The State of Kuwait, an Arab constitutional monarchy
that gained its independence from Britain in 1961, is endowed with 96
billion barrels of oil reserves – roughly 10 percent of the world’s oil
supply. Kuwait covers an area of about 17,818 square kilometers of
mostly flat desert in the northwestern corner of the Arabian Gulf
(Persian Gulf). To the south and southwest Kuwait is bordered by Saudi
Arabia and to the north and northwest by Iraq. Iran lies to the east,
across the Arabian Gulf.
Oil accounts for nearly 50 percent of GDP and 95 percent of the export
revenues. The Al-Sabah dynasty has used state-owned oil revenues to
build modern infrastructure and cradle-to-grave welfare system for
Kuwait’s small population. Former Prime Minister Sabah Al-Ahmed al-Jabr
al-Sabah was chosen as Amir in January 2006.
Kuwait lacks water and has practically no arable land, thus preventing
development of agriculture. With the exception of fish, it depends
almost wholly on food imports. About 75% of potable water must be
distilled or imported. Because of its high per capita income, comparable
with Western European incomes, Kuwait provides its citizens with
extensive health, educational, and retirement benefits. Per capita
military expenditures are among the highest in the world. The economy
improved moderately since 1994, with the growth in industry and finance.
The World Bank has urged Kuwait to push ahead with privatization,
including in the oil industry, but the government will move slowly on