KUWAIT: The National Assembly and the government yesterday held another round of discussions over plans to cut subsidies on electricity and fuel as part of an economic reform package, and a minister said the two bodies have moved closer on the issue. Head of the financial and economic affairs committee MP Faisal Al-Shaye said the government proposed to raise the prices of petrol by between 42 percent to 83 percent.

Under the proposal, low-grade petrol will be raised from 60 fils to 85 fils per liter, high-grade petrol from 65 fils to 105 fils a liter and ultra-grade petrol from 90 fils to 165 fils a liter. He said the committee asked the government to provide other alternatives if the price of petrol is linked to developments in the international market.

A fresh meeting will be held on Sunday for the government to provide details about the way it wants to raise electricity, water and petrol prices. Shaye said MPs asked questions about what the government presented and it was agreed that the government will provide details about consumption groups or categories on Sunday.

The committee will then select the best option among the plans the government will submit in order to ensure that people are not harmed, the lawmaker said. If the committee completes discussing the issue on Sunday, it will then be debated by the Assembly on Tuesday, otherwise it will be delayed.

The meeting was attended by Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem, about 12 lawmakers and four Cabinet ministers including Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh and Public Works Minister Ali Al-Omair. The meeting came following a series of meetings between the government and MPs in order to allow the government to present details of its economic reform package and reach a deal with lawmakers before the issue comes up for official debate in the Assembly on March 1.

Omair said the government provided plenty of data and information to MPs and answered their questions. He said that the vision has become clear now after the government provided specific details and the two sides are closer than ever for reaching a deal. The minister said the government will provide more information and data during the meeting on Sunday to complete the discussion on the issue. He said the two sides are very close to reaching an understanding on the issue, adding that the government and the Assembly are careful not to take any measures that could harm the people.

Omair confirmed reports that the Cabinet has increased the financial allocations for patients sent to the United States and Europe to KD 75 after reducing it last week to just KD 50 per day. He said the government through this decision wanted to regulate and control the issue of sending patients for treatment abroad. The report of the financial committee is expected to be crucial for decisions expected to be taken to reduce public subsidies in the face of the sharp decline in oil revenues and the impending budget deficit.

By B Izzak