No loan relief: Al-Shamali MPs criticize finance minister

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 19: Several lawmakers have strongly criticized the recent statement of the Minister of Finance Mustafa Al-Shamali on the issue of writing off interests on the loan of citizens.

 The Minister was quoted by the Al-Jaridah daily as saying the government has no intention either to write off the interests on the consumer loans or buy their loans because the government has already resolved the problem of the defaulters — about 28,000 citizens — through a fund which was established for that purpose.

The minister explained the problem is waning and he sees no reason to write off these loans. He added writing off loans or interests thereof of a particular group of citizens is not a fair manner of dealing with the situation. Moreover, it will amount to cheating those who have not taken the loans.

The minister made the statement after several lawmakers presented different versions of bills urging the government to buy the estimated KD 6 billion loans of citizens — loans owed to banks and financial companies.

Some MPs have called on the government to waive the interests accrued on these loans and reschedule the payment over a long period of time. Though, each MP has suggested a different method of solving the issue, they all agree on one point, writing off loans or waiving the interests thereof.

MP Nasser Al-Rashidi has described the minister’s statement as provocative that will not serve the interests of cooperation between the government and the Parliament.

Al-Rashidi said he will hold a meeting with fellow MPs to close a gap on their views so that they can unify their stand on all proposed bills particularly those related to writing off interests on loans before the next session.

He added, the writing off of loans or interests thereof has become necessary — an issue which cannot be ignored by the two authorities.

He said the government has contributed to the problem of loans by its failure and the Central Bank of Kuwait did not play its supervisory role on the banks which took advantage of the borrowers through accumulated interests.

MP Nawaf Al-Fuzai reminded the minister the problem of the loans is not about defaulting the citizens rather than delay and lack of implementing the law.
He asked, “What action did Al-Shamali take when the banks deposited forged work contracts in the files of the borrowers?”

MP Faisal Al-Kandari also described the minister’s statement as provocative and unjustified to the Parliament and the Kuwaiti people. He added, “What the minister stated indicates he has not given up his provocative policy. His negative statements will not only harm him but the entire Cabinet members.”
He pointed out that the issue of writing of loans does not belong to only Al-Shamali, rather it concerns the parliament which handling several important issues like the loan issue.

He said the minister’s statement amounts to serious violation on the legislative authority and lack of respect to the separation of powers. He added, “Al-Shamali should better wait for the outcome of the measures being adopted by the Parliament and then the government will have the right to express its opinion in accordance with the Parliament bylaw during session.

He said he has realized that almost all lawmakers have agreed to solve this issue. He noted the current Parliament has the economic expertise, ability and clear vision on the issue and can find fair solutions to the satisfaction of all concerned parties.

MP Khaled Al-Shulaimi called the statement provocative. He explained the citizens are the core of economic and social process in the Constitution. He warned that Al-Shamali would be forced to resign if he continues with his method. He added, “I am afraid Kuwait will become a cave and Al-Shamali will be the guide of this cave.”

MPs Ahmed Al-Mulaifi, Yaqoub Al-Sane, Abdul-Hameed Dashti, Hamad Al-Dousari and Mohammed Al-Barrak have presented a request to set a date at least after two months to hold a special session to discuss policies of the government on the housing issue. They expressed their concern over how the housing policy is being managed by the authority.

Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers held a session to discuss the National Assembly’s priorities during this legislative term. According to study by the Assembly, the issues that concern citizens are health care, education and salaries that goes hand in hand with the price inflation, economic development, fight against nepotism and administrative corruption, housing, the bedoun issue, national unity, unemployment and cooperation between the legislative and the executive authorities.

In another development, the Public Fund Protection Committee of the National Assembly Wednesday elected MP Ahmed Al-Mulaifi chairman and MP Saud Al-Hareeji Rapporteur. Other members are Nasser Al-Marri, Abdullah Al-Tameemi and Sadoun Al-Hamad.

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Nihal Sharaf Arab Times Staff

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