KUWAIT: The National Assembly yesterday approved capital spending for the next fiscal year but delayed the second and final reading on the labor law amendment to increase annual leave in the private sector from 30 to 35 days. The voting will take place in a later session. Minister of Public Works Jenan Bushehri told the Assembly that repair works on the roads, damaged by the torrential rains that hit the country in November, will begin in the first week of next month. She said the work was delayed because the ministry was assessing studies on loose gravel from the roads and ways of treatment, adding that the new paving material had been sent overseas for examination.

The minister said repairs will first start on motorways and some lanes will be closed for 12 hours daily to complete the work, but she gave no deadline for finishing the repairs. She however hoped the repairs will be completed before the end of the year. Bushehri apologized to the people for taking so long to start the repairs. She said that a number of senior officials and contractors will be held to account and that cases will be filed in court against those who caused the flying gravel problem.
MPs lashed out at the government for taking so long to carry out the repairs and demanded tough penalties for those found responsible for the damage. Some MPs insisted that Kuwaiti roads were damaged by rains more than tanks could. MP Mohammad Al-Mutair claimed that roads were fine before the 1990 Iraqi invasion and deteriorated after the liberation because of rife corruption. MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said the prime minister should be held to account for the damage to the roads.

The assembly also passed in the second and final reading a draft law to toughen penalties on merchants selling expired or rotten foodstuff, raising the fines to as high as KD 100,000. MP Osama Al-Shaheen said the law stipulates that violating establishments will be shut while waiting for a final court ruling. MPs also passed a draft law estimating capital spending in the 2019/2020 budget at KD 3.2 billion, as head of the budgets committee MP Adnan Abdulsamad said the government now has no excuse not to implement development projects.

The Assembly also passed a draft law stipulating about KD 1.4 billion in supplementary spending of which KD 900 million will go to the oil ministry, KD 320 million to the health ministry and KD 54 million to the education ministry. MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said the health ministry’s new budget includes KD 200 million for medical treatment abroad, as some MPs said Kuwaiti patients sent by the government to some US hospitals were asked to leave due to the lack of sufficient funds from the government.

Adasani warned the government against imposing any kind of taxes on citizens or taking any measures that may increase the financial burden on them. Health Minister Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah said the ministry will build more public clinics in crowded areas, especially where expatriates outnumber citizens.

MP Ahmad Al-Fadhl said a report stated that funds raised by Kuwaiti charity societies between 2012 and 2016 amounted to over KD 716 million, more than 90 percent of which were sent abroad. He inquired if the government has any control over the outflow of charity funds. Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Saad Al-Kharraz said that the process of sending charity funds abroad is done in coordination and under the full control of the foreign ministry.

By B Izzak