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MPs nod on electronic transactions, KAC privatisation Charity outlay hit in debate on housing

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 21: The Parliament on Tuesday approved the government electronic transactions and Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) privatization draft laws. After discussing minor points on the electronic transactions bill, the Assembly put the bill to a vote with 49 lawmakers voting in favor and one against. The bill was referred to the government for implementation. Meanwhile, during the second reading of the proposed privatization of KAC, MP Jamal Al-Omar argued, “We can not privatize the corporation alone; the companies affiliated to it must be included in the process.” He also inquired if the Amiri fleet will be privatized along with KAC and its affiliates. However, the MP did not get any answer or clarification. A heated argument ensued, especially since some lawmakers pointed out numerous loopholes in the bill. As a result, a number of MPs presented a proposal to delay the second reading for 30 days to give them more time to revise the bill.

The proposal was put to a vote but majority voted against on grounds that it will only prolong the suffering of the KAC employees due to the management vacuum. The bill was therefore approved in its second reading with 46 votes in favor, four against and five abstained. It was referred to the government for the necessary action. Lastly, the Assembly tackled the Private Nurseries Bill which was approved quickly in the first reading but faced complications in the second reading. Several MPs voiced concern on the proposal to allow the construction of private nurseries in residential areas as it will cause noise pollution and traffic. In response to the lawmakers, Minister of Social Affair and Labor Hind Al-Sabeeh said, “We presented amendments to the bill in order to curb the number of private nurseries established in residential areas.

The ministry has also specified rules and regulations in this regard.” On the other hand, MP Safa Al-Hashem asserted the existing nurseries are not on par with international standards; yet the bill does not include any stipulation on this important factor. She proposed adding an article to require owners of nurseries to meet international standards before they are given a license to operate. In response to this, Al-Sabeeh revealed her ministry and its health counterpart formed a committee tasked to study the current conditions for owners of nurseries to obtain a license in a bid to guarantee the safety of these structures and the quality of education.

Due to a number of disagreements among MPs on certain terminologies used Photo by Rizk Tawfik in the bill, the Assembly agreed to refer it to the Legislative Affairs Committee for further study and revision. In another development, the Legislative Affairs Committee submitted its report on the request to lift the immunity of MPs Faisal Al-Duwaisan and Safa Al-Hashem to the Assembly.

The committee approved the request to lift the immunity of Al- Hashem but rejected that on Al-Duwaisan. Before voting on the request, Al- Duwaisan said the reason behind the case was his statement that a certain company is completely owned by Israeli management. Pointing out the irony, he disclosed a Palestinian man filed the case against him.

The Assembly then voted on the request with majority of the members standing by Al-Duwaisan in safeguarding his immunity, while Al-Hashem did not get the same support and her immunity was lifted. Furthermore, during talks on the housing issue, MP Yousef Al-Zalzala asked, “Why are Kuwaiti women married to non- Kuwaitis and those who are not married excluded from the housing grant?” He pointed out Kuwait is a rich country which grants millions of dollars worth in aid to other countries but it does not provide assistance to its women. “We then assert that the privilege must be granted to all those who deserve it,” he added. Most of the MPs agreed with Al-Zalzala, stating that women must have the same rights as men when it comes to housing.

Al-Hashem, the only female MP representing the women of Kuwait in the Parliament, argued that housing is every Kuwaiti’s constitutional right and it includes women. She said there are 68,000 Kuwaiti women below 60 years old still residing in their family homes. “Unfortunately, the government always uses the excuse of financial overload; while it grants millions to other countries,” she lamented. She also urged the minister of social affairs and labor to convey the messages of the women to the government.

Corroborating Al-Hashem’s statement on outside grants, MP Saleh Ashour stressed, “Kuwait has been hosting conferences over the last couple of months; granting money here and there, as if the name of our country has been changed to Kuwait Charity Association. Outside grants must be referred to the Parliament for approval. We should not allow the distribution of public money to others, while we do not spend anything on our own people. We even granted financial aid to countries which stood against us during the Iraqi invasion.” The Assembly agreed to refer bills regarding the housing issue, including the proposals to increase the children and rent allowances, as well as the housing loan, to the Housing Affairs Committee.

Speaking to the press after the session, the National Assembly Speaker disclosed he hopes for the passage of these proposals in Wednesday’s session. When asked if he expects clashes between the legislative and executive authorities on the matter, the speaker said there might be some differences in opinion but it is all for the sake of moving forward.

By: Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff

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