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National Assembly Speaker, Marzouq Al-Ghanim during Tuesday’s Assembly regular session
Dire read on finances delays subsidies Nod on telecom

 KUWAIT CITY, April 1: The Parliament has approved the request of the government to postpone deliberations on the reports of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee about the child and rent allowance increment bills until the next legislative round. This gives the government another chance to present a comprehensive vision on the bills; including the strategic alternatives to address the salary scale issue.

The decision was taken in a closed-door session Tuesday, during which the Ministry of Finance presented a report on the financial status of the State to the Parliament to show how bad the situation has become due to the financial support granted to citizens.

Earlier, the Parliament agreed to postpone until Wednesday the discussion on some items on the agenda like the questions and incoming letters to focus on the children and rent allowance, as well as the support for workers.

The Parliament then endorsed the request of Finance Minister Anas Al- Saleh to hold a closed-door session, in accordance with Article 150, to discuss the Financial Committee’s report on the financial status of the State. After the closed-door session, the Speaker addressed the audience to inform them about the decision that is aimed at ensuring fairness among all citizens.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee Faisal Al-Shayei explained the Assembly voted in favor of the postponement request - 40 out of 49 members. The decision has drawn mixed reactions from the MPs. Some expressed resentment as they expected passage of the bills to help citizens cope with the rising cost of living; while others agreed with the government that implementation of the proposals might be risky for the national treasury.

 Al-Shayei said the report presented by the finance minister on the financial status of the country was alarming, particularly since the figures showed the financial situation will be very difficult in the coming years if unnecessary expenditures continue. He proposed a thorough review on the overall expenditure, especially the budget allocated for supporting citizens like the power and fuel subsidies. He asserted there is nothing wrong in looking after the welfare of citizens provided it does not negatively affect the State budget. MP Abdul Hameed Dashti added the government presented alarming figures on the financial status of Kuwait. As much as he wants to reveal these figures to the public, he will not do it because he respects the agreement to ensure confidentiality of discussions behind closed doors. He pointed out the government wants to send a clear message on the financial state of the country and the Parliament must cooperate with it in rationalizing spending in order to stop the wastage of public funds. He added, “We want the citizens to feel sustainability of the welfare State and its continuity is possible if the rationalization of spending is done. We must limit our expenditures and wean ourselves off complete reliance on oil as the only source of income. It is unacceptable that some people want to eliminate government subsidy by demanding increase in the children allowance.” On the other hand, MP Riyadh Al-Adsani expressed resentment over what he considers inability of the legislature to approve the proposal to increase the children allowance by agreeing to postpone discussions in this regard. He said the government keeps on complaining about depletion of State budget, considering the proposed increment is only KD15; yet it does not use the same excuse in supporting private projects. He asked, “If there is a budget deficit, why does Kuwait continue to donate to other countries? We cannot say Kuwait’s economy is free, if we do not stop monopoly”.

Inaccurate
He argued that based on the information given by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), if the increase is calculated from the newborn babies up to those aged 24 years; the total will be 705,000 citizens and the cost for granting the KD25 increment will not exceed KD211 million. He claimed the Finance Ministry presented inaccurate figures in its report on the financial status of the nation. He said a country which talks about budget deficit will not donate to its neighbors as the priority should be given to its people. “If the government fears the possibility that the increment will lead to higher cost of living; then it should strictly apply the law, control prices, activate its commercial oversight role and stop monopoly,” he concluded. MP Hamdan Al-Azmi blamed some of his colleagues who approved the request, alleging the government does not fulfill its promises; hence, it cannot be trusted to push for approval of the bill in the next legislative round. In the meantime, the Parliament approved the Public Telecommunications Authority Bill in its second reading. During discussion on the bill, MP Adel Al-Kharafi pointed out that one of the most important amendments is the article stipulating seven members of the board as four of them will be delegated to the authority and the remaining three will specialize in the field of telecommunications. The Assembly was supposed to move onto the next item on the agenda — the establishment of a management judicial court, but it was postponed until the next session due to the absence of the minister of justice.


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

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