Kuwait’s overall development strategy is contained in a government plan known as Kuwait Vision 2035. Health care forms a big part of Vision 2035, with the government placing belief in the relationship between a healthy economy and a healthy workforce.

Furthermore, while birth rates in Kuwait remain high compared to many Western countries (2.6 children born per woman in 2013, according to World Bank figures), a combination of falling birth rates and longer life expectancy means that the country’s demographic profile is set to age: in the GCC as a whole, the proportion of over 65s is set to rise from around 2% in 2015 to around 20% by 2050, according to Alpen Capital. Current health care infrastructure developments seek to anticipate the increased pressure that this generation will place on the health care system.

Over the nearer term, investments are being made in new capacity. A 2015 report from the Kuwait Life Sciences Company estimates that currently planned health care mega-projects have a value of KD3.5bn ($12.1bn) and will add a total of 11,200 new hospital beds.

UPGRADES: The Ministry of Health (MoH) is in the process of upgrading nine hospitals: of these, two projects were under way at the time of writing. The Al Razi Hospital expansion commenced in January 2013, and will add 240 beds to the hospital’s total capacity. The project, worth KD32m ($110.25m), is due to be completed in the third quarter of 2015. Meanwhile, also in Kuwait City, the project for the expansion of the Amiri Hospital broke ground in the last quarter of 2014. The project, which is due for completion in just over four years’ time, will add a total of 446 beds to the hospital, at a total cost of KD98m ($337.63m).

Of the other MoH expansion projects in the pipeline, the Kuwait Cancer Control Centre is due for an expansion to add 754 beds, at a cost of KD173m ($596.02m); the Sabah Hospital is due to add 771 beds at a cost of KD179m ($616.69m); the Farwaniya Hospital expansion will add 938 new beds at a cost of KD265m ($912.98m); the Adan Hospital will add 793 beds at a cost of KD232m ($799.29m); the Infectious Diseases Centre will add 255 beds with investment of KD54m ($186.04m) and the Ibn Sina Hospital will increase its bed capacity by 427 beds, at a cost of KD120m ($413.42m).

NEW BUILD: The Ministry of Public Works (MoPW) is also behind the construction of two new facilities. In December 2014, it announced that it was awaiting approval from the Central Tenders Committee for a new maternity hospital, whose costs it estimated at KD190m ($654.59m). Its next project due for completion is the Jaber Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah Hospital, which upon completion will be the largest single medical facility in Kuwait. Originally due to open in 2014, it is now scheduled to open in December 2015. Upon completion, it will comprise an area of 470,000 sq metres, with 1168 beds and 50 ambulances.

On an equally large scale, the Amiri Diwan – the palace of the Emir of Kuwait – is overseeing the construction of a new 1093-bed hospital in Jahra. However, though the project was put out to tender twice, in 2013 and in 2014, both times the winning contractor proved unable to come up with the 10% bid bond on time, leading to the withdrawal of the tender, for which the last winning bid amounted to KD364m ($1.25bn). At the time of writing, it was unclear when the next retender was due to take place, or on what terms.

Moreover, the medical faculty at Kuwait University is due to receive a boost with the development of the new Sabah Al Salem campus, which is currently under construction. This will feature a new 600-bed teaching hospital and will replace the Mubarak General Hospital, hitherto the main teaching hospital in Kuwait.

With its imminent spate of large-scale hospital construction projects from the MoH, the MoPW and the Amiri Diwan, the Kuwaiti government is acting early to tackle the projected future health care requirements of its aging population. In line with its shift to a more preventative approach to incommunicable diseases (see analysis), these construction projects exemplify the government’s forward-thinking health care strategy.