwait can drive its economic growth through transformative PPPs, and with ASAR at the helm, this would be to the benefit of Kuwait as a nation and would ensure sustainable economic growth for future generations.

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