Interview with outspoken lawyer and candidate Nawaf Al-Fuzai

KUWAIT: Former lawmaker Nawaf Al-Fuzai speaks to Kuwait Times. —Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: Former lawmaker Nawaf Al-Fuzai speaks to Kuwait Times. —Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

‘Price hikes should pass through the parliament’

KUWAIT: In less than six weeks, Kuwaitis will go to the polls to elect a new parliament. In the run-up to the elections, Kuwait Times will be interviewing candidates from across the political spectrum to hear their views on the challenges facing Kuwait and what can be done.

In today’s issue, we speak with outspoken lawyer and former lawmaker Nawaf Al-Fuzai, from the first constituency. Fuzai plans to register as a candidate, the fifth time he will compete in the parliamentary polls. Fuzai is a well-known political activist and columnist and regularly comments on contemporary Kuwaiti issues including growing corruption, removal of fuel subsidies and other controversial topics. Kuwait Times met Fuzai at his office in Hawally.

Kuwait Times: What are your expectations for winning the elections and of the percentage of change of MPs in the next parliament?
Nawaf Al-Fuzai: Every candidate hopes to win. I believe that presently, the majority of voters are not satisfied with the efforts of the lawmakers (of the recently dissolved parliament) and are looking for change. The public didn’t really trust the current crop of lawmakers due to their poor performance and failure in resolving various problems or meeting the demands of the people. The removal of fuel subsidies and the hiking of petrol prices without consultation with the people is a recent example.
I filed a court case against the government for increasing petrol prices as I believed that the parliament is unable to carry out its responsibilities. This verdict said any price hike should pass through the parliament, which should approve it, which was my defense. It was the parliament that supposedly demanded the increase, and I believe it made a mistake.

The economic reforms paper is a study submitted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which included six modules of economic reforms including removing subsidies on fuel. There was no voting on this paper, but it passed through the parliament. This was very negative as it didn’t propose an alternative vision through a law.

Economic reforms

KT: What is your vision for reform in Kuwait?
Fuzai: In my opinion, economic reforms should start from the top. The reforms should start with taxes on family-owned companies particularly, so we can strike a balance between budget demands and social justice. I think it’s not fair to take a one-sided opinion, as the chamber is not neutral and will definitely defend the interests of the businessmen. It will push the burden on a category different from the one it represents.

This decision of removing subsidies from petrol led to price hikes of other products. This issue was one of the reasons behind the dissolution of the parliament. The fuel case is now in the appeals phase, and we are waiting for the date of the hearing to present our defense. As I filed this case against the prime minister, he will be obliged to execute the verdict if we win the case.

KT: What is your plan or program for the elections? What are the issues you will be focusing on?
Fuzai: I have a vision. I’m known for adopting cases dealing with squandering of public funds. I have filed the largest number of court cases against banks – about 1,000 cases – to clarify the real status of debtors or borrowers, who were highly victimized by the illegal interest rates charged by the banks.

I’m now focusing on public projects that were carried out with oversized budgets, including new road projects and others. We compared these projects to the budgets of similar projects abroad and their cost was very high. Also, the social security case is very popular, which I assume will not be closed with just the currently accused people, as there are more people involved.

The Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development has committed many violations and was referred to the public prosecution. The Dow Chemical case was another one I worked on, and the oil minister at that time was grilled for it and resigned as a result. These cases have not been resolved yet, and their costs exceed billions of dinars.

More Cases
“The economic situation today is bad and is pressing on all of us. A report was recently issued by the World Bank stating that our government is borrowing from the Next Generations Reserves more than from foreign entities. There are many questions about this issue and about the reason of not taking more effective economic initiatives instead of using this fund that was established for future generations in case oil runs out,” Fuzai said.

“There is visible negligence by the government, which is a very serious issue, especially during this period in Kuwait’s history. Other countries are now moving to alternative resources other than oil. Kuwait will be affected if we don’t change our philosophy of completely depending on oil for a living. This is a shared responsibility of the legislative and the executive powers, including issuing laws and observing the execution of these laws,” he said.

“I warned in the past of a possible economic crisis that may reach the level of bankruptcy in 15 to 20 years. I’m following closely the crisis in Venezuela, which is one of the world’s biggest oil producers. Due to the wrong decisions by its former president, he led his country to famine. We should take a lesson from their experience.”

Conclusion
“We don’t only demand the change of people in the parliament, but a change in ideologies, agendas and performance, and the approach of the next MPs towards issues. We don’t need flattery – we want to see real performance and work to fulfill their promises. I believe the turnover of the present parliament will be high – maybe a change of more than 60-70 percent,” concluded Fuzai.

By Nawara Fattahova

This article was published on 18/10/2016