Finance minister Hajraf resigns – Ex-MP Khannah released from jail after Amiri pardon

KUWAIT: The new head of the National Assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee MP Safa Al-Hashem said yesterday lawmakers will push to approve a draft law to impose taxes on expat remittances. The bill was approved by the committee in the previous term even though the legal and legislative panel said the law was not in line with the constitution and following objections from the ministry of finance and the Central Bank.


The law calls for imposing a progressive percentage of up to five percent on all remittances by expatriates after a number of lawmakers complained that expatriates were sending most of their money to their home countries. Expatriates in Kuwait are not allowed to buy property or launch small businesses, as these activities are restricted to citizens and big foreign investors. This is one of the reasons most expatriates prefer to send their money back home. Hashem also said that the committee has decided to press the government for the long-awaited new payscale for civil servants in a bid to unify wages in various government departments.


In other Assembly news, Finance Minister Nayef Al-Hajraf resigned from the Cabinet apparently after MP Mohammad Hayef filed to grill the minister over charging interest on cash payouts to Kuwaiti pensioners. Minister of State for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel was appointed as acting finance minister until a new minister is appointed. MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said that a grilling he planned against the minister will remain effective even after the minister’s resignation, because grillings are filed against issues and not persons. The lawmaker said he will take up the issues with the next minister.


Meanwhile, former opposition Islamist MP Fahd Al-Khannah was released yesterday from jail following an Amiri pardon days after he decided to return to the country and hand himself over to prison authorities. Khannah, along with a dozen former opposition MPs and activists, had been living in Turkey since the summer of last year after leaving Kuwait to avoid going to jail.


The group was sentenced by the court of cassation to three and a half years in jail for breaking into the National Assembly building in Nov 2011 following a protest against corruption. The protest was organized by the opposition against the government and 13 pro-government MPs accused of accepting millions of dinars in bribes to change their votes in the Assembly.


Ironically, one of the 13 MPs who were interrogated by the public prosecution over the charges but then cleared over loopholes in the law – MP Askar Al-Enezi – was elected yesterday as head of the Assembly’s public funds protection committee. MP Abdullah Al-Kandari on Sunday resigned from the committee because some MPs who were accused of taking bribes were elected as members.

By B Izzak