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Apply law, reach out to MPs: Amir Cabinet sworn in

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 6, (Agencies): His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad AlSabah called on Cabinet members Monday to apply the law in the most proper manner, and to extend their hands to the parliament members to honor aspirations of citizens.

His Highness Sheikh Jaber, chairing a Cabinet meeting after the ministers were sworn in before His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah AlAhmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, called on the executives to address problems of citizens, and to implement a management method that would reward those excelling in their jobs and punish those who failed to do so.

Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Mubarak Al-Sabah, in a statement after the Cabinet meeting, said His Highness the Prime Minister underlined importance of translating the instructions of His Highness the Amir into action.

His Highness the Amir, while receiving the ministers earlier in the day, urged them to further improve the government’s performance in order to address enormous challenges, and to achieve more cooperation with the National Assembly in order to honor aspirations of the citizens, and practical solutions for the problems. “If the challenges are a huge responsibility, we, Allah willing, are capable of living up to this responsibility ...,” Sheikh Mohammad quoted His Highness the Prime Minister as saying. The ministers expressed keenness to exert maximum efforts to honor aspirations of the citizens and the country as a whole. Members of the new Cabinet took their oath before HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Monday.

This came after the issuance of an Amiri decree accepting the resignation of seven members of the previous government as follows: Minister of Finance Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah, State Minister for Development, Planning and National Assembly Affairs Rola Dashti Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thikra Al-Rashidi, Minister of Oil Mustafa Al-Shamali, Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Shareeda Al- Moasharji, Minister of Education and Higher Education Nayef Al-Hajraf and State Minister for Housing and Municipality Affairs Salem Al-Utheina. HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al- Mubarak Al-Sabah was then instructed to form the new government, which now consists of some who retained their posts like Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid, and Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense Sheikh Khalid Jarrah, and Minister of Public Works, Electricity and Water Abdulaziz Al- Ibrahim.

On the other hand, the new members include Deputy Premier and Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdul-Mohsen Al-Mudej, Minister of Information and State Minister for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Al-Hamoud, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education Ahmad Al- Mulaifi, Minister of Oil and State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Ali Al- Omair, Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and State Minister for Development and Planning Affairs Hind Barrak Al-Sabeeh, Minister of Justice, Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Nayef Hajjaj Al-Ajmi, Minister of Health Ali Al-Obeidi, Minister of Communications and State Minister for Municipality Affairs Issa Ahmed al- Kandari, and State Minister for Housing Affairs Yaser Hassan Abul. The new Cabinet includes three ministers affiliated to the Salafist Movement - Ali Al-Omair , Nayef Al-Ajmi and Ali Al- Obeidi; in addition to the one Shiite Yasser Hassan Aboul. It can be recalled that Al- Obeidi and Al-Mulaifi previously held the health and education ministry portfolios respectively.

Al-Omair, who replaces Mustapha al- Shamali as oil minister, is part of a group of Salafi Islamist politicians who are generally cooperative with the government. He was elected as a member of parliament in July. Anas al-Saleh, a former minister for commerce and industry, was selected to head the Finance Ministry, replacing Sheikh Salem Abdulaziz al-Sabah, who has repeatedly criticised high government spending in Kuwait. Saleh is part of a younger generation of ministers in the country and worked at financial companies in Kuwait after studying business administration at the University of Portland in the United States. The Finance Ministry was carrying out a review of Kuwait’s costly subsidies policy just before the Cabinet resignations.

Unusual Although it is not the first time that an MP has become oil minister in the handpicked Cabinet, it is unusual for a lawmaker to hold the position, which involves representing Kuwait at OPEC meetings. Kuwait’s energy policy is set by a Supreme Petroleum Council, so frequent ministerial changes have little effect. Like their counterparts elsewhere in the Middle East, Salafis in Kuwait espouse a puritanical interpretation of Islam but they are unusual for their active engagement in Kuwait’s often turbulent political system. Kuwait is a US ally and one of the world’s richest countries in terms of per capita income. Like other wealthy Gulf Arab countries does not tax earnings and provides a generous welfare system for its citizens.

Several members of the cabinet resigned last month after friction between MPs and ministers in the Cabinet, in which members of the ruling al-Sabah family hold top posts. Al-Sabah family members retained posts including the ministries of foreign affairs, interior and defence in the reshuffle. Kuwait’s June elections were the sixth since 2006 and continual changes in the parliament and cabinet have slowed the implementation of development plans and economic reforms. Saleh will face the difficult task of trying to change Kuwait’s spending habits and implement economic reform. This is likely to prove unpopular with parliament members who call for increased benefits for Kuwaiti nationals. The new government that was formed by an Amiri decree on Monday is Kuwait’s 33th Cabinet and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah’s fifth government. His Highness the Prime Minister’s fourth government was formed in August 2013, consisting of 15 ministers. The ministers tendered their resignations after the Constitutional Court rejected all law suits challenging legitimacy of the National Assembly. Following is a chronology of governments in the State of Kuwait: Governments in era of late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al- Salem Al-Sabah: The first government was called the transitional cabinet. It was formed on January 17 1962 and chaired by the then Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem.

The government consisted of 14 ministers. It has a specific mandate, writing a constitution, thus ended with the end of its task on January 27 1963. The second government, formed on January 28 1963, was chaired by Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah and consisted of 15 ministers including current Amir His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah who was named Foreign Minister for the first time. The cabinet lasted until December 5 1964.

The third government was formed on December 6 1964, also chaired by Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem, consisting of 14 ministers, four of them were MPs. This government survived for 28 days only because it failed to win confidence of the National Assembly due to constitutional measure regarding the selection of some ministers. Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem chaired the fourth government that was formed on January 3 1965. This cabinet included 13 ministers.

The government’s tenure ended with the passing awayof then Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem in Novembr of the same year. Governments in era of late Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah: The fifth government was formed on December 4 1965 and was chaired by Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. This government consisted of 13 ministers including three MPs. His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah was given the portfolios of Finance, Oil and Foreign Affairs. This government resigned at the end of the legislative term, February 3 1967.

The sixth cabinet was formed on Feburary 4 1967, also chaired by Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. This government, consisting of 14 ministers including three MPs, served for four years until February 1971, at end of the parliamentary legislative term. The seventh government, which also served a full four-year term, was formed on February 2 1971. Chaired by Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, this cabinet includes 13 ministers. The following cabinet, the eighth, was formed by Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah on February 9 1975. It consists of 15 ministers including two MPs. This government served for 19 months only and ended a month after the dissolution of the parliament in August 1976.

The ninth government, formed while the parliament was dissolved on September 6 1976, was chaired by Sheikh Jaber Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and consisted of 18 ministers. This government ended in December 1978 after the passing away of then Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah. Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, then Crown Prince and Prime Minister, was named as Amir. In another development, the parliamentary Financial and Economic Affairs Committee approved Monday the proposal to increase the children allowance to KD 75 for families with at least seven children. It also endorsed the proposed rent allowance increment of KD 250 but postponed discussions on recommendations to increase the housing loan, as well as the salary and allowance for the military personnel because it needs more time to study these proposals.

Committee Rapporteur Mohammed Al- Jabri disclosed the maximum cost for increasing the children allowance is KD1.15 billion for one year, from which KD 725 million will be deducted for one-time payment; while the rent allowance increment will cost KD142 million annually. He pointed out the committee postponed voting on the proposal to increase the housing loan until a comprehensive alternative is presented and accepted by all parties — the government and the citizens. He said the committee also decided to postpone deliberations on draft bills to increase the salary and allowance of the military personnel in the defense and interior ministries, National Guard and Kuwait Fire Service Directorate for more study due to the high cost. He added the committee tasked to look into the proposal has warned about the negative impact of approving the proposed increments as it might lead to the retirement of 12,000 to 15,000 military staff.

He confirmed the committee promised to present an alternative that will satisfy all parties and maintain stability in the military institutions. Furthermore, MP Hamdan Al-Azmi has stressed the need to address the drug issue, especially since the number of drug addiction cases in the country has been increasing at an alarming rate. He cited recent reports stating that the number of such cases increased from 13,000 in 2012 to 15,000 in 2013; while deaths caused by drug overdose rose from 60 in 2012 to 80 in 2013. He submitted a draft bill on the establishment of the National Authority for Anti- Drugs under the direct supervision of HH the Prime Minister. He said the functions of the authority include conducting public awareness campaigns on the dangers of drug consumption, implementing rehabilitation programs for drug addicts to rejoin the mainstream society, and providing services after rehabilitation

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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