The high-concept project may seem outlandish on one level, but Kuwait’s leadership is committed to the plan, according to one of the project’s originators, who argues that it could bring unprecedented political and economic gains to the region. “We are not dreamers at all when we talk about investing $ 132 billion,” said Sami Alfaraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies and an adviser to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of six mostly Gulf states.
“We’re thinking on a different plan because we cannot afford to think like everyone else. We’re thinking about something that might seem unimaginable,” he told Reuters in London, where he is holding meetings on the project. “We’re going to outmaneuver everybody who is going to remain in the old mode of thinking about economic prospects.”
London-based architects Eric R. Kuhne & Associates have drawn up designs for the project, to be called Madinat Al-Hareer or Silk City, which would include a 1,000-meter high skyscraper.
The city, set for completion in 2023, would be home to around 700,000 people and linked to the capital, Kuwait City, by a dedicated mega-causeway. But more importantly, it would also be linked to the rest of the Middle East, Europe and far-flung corners of the world by rail, principally as a trade route.
“It is the official policy of the state of Kuwait to build this city and to link it to Damascus, to Baghdad, to Iran and all the way beyond. This is where we want to put our money. We want to build railways all the way to China,” said Alfaraj, who also advises the government on security issues. “We hold the keys to a lot of things, but it’s not just money. For small states like us, the important thing is not oil, it’s not money, it’s influence. If we do not use oil or money to increase our influence in a peaceful way, we have no existence.” While Silk City and its rail links — dubbed a modern-day Silk Road — may seem dreamy to the point of unimaginable, Alfaraj says talks have been taking place with Iran since 1998 and with other countries on an intermittent basis for years. At a time when Kuwait, with the world’s fifth-largest proven oil reserves and among the top oil exporters, is sitting on massive petroleum profits, the funding is already in place.
Meanwhile, Kuwait could invest 28 billion dinars ($ 105.5 billion) to execute a five-year plan aimed at boosting foreign investments and develop its financial sector, Al-Jarida reported yesterday, citing government sources.
Kuwait wants to diversify its economy away from oil by becoming a regional financial center and attracting tourists as neighboring Dubai and Bahrain have done, the state’s 2009-2014 policy strategy plan showed in April.