Lawmakers want Kuwait citizens excluded from price hikes – Govt presents 6-point plan, eyes 25% cut in expenses

KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem (right) and Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh are seen during a meeting yesterday. — KUNA

KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem (right) and Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh are seen during a meeting yesterday. — KUNA

KUWAIT: A meeting between the government and the National Assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee yesterday failed to reach a conclusive result over a plan to hike the prices of fuel and power, but MPs asked the government to exclude Kuwaitis from the hikes for a limited duration. The issue will not therefore be discussed during the Assembly’s session tomorrow as more meetings and discussions are planned to finalize an agreement.

Head of the committee MP Faisal Al-Shaye said the government told the meeting it expects to save as much as KD 1.2 billion by rationalizing subsidies and raising prices of petrol and electricity. He said the government provided the committee with details about squandering of public funds and plans to save as much as 25 percent in some provisions of the state budget.

Shaye said three major development projects are planned in which citizens will own 50 percent, adding that a number of legislation need to be amended and the Assembly is waiting for the government to submit those amendments. He said a meeting will be held on Thursday to discuss a series of proposals by MPs to exclude Kuwaitis from the price hikes, adding the government informed the panel that squandering in electricity consumption is estimated at 30 percent and consumption categories have been proposed to cut wastage.

Shaye said MPs have not been supplied yet with detailed figures about the proposed cuts in subsidies and it is expected to arrive at the best model on Thursday. Another meeting will be held on Sunday to study detailed figures about spending and revenues in the budget, privatization projects and private public partnership projects and their effects on the budget, he said.
Shaye said that a proposal to compensate citizens for petrol price hikes through coupons based on a monthly consumption of 220 liters per citizen holding a driving license was made by MPs and not the government. The lawmaker said the government wants to reduce administrative expenditures in the budget by 25 percent. He said the committee will work to complete the report on the issue before April 1.

Finance Minister and acting oil minister Anas Al-Saleh said after the meeting that the government’s vision for reforms is based on six main principles which include financial reforms, redrawing the state role in national economy, strengthening the role of the private sector, citizens’ ownership of projects, reforming the labor market and Civil Service Commission and administrative and legislative reforms. He said to implement this vision, the government has 40 programs, 23 of them short-term.

The minister said the meeting discussed the government’s proposal to rationalize subsidies for petrol and MPs proposed that such subsidies should be given to a section of citizens and the government will consider this proposal. The meeting also discussed a study submitted by the ministry of electricity on consumption categories and the discussion will be completed on Thursday, the minister said.

MP Mohammad Tana said the government presented several scenarios on the planned hikes but MPs demanded more information and explanations over the issue. He said the government said it wants to sell low-grade petrol for 90 fils a liter, high-grade premium petrol for 119 fils a liter and ultra-grade fuel for 127 fils a liter, adding this was one of the several scenarios it presented.

Last week, MP Shaye said the government told MPs it wanted to sell petrol for 85, 105 and 165 fils a liter for the three grades respectively. Tana said a number of scenarios were presented based on the movements in the price of oil. MP Saud Al-Huraiji said the government has so far presented a number of proposals and MPs rejected all of them and asked the government to submit better proposals.

Meanwhile, MPs yesterday issued threats that they would grill Commerce and Industry Minister Yousef Al-Ali and Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Hind Al-Subaih. MP Ahmad Al-Qudhaibi said his grilling against the commerce minister is ready and he is waiting for the minister to sign on the allocation of industrial land in violation of the law to submit the grilling request. He claimed that the minister returned some of the land that was withdrawn because of violations after unilaterally changing some rules in a politically-motivated move to appease some of his supporters.

MP Tana meanwhile threatened he would grill the social affairs minister if she does not stop what he called a process of privatizing cooperative societies, which is totally against the law. MP Huraiji also supported his colleague by saying that if the minister does not stop the process, she will be grilled.

By B Izzak

This article was published on 29/02/2016