KUWAIT Feb 28 Kuwait plans to choose a winning
bid in the first quarter of this year from among 18 companies
competing to build a new airport, a key project in the country's
economic development plan, a government official said.
The airport, which is expected to cost around 900 million
dinars ($3.2 billion) and open in 2020, would aim to serve as a
regional air travel hub. Kuwait currently has only one
international commercial airport.
The target is to get 25 million passengers passing through
the new airport each year, Faisal al-Ustaith, a director at the
Ministry of Public Works, told Reuters on Wednesday. Kuwait's
current capacity is around 7 million annually.
"We expect an announcement during the first quarter of this
year," Ustaith said.
Several of the bidding companies may join together to form a
consortium that gets the winning bid, he said, adding that the
bidders were all foreign companies.
Large development projects in Kuwait have been stalled for
years by political wrangling and bureaucracy, leaving the
oil-rich state with underdeveloped infrastructure and low levels
of foreign investment.
In the last few months, however, authorities have begun
issuing contracts for some major projects, raising hopes that
one of the Gulf's most under-performing economies may catch up
with its neighbours.
Officials say the number of passengers has risen
significantly in recent years because of population growth and
more frequent travel.
This has strained the current airport, which overflows with
travellers during public and religious holidays in the country
of 3.7 million people, two thirds of whom are foreigners.
The new airport will have 51 aircraft gates, with 21 slated
for use by large aircraft such as the Airbus 380, Ustaith said.