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News & Events A New Take on Landlessness : Modernizing Land Management in Kuwait
A New Take on Landlessness : Modernizing Land Management in Kuwait
A New Take on Landlessness : Modernizing Land Management in Kuwait

The First Arab Land Conference took place in Dubai early last week, from the 26-28 February.  The first of its kind, it gathered land experts from across the region and beyond, in what was a fruitful and long overdue event in the region.  For those of us just returning from the three-day event, we know that there was no lack of key and empowering messages, as well as carefully thought-out and innovative ideas for the way forward.  If we take a moment, however, to get down to the fundamentals and to find one take-away, it would most likely be the following: each and every one of us has a right to land, no matter where we are from or where we are headed.  It may seem simple, utopian even; but in the Arab world especially, it is a notion that has yet to be widely applied and enforced. 

As in every other country, land issues in Kuwait are complex to say the least.  It is no secret that Kuwait is a rentier state and that wages are high in comparison to many other parts of the world.  Lifestyles here are comfortable and yet, despite this, acquiring a piece of land and owning a piece of property is still virtually impossible.  Although it may seem like a confusing oxymoron, a state which has thrived on its natural resources, is also suffering from a natural resource management dilemma.  Obtaining land in the country today is exceptionally costly and can reach up to 80% of total investment costs.  What is more, is that the housing back log is almost unbelievable; a staggering 18 year waiting period for land allocation, with almost 100,000 Kuwaiti citizens on the waiting list for a housing subsidy. Moreover, the current system encourages under-utilization of properties, while other important sectors struggle to access properties for critical investments. 

For those unware of the specifics of land and other resources in Kuwait, we may naturally ask ourselves how this has come to be.  As is too often the case, management of land is done across varying government agencies, leading to unnecessary and damaging inefficiencies; weak implementation of laws and limited institutional capacity for the adjudication and registration of land rights are the main culprits constricting an efficient land management system.  The good news is that since early 2016, the World Bank has been engaging with the Kuwait Government in a partnership called the Modernization of Land Management Program. Its main aim is to improve the reliability, transparency and efficiency of land administration in Kuwait.  Nadia Karam, Operations Officer at the World Bank offices in Kuwait tells us the following: “Our role as the World Bank is to serve as an advisor and to work hand in hand with the government in creating a roadmap for improving the land sector in Kuwait.  Our vision is to have the proper policy in place for land allocation for public purposes and the private sector.”

For the vast majority of us, whom are used to seeing images which unequivocally equate landlessness with poverty, this case provides an interesting perspective.  Lack of access to land isn’t always about the destitute, but it somehow leaves all those who can’t access it marginalized.