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MPs, ministers meet to discuss priorities Bid to strengthen cooperation

 KUWAIT CITY, May 6: Work at the Parliament continues and it has never been disrupted since the beginning of the current legislative terms, says Speaker of the Parliament Marzouq Al-Ghanim. Al-Ghanim made the statement on Tuesday, after his meeting with several MPs, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah and Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh, in response to a query from the press on whether he thinks the political storm has calmed down. The meeting discussed priorities and bills included in the agenda of the next parliamentary session as part of efforts to strengthen cooperation between the executive and legislative authorities. Asked if there has been an agreement on certain priorities, Al-Ghanim revealed the MPs formed committees to follow-up the important bills. He also urged many parliamentary committees to finalize as many bills as possible before the end of the current legislative round.

Meanwhile, Head of the Human Resources Committee MPYaqoub Al-Sane disclosed that as part of the committee’s research on unifying both the salary scale and end-of-service package or indemnity; as well as the management and lower occupation regulations, they will conduct a public opinion poll at 6:00 pm on Thursday in the Avenues Mall. He explained the survey will serve as a tool for Kuwaitis to voice their views on the issue and this will help the committee in complete its revision work. He added Al-Ghanim will attend the event, while an official invitation has been extended to HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak to attend the inauguration of the venue for the survey. He said the committee’s significant tasks include investigating and laying down regulations to be used as basis for governmental occupations and positions in order to issue fair legislation in this regard. In another development, MP Faisal Al-Kandari disclosed he is looking forward to Health Minister Dr Ali Al-Obaid’s announcement on the health sector development contracts in a couple of weeks.

He said the minister had signed nine contracts to build and expand nine hospitals with a total capacity of 5,800 beds. He described this as the first solid and real health-related progress which the country had witnessed in 34 years, thanks to the efforts of the Health Ministry and Al-Obaid. He affirmed the minister’s initiative reflects the eagerness of the government to implement healthcare-related reforms. The lawmaker pointed out that according to the development plans for fiscals 2010/2011 and 2013/2014 which officially ended last month, 13 hospital projects should have been started; but due to political blunders, dissolution of assemblies and resignation of governments, none of these projects have been implemented until now. He hopes the stable political environment will lead to the implementation of these projects. On another issue, MP Abdullah Al- Turaiji said the response of the minister of finance to a query about Advantage Company was unclear, describing it as an attempt to dodge the question.

He argued the minister must respond to parliamentary queries in a professional and transparent manner to save time and to serve public interests. He cited as an example the minister’s response that Kuwait Investment Company, which is owned by Kuwait Investment Authority, invested KD 165,000 in the Advantage Company on Dec 2, 2009 with 30 percent of the company’s capital and the value of this investment was paid in 2010. He added that even if Kuwait Investment Company was aware of the losses incurred by Advantage Company, it still granted a loan of KD 55,000 on Jan 4, 2010. He said Kuwait Investment Company, within the same year, wrote off the full value of the investment from its books because of the losses. The lawmaker also asked the minister if any department affiliated or under the control of the Ministry of Finance has direct or indirect relationship with Gulf One Investment Bank, but the minister simply said that Kuwait Investment Authority does not have any share or contribution to the bank - a clear indication of evading the question. He asserted the question was clear and the minister had to take the opinion of institutions and verify the investments of Kuwait Investment Company.

Vague On a query regarding Kuwait Investment Company being owned by Kuwait Investment Authority, Al-Turaiji explained this investment falls under Article Two of the Public Funds Protection Law number 1/93 and he wants to know the opinion of officials from the General Reserve Sector at Kuwait Investment Authority. He claimed the minister’s response to this question was vague, so he urged the latter to give clear answers and proof. In another development, MP Mubarak Al-Hurais has forwarded queries to Minister of Interior Sheikh Mohammed Al-Khalid Al-Sabah on various issues; including security, escape of prisoners and financial and administrative violations in the ministry. He asked the minister to provide him with all the contracts which the ministry signed directly with companies in the information technology and communications sector. He also inquired about the procedures taken by the ministry to correct all violations and observations in the recent report of the Audit Bureau. He mentioned there has been a trend of buying houses in private residential areas to be rented out to bachelor expatriate workers despite the law prohibiting such act. He wants to know if the ministry has uncovered the trend. If yes, he requested for details on the measures taken by the General Department for Criminal Investigation and Public Security to monitor activities of marginalized workers residing in private houses. On the security issue, Al-Hurais stressed the Interior Ministry is responsible for maintaining security in the country, yet the crime rate in residential areas continues to increase. He pointed out the number of crimes recorded only in Salwa reached 602 in 2013 and that is equivalent to two cases daily. On the escape of prisoners, Al-Hurais lamented several inmates have escaped from the Central Prison; thereby, posing a grave threat to public security. He asked for the number of prison breaks since the incumbent minister assumed the post and the steps taken to address the problem. Furthermore, MP Abdulrahman Al- Jeera has asked Oil Minister Ali Al- Omair to provide him with copies of contracts that Kuwait Oil Tankers Company concluded in the past five years.

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