The National Assembly

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem yesterday invited MPs for special sessions to approve the state budget for the 2021/2022 fiscal year, but opposition lawmakers vowed not to allow the sessions to be convened before the prime minister accepts to be grilled, setting the stage for a major showdown.

Ghanem said he received a motion by 15 MPs, all of them pro-government, requesting special sessions to debate and approve the state budget, adding that he set the sessions for tomorrow and Wednesday. Opposition MPs immediately responded by rejecting the invitation, insisting they will not allow any sessions to be convened unless HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah accepts to be grilled.

Leading opposition lawmaker Shuaib Al-Muwaizri invited the opposition bloc, consisting of 31 MPs, for a meeting late yesterday to discuss the situation regarding the invitation to hold the special sessions. Opposition MPs have been refusing to allow sessions to be held in protest against a decision by the house to postpone grillings against the prime minister until the end of 2022. The opposition insists that the decision is illegal and not in line with the constitution.

Opposition MPs have resorted to sitting in seats reserved for Cabinet ministers, prompting the ministers to boycott the sessions and forcing the speaker to call off those sessions. The Assembly has effectively held only a handful of sessions since its election in December due to lingering disputes between the government – backed by the speaker and around 16 MPs – and the opposition bloc.

Ghanem warned yesterday that failure to approve the budget will block new jobs and cause a delay in housing projects, which are very essential for citizens. He added it will also block any increase in the budget for the year. Deputy speaker Ahmad Al-Shuhoumi said citizens should not be made to pay for the ongoing political wrangling. He also warned that HH the Amir and HH the Crown Prince are aware of the developments “and those who think they will remain quiet are mistaken”, without elaborating.

MP Hamad Al-Harashani launched a scathing attack on opposition lawmakers, accusing them of plotting against the regime and the constitution. But a number of opposition MPs insisted they will not allow the session to take place unless the prime minister is grilled, and refuted claims by pro-government MPs that not approving the budget will block spending.

MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari recalled previous statements by the government that new jobs and wages will not be affected by not approving the budget. MP Saud Al-Mutairi asked: “How can we approve the budget, giving the government the right to spend billions of dinars, and still not be able to question ministers?”

MP Mohammad Al-Mutair said: “We will not approve the budget for a government that we cannot hold accountable. What if they steal the budget?” MP Obaid Al-Wasmi accused the government and its supporters of misleading the public, adding that preventing the session aims at not allowing the government to control a budget without accountability.