Friday, March 03, 2006

The Kuwait Fund

A cloud gathers, the rain falls, men live; the cloud disperses without rain, and men and animals die. In the deserts of southern Arabia there is no rhythm of the seasons, no rise and fall of sap, but empty wastes where only the changing temperature marks the passage of the year. It is a bitter, desiccated land which knows nothing of gentleness or ease….Men live there because it is the world into which they were born; the life they lead is the life their forefathers led before them; they accept hardships and privations; they know no other way.

Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands

Of course it is not the clouds above that have dictated the fate of the Kuwaitis for the past half century. The oil reserves below the small ‘fortress built near water’ have resulted in a steady rain of billions of petrodollars. Kuwait has 10% of proven world oil reserves and is one of the wealthiest states in the world. Bedouin hardship is said to be engrained in the blood of the people so it is not remarkable that the country has the distinction of having created the first aid agency to be established by a developing country. Established in 1961, The Kuwait Fund is an indication that they are aware that there are many peoples who still share the hardship of their forefathers, who live and die by cloud behaviour.

The operations of the Fund were originally confined, in accordance with its initial mandate, to the Arab countries. In July 1974 the scope of the Fund's activity was extended to the rest of the developing world. Kuwait foreign assistance, channelled mainly through the Kuwait Fund, is considerably higher than the 0.7% of GNP target specified by the United Nations for development assistance. In 2004 it funded 21 projects with total loan commitments of about USD 300 million. The total number of beneficiaries reached 86 countries including 16 Arab countries, 35 African, 22 Asian and European countries, and nine Latin American and Caribbean countries. The Fund focuses on development loans for transportation projects (33% of funding), Energy (22%), Agriculture (16%) and Water and Sewage (11%).

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