By B Izzak
KUWAIT: Kuwait’s official assets have posted an unprecedented growth over the past 12 months, Finance Minister Khalifa Hamada said yesterday, adding dozens of billions of dollars in profit and raising the country’s total assets to close to an estimated $1 trillion. The finance minister’s statement was released as he could not present the country’s financial status to the National Assembly after the government boycotted the final session of the current term when opposition lawmakers refused to vacate seats normally occupied by ministers.
As His Highness the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers walked out of the chamber, Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem announced an Amiri decree ending the assembly term, the most tumultuous in the history of Kuwaiti democracy. Ghanem said the next term will start in October and expressed the hope that “we meet in a better situation”.
Only a few sessions were held since the new assembly held its opening session on December 15 following the December 5 session in which the opposition scored a resounding victory. But the opposition, which holds 31 out of the 50-member assembly, could not control the house because of the 16 cabinet ministers who, though unelected, become members of the assembly.
The government and its supporters, the speaker and a minority of lawmakers, held a thin majority of just a single vote that allowed them to pass laws to the liking of the government and reject others that the opposition backs. Most of the sessions failed to take off because of the government-opposition non-stop disputes as opposition MPs filed to grill His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah just one month after the election. He responded by submitting the cabinet resignation. He was however renamed by His Highness the Amir to form the new Cabinet which took several weeks.
Opposition MPs have insisted that the political dilemma is caused by the speaker and the prime minister and demanded their resignation. They also appealed to His Highness the Amir to dissolve the assembly and call for fresh polls. In the meantime, the finance minister released a statement saying that the country’s sovereign wealth fund known as the Future Generations Fund, has grown by an unprecedented 33 percent over the past 12 months up to March 31 this year.
The minister gave no figures because they are confidential but based on an official document released by opposition MP Hasan Jowhar last month, the Fund’s assets reached KD 159 billion on March 31 last year. This means that the assets have grown to KD 211.5 billion or $702 billion, the highest ever. The document also showed that assets in other state establishments like the public institute for social security (pension agency), Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Kuwait Fund for Arab Development, Credit Bank and others reached KD 59.5 billion on March 31 last year.
If those assets have also grown by the same percentage, their total on March 31 this year would be KD 78.8 billion or $261 billion. The minister however did not say by how much these assets have grown but the social security institution has announced unprecedented growth. This would put total assets of Kuwait at $963 billion, a record high and just short of the one trillion mark.
The minister however said that the country’s state reserve fund, used to finance spending, is empty and the government was forced to sell part of its assets to the generations fund collecting some KD 7 billion. But he warned that the price of oil needed to balance the budget remains as high as $90 a barrel. Kuwait does not add the profits earned by the generations fund to the budget but keeps them with the budget as per the law.