By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Kuwaiti Ambassador to Mexico Muteb Saleh Almutoteh had a lot to celebrate on Monday, Feb. 25, when he marked the 58th anniversary of his country’s independence from Britain and the 28th anniversary of its liberation from Iraq with a diplomatic reception at Mexico City’s Westin Santa Fe Hotel.
Not only has his Middle Eastern country finally managed to come out of a four-year economic funk that began in 2015 and led to its first budget deficit in more than a decade (plus its seventh dissolved government in 2016), but for all intents and purposes, Kuwait seems poised to undergo a major financial turnaround in 2019.
Although when it comes to its economy, the Persian Gulf nation is clearly not out of the woods yet, Kuwait does seem to finally be getting a handle on what had been a growing black hole of government spending.
Based on a budget proposal presented in January for the 2019 fiscal year that begins in April, the country’s deficit will at last be shrinking, albeit by only 2.1 percent compared to 2018.
And according to a report issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in October, Kuwait’s GDP growth will undergo a significant rebound in 2019, from a lackluster (but at least positive) 2 percent in 2018 (in 2017, it contracted 3.3 percent) to more than 4 percent this year.
Add to all that the fact that, at the start of this year, Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings confirmed the country’s impressive AA rating “with a stable outlook on the back of solid government finance,” noting that Kuwait’s substantial foreign exchange reverses should be able to shield it from external shocks (think a drop in international oil prices) despite its overdependence on hydrocarbons, and it is easy to see why Ambassador Almutoteh was all smiles during his national day reception, where guests enjoyed a lavish sit-down lunch of both Middle Eastern and Western delicacies.
Almutoteh’s speech was short and sweet and to the point, offering the requisite acknowledgements of the sacrifices endured by those who fought to liberate Kuwait from foreign hands and those who have guide its current social and economic development.
“Our fathers and grandfathers began to lay the path of our road forward, and they left us footprints that have allowed their children to give it continuity generation after generation,” he said.
“Since the independence of Kuwait, its government has sought to follow a moderate and balanced foreign policy based on an opening to the world and communications.”
Almutoteh said that Kuwait’s external relations are solidly based on the principals of friendship, peace and human development within the framework of cooperation through regional and international forums to establish worldwide security and stability.
The ambassador also said that Kuwait has always taken a vanguard role in offering humanitarian aid where needed, a stature that won the country’s emir, Sheik Sabah IV al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, the United Nations’ title of Humanitarian Leader of the World in 2014.
“No doubt, the ties that unite Kuwait with its sister republic of Mexico will continue to grow day-by-day in all fields of cooperation,” Almutoteh said, adding that he hoped to elevate the bilateral relationship in the near future, with the goal of Mexico declaring Kuwait a “strategic partner.”
Kuwait and Mexico established formal diplomatic relations in 1975.
Kuwait opened a resident embassy here in October 2010 and Mexico opened an embassy in Kuwait in August 2011.
In recent years, the two countries have signed binational agreements on economic cooperation, the avoidance of double taxation and reciprocal investment protection, as well as cooperation protocols in the energy, air transport, tourism, law, communications, cultural and education sectors.
Notwithstanding, combined two-way trade remains low, as about $75 million annually, although Kuwait has been pushing to increase that figure through encouraging an expanded portfolio of Mexican agricultural exports to the Middle East.