KUWAIT: The Cabinet will discuss within the next two months a study to increase fuel prices, which has been completed by KPC and a technical team, as well as a study of power consumption groups. Sources said the two studies are ready and have been sent to the Cabinet to be discussed by its economic committee before the meeting of the full Cabinet at the end of August or beginning of September.

Meanwhile, former finance minister Bader Al- Humaidhi said Kuwait took the step of partially lifting fuel subsidies in the past to control the smuggling of diesel and its increasing consumption. Humaidhi, who spoke on Al-Arabia TV, said the government decided to reduce subsidies of diesel in particular, but opposition from one group of consumers influenced the decision and made “exceptions the rule” and did not remove much of the subsidies. He said the Kuwait budget suffers a KD 2.7 billion deficit in the current year and around KD 5 billion next year due to the unjustified rises in current expenses which took place during the period of high oil prices.

Humaidhi called for reconsidering the mechanisms of government subsidies presented to citizens in the GCC, considering Kuwait as the best country that can take this step through several items in its budget that are directed towards helping national labor, students, healthcare and other facets.

He said Gulf countries do not have worries in the short run about financing their budgets due to sufficient surpluses they have, but warned that in the long run, there are expectations oil prices will not return to their previous high levels and this will pressure the subsidies presented to Gulf nationals. He demanded that the private sector be given a larger role to participate with the government in employing graduates.

Separately, the Islamic Salaf Forum is making contacts with MPs at the National Assembly to fortify the position of fellow member Oil Minister Dr Ali Al-Omair after a series of parliamentary attacks against him and threats to grill him. Sources said the forum does not want Omair to remain alone in front of his opponents, especially since the forum and minister strongly believe that the latest, highly tense stands are for purely personal interests and have nothing to do with reforming the oil sector. Sources said the Salaf Forum will intensify its contacts with several MPs to explain the reforms of Omair and what he has achieved as minister.

Meanwhile, MP Khalil Al-Saleh said he will not allow the Director of Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources Nabila Al-Khalil to become a victim of political deals. Addressing Omair, Saleh said: “I gave you two options – either appoint Nabila Al-Khalil in her position permanently, or if there are suspicions, those suspected should be sent to the prosecution – but you did not do either. You are forcing us to stand against you in this political dispute.

Time is running out and the decision is yours.” MP Mansour Al-Dhafiri found the statement of Omair about MP Ahmad Al-Qudhaibi strange, adding that the MP has the right to express his opinion and comment on replies. He asked which expressions in the MP’s statement are not fit for the nation’s representative, according to the minister. He said the minister should have given explanations without any needless comments. “The question is, what are the measures you have taken against owners of suspicious tenders? Is it not the right of the MP to ask you? You have the right to refute it according to the constitutional frameworks, as the minister has the right to answer,” Dhafiri added.

MP Nabil Al-Fadhl warned Omair against any violations over farm ownerships, and described the violations as encroachment on state property. Fadhl said the minister had a positive role in approving the latest amendments of the agriculture authority law to protect state property and prevent manipulations. The law was approved but not enforced because it was not published in the official gazette. Fadhl said the minister may have his reasons, but “we warn if state rights are compromised with regards to the ownerships contrary to the law’s amendments, then the minister will be grilled”.

By A Saleh