About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos


Mongabay.com seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development (more)


Kuwait Index

As the Iraqi invasion demonstrated, Kuwait's large oil revenues and inherently small defense capabilities gave it tremendous vulnerability. Historically, until the Iraqi invasion, Kuwaiti leaders had always dealt with that vulnerability through diplomacy, trying to find allies that would protect them while maintaining as much independence as possible from those allies by playing them off against each other. Historically, the most important ally was Britain. Kuwait's relationship with Britain came about at the bidding of the early Kuwaiti leader Shaykh Mubarak in an effort to deter a still more troublesome actor, the Ottoman Empire. As one consequence of the 1899 treaty, which gave Kuwait a better status than was the case in British treaties with other possessions, the British presence remained somewhat distant, and British officials meddled less frequently in local politics.

The relationship with Britain continued beyond independence on June 19, 1961, and the new agreement between independent Kuwait and Britain promised continued British protection as necessary. That protection proved necessary when Iraq, six days after Kuwait's independence, declared Kuwait a part of Iraq and sent troops toward the amirate in support of that claim. Because Kuwait's army was too small to defend the state, British troops arrived, followed soon after by forces from the League of Arab States (Arab League), in the face of which Iraqi forces withdrew.

As Britain increasingly withdrew from the gulf in the 1970s and 1980s, Kuwait was forced to look for other sources of support. Although Kuwaiti leaders tried to maintain a degree of neutrality between the superpowers--Kuwait had an early and sustained economic, military, and diplomatic relationship with the Soviet Union--in the end it was obliged to turn to the United States for support. The Iran-Iraq War was the decisive factor in consolidating closer ties with the United States. Although at the outset of the war Kuwait was an outspoken critic of United States military presence in the gulf, during the war this position changed. When Kuwaiti ships became the target of Iranian attacks, Kuwait's security situation deteriorated, and Kuwait approached the Soviet Union and the United States with requests to reflag and thus protect its beleaguered tankers. As soon as the Soviet Union responded positively to the request, the United States followed. The ground was thus laid for subsequent United States support.

Data as of January 1993

BackgroundBritain oversaw foreign relations and defense for the ruling Kuwaiti AL-SABAH dynasty from 1899 until independence in 1961. Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led, UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that liberated Kuwait in four days. Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91. The AL-SABAH family has ruled since returning to power in 1991 and reestablished an elected legislature that in recent years has become increasingly assertive. The country witnessed the historic election in May 2009 of four women to its National Assembly.
LocationMiddle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iraq and Saudi Arabia
Area(sq km)total: 17,818 sq km
land: 17,818 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Geographic coordinates29 30 N, 45 45 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 462 km
border countries: Iraq 240 km, Saudi Arabia 222 km

Coastline(km)499 km

Climatedry desert; intensely hot summers; short, cool winters

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 306 m
Natural resourcespetroleum, fish, shrimp, natural gas
Land use(%)arable land: 0.84%
permanent crops: 0.17%
other: 98.99% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)130 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)0.02 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 0.44 cu km/yr (45%/2%/52%)
per capita: 164 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardssudden cloudbursts are common from October to April and bring heavy rain, which can damage roads and houses; sandstorms and dust storms occur throughout the year but are most common between March and August
Environment - current issueslimited natural fresh water resources; some of world's largest and most sophisticated desalination facilities provide much of the water; air and water pollution; desertification
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Marine Dumping
Geography - notestrategic location at head of Persian Gulf
note: includes 1,291,354 non-nationals (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 26.4% (male 361,150/female 348,518)
15-64 years: 70.7% (male 1,219,075/female 683,587)
65 years and over: 2.9% (male 49,163/female 29,665) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 26.2 years
male: 28.1 years
female: 22.7 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)3.55%
note: this rate reflects a return to pre-Gulf crisis immigration of expatriates (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)21.81 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)2.35 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)16.02 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 98% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.78 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.66 male(s)/female
total population: 1.54 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 8.96 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 9.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 7.95 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 77.71 years
male: 76.51 years
female: 78.95 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.76 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Kuwaiti(s)
adjective: Kuwaiti
Ethnic groups(%)Kuwaiti 45%, other Arab 35%, South Asian 9%, Iranian 4%, other 7%

Religions(%)Muslim 85% (Sunni 70%, Shia 30%), other (includes Christian, Hindu, Parsi) 15%
Languages(%)Arabic (official), English widely spoken

Country nameconventional long form: State of Kuwait
conventional short form: Kuwait
local long form: Dawlat al Kuwayt
local short form: Al Kuwayt
Government typeconstitutional emirate
Capitalname: Kuwait City
geographic coordinates: 29 22 N, 47 58 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions6 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Ahmadi, Al 'Asimah, Al Farwaniyah, Al Jahra', Hawalli, Mubarak al Kabir
Constitutionapproved and promulgated 11 November 1962

Legal systemcivil law system with Islamic law significant in personal matters; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage21 years of age; universal (adult); note - males in the military or police are not allowed to vote; adult females were allowed to vote as of 16 May 2005; all voters must have been citizens for 20 years
Executive branchchief of state: Amir SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah (since 29 January 2006); Crown Prince NAWAF al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah
head of government: Prime Minister NASIR AL-MUHAMMAD al-Ahmad al-Sabah (since 3 April 2007); First Deputy Prime Minister JABIR AL-MUBAREK al-Hamad al-Sabah (since 9 February 2006); Deputy Prime Minister MUHAMMAD AL-SABAH al-Salim al-Sabah (since 9 February 2006)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister and approved by the amir
elections: none; the amir is hereditary; the amir appoints the prime minister and deputy prime ministers

Legislative branchunicameral National Assembly or Majlis al-Umma (50 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms; all cabinet ministers are also ex officio voting members of the National Assembly)
elections: last held 16 May 2009 (next election to be held in 2013)
election results: percent of vote by bloc - NA; seats by bloc - Sunni Muslim groups 11, liberals 7, Shiite Muslim groups 6, Popular Action Bloc 3, unaffiliated tribal groups 23

Judicial branchHigh Court of Appeal

Political pressure groups and leadersother: Islamists; merchants; political groups; secular liberals and pro-governmental deputies; Shia activists; tribal groups
International organization participationABEDA, AfDB (nonregional member), AFESD, AMF, BDEAC, CAEU, FAO, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, Paris Club (associate), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag descriptionthree equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a black trapezoid based on the hoist side; design, which dates to 1961, based on the Arab revolt flag of World War I

Economy - overviewKuwait is a small, rich, relatively open economy with self-reported crude oil reserves of about 104 billion barrels - 8% of world reserves. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP, 95% of export revenues, and 80% of government income. Kuwait experienced rapid economic growth over the last several years on the back of high oil prices and in 2008 posted its tenth consecutive budget surplus. As a result of this positive fiscal situation, the need for economic reforms was less urgent and the government did not push through new initiatives. The drop in oil prices in late 2008 will reduce Kuwait's fiscal surplus in 2009. The global financial crisis may slow the pace of investment and development projects, but Kuwait has vowed to use its considerable financial resources to stabilize the economy if necessary.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$149.5 billion (2008 est.)
$137.8 billion (2007 est.)
$131.6 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$158.1 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)8.5% (2008 est.)
4.7% (2007 est.)
6.3% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$57,500 (2008 est.)
$55,000 (2007 est.)
$54,400 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 0.3%
industry: 52.2%
services: 47.5% (2008 est.)
Labor force2.088 million
note: non-Kuwaitis represent about 60% of the labor force (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
Unemployment rate(%)2.2% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)18.3% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $105.2 billion
expenditures: $58.08 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)10.6% (2008 est.)
5.5% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$15.31 billion (31 December 2008)
$15.12 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$63.08 billion (31 December 2008)
$55.2 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$88.77 billion (31 December 2008)
$78.25 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$107.2 billion (31 December 2008)
$188 billion (31 December 2007)
$128.9 billion (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$2.6 million (2004)

Public debt(% of GDP)7.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
29.6% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productspractically no crops; fish
Industriespetroleum, petrochemicals, cement, shipbuilding and repair, water desalination, food processing, construction materials

Industrial production growth rate(%)8% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$64.78 billion (2008 est.)
$47.48 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$86.94 billion (2008 est.)
$63.68 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)oil and refined products, fertilizers
Exports - partners(%)Japan 18.4%, South Korea 14.6%, India 11.5%, US 8.9%, Singapore 7.9%, China 6.1% (2008)
Imports$22.94 billion (2008 est.)
$20.63 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, clothing
Imports - partners(%)US 11.9%, Japan 9.2%, Germany 8.1%, China 7.6%, Saudi Arabia 7%, Italy 4.8%, UK 4.2% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$17.23 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$16.78 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$36.89 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$33.62 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$1.22 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$942 million (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$25.68 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$16.93 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange ratesKuwaiti dinars (KD) per US dollar - 0.2679 (2008 est.), 0.2844 (2007), 0.29 (2006), 0.292 (2005), 0.2947 (2004)

Currency (code)Kuwaiti dinar (KD)

Telephones - main lines in use541,000 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular2.907 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: the quality of service is excellent
domestic: new telephone exchanges provide a large capacity for new subscribers; trunk traffic is carried by microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and open-wire and fiber-optic cable; a cellular telephone system operates throughout Kuwait, and the country is well supplied with pay telephones
international: country code - 965; linked to international submarine cable Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG); linked to Bahrain, Qatar, UAE via the Fiber-Optic Gulf (FOG) cable; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia; satellite earth stations - 6 (3 Intelsat - 1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean, 1 Inmarsat - Atlantic Ocean, and 2 Arabsat)
Internet country code.kw
Internet users1 million (2008)
Airports7 (2009)
Pipelines(km)gas 269 km; oil 540 km; refined products 57 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 5,749 km
paved: 4,887 km
unpaved: 862 km (2004)

Ports and terminalsAsh Shu'aybah, Ash Shuwaykh, Az Zawr (Mina' Sa'ud), Mina' 'Abd Allah, Mina' al Ahmadi
Military branchesKuwaiti Land Forces (KLF), Kuwaiti Navy, Kuwaiti Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Kuwaitiya), Kuwaiti National Guard (KNG) (2008)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18-30 years of age for compulsory and 18-25 years of age for voluntary military service; women age 18-30 may be subject to compulsory military service; conscription suspended in 2001 (2009)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,032,408
females age 16-49: 568,657 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 935,525
females age 16-49: 519,854 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 18,122
female: 18,865 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)5.3% of GDP (2006)
Disputes - internationalKuwait and Saudi Arabia continue negotiating a joint maritime boundary with Iran; no maritime boundary exists with Iraq in the Persian Gulf

Trafficking in personscurrent situation: Kuwait is a destination country for men and women who migrate legally from South and Southeast Asia for domestic or low-skilled labor, but are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude by employers in Kuwait including conditions of physical and sexual abuse, non-payment of wages, confinement to the home, and withholding of passports to restrict their freedom of movement; Kuwait is reportedly a transit point for South and East Asian workers recruited for low-skilled work in Iraq; some of these workers are deceived as to the true location and nature of this work, and others are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in Iraq
tier rating: Tier 3 - insufficient efforts in 2007 to prosecute and punish abusive employers and those who traffic women for sexual exploitation; the government failed for the fourth year in a row to live up to promises to provide shelter and protective services for victims of involuntary domestic servitude and other forms of trafficking (2008)
Electricity - production(kWh)45.83 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)40.21 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)2.741 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)325,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)2.349 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)104 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)12.7 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)12.7 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)1.794 trillion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.12% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDSNA (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsNA
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.3%
male: 94.4%
female: 91% (2005 census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 13 years
male: 12 years
female: 13 years (2006)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)3.8% of GDP (2006)

Copyright mongabay 2000-2013