KUWAIT CITY, March 16: MP Saleh Ashour’s grilling of Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and State Minister for Planning and Development Affairs Hind Al- Subaih on two issues — privatization of cooperative societies and suspension of financial support for orphans — did not lead to a no-confidence motion Wednesday.
The minister faced a similar situation during the interpellation by MP Mohammed Tana Al-Anazi earlier. At the end of the discussion on Ashour’s grilling request, the Parliament approved the MPs’ recommendations to inform the public funds prosecutor about the violations committed by the boards of directors of cooperative societies and for the ministry to help the cooperatives in solving their problems.
According to Article 100 of Kuwait’s Constitution, a lawmaker is allowed to address an interpellation to the prime minister or ministers on matters concerning their ministries. Ashour argued that the decision taken by Al-Subaih to privatize Dasma and Bneid Al- Gar Cooperative Society was the first step towards the privatization of all cooperative societies. He said this decision is a violation of the Constitution, laws and ministerial decisions. He pointed out the MPs are responsible for regulating work procedures in the cooperative sector and preventing any deviation from social objectives. He stressed that if there are irregularities in cooperative societies, the government should actively play its role as an advisor to prevent greedy traders and influential people from taking over cooperative work He claimed the ministry aims to deprive citizens of their right to manage cooperative societies by handing these establishments over to powerful traders and private companies, especially since they found out that the cooperatives earn millions of Kuwaiti dinars.
On the orphans, Ashour asserted the ministry installed cameras to monitor the orphans without considering their right to privacy, indicating that 44 out of 136 orphans are girls. He said some of the girls who smashed the cameras were referred to a police station and after the interrogation they were asked to get out of the station but the ministry ignored them. He added the ministry has imposed restrictions on the orphans, pushing them out of the welfare homes through various methods, up to the extent of reducing their food supply. He alleged the ministry has banned provision of meals to female employees so they will not share the food with the wards.
In her response, Al-Subaih stressed she is willing to stand on the grilling podium if it is the price she must pay for implementing the law. She asserted the ministry won 279 out of 391 cases filed against it. For her, this means the ministry was on the right side in most of these issues. Commenting on the allegation that she wants to privatize cooperative societies and sell the country, Al-Subaih said, “I would have presented a law in this regard if I had such an idea, just like I did when I submitted seven draft laws to Parliament in the past.” She clarified that she merely complied with the instruction of the Parliament members in supervising cooperative societies. She said all referrals to the prosecution and investigations have turned into cases.
“We have volumes of documents on irregularities in cooperative societies,” the minister added, reaffirming that she developed the cooperative sector through the decisions she has taken so far. She revealed the profits of cooperative societies in 2015 reached KD 57.137 million compared to KD 38.155 million in 2012, stating that the total sales of cooperatives in 2015 reached KD 901.255 million compared to KD 692.283 million in 2012. She said the financial statements showed an increase in realized profit from year to year as a result of bigger sales and the commitment of cooperative societies to develop revenue and reduce expenditures while the ministry heightened supervision by activating the role of financial and administrative controllers.
On the camera issue, Al-Subaih explained the cameras were installed in the hall for boys whereas there is no camera in the girls’ hall except those installed outside. Meanwhile, the Parliament unanimously passed a bill approving the Statute of the Islamic Organization for Food Security in its first and second readings. The organization aims to address food security problems in member-States, such as hunger, malnutrition, poverty and failure to fully use the capabilities of countries. It will also deal with desertification and deforestation issues by providing member- States with expertise and knowledge on agriculture and monitoring food security situation in these countries in order to determine the methods of emergency and humanitarian assistance.
Moreover, the National Assembly approved a number of recommendations in the report of the Health, Social Affairs and Labor Committee on the technical regulations and allocations for those undergoing treatment abroad. Health Minister Dr Ali Al-Obaidi disclosed the overseas treatment issue has two aspects — technical which is under the jurisdiction of the Health Ministry and financial which is under the Council of Ministers. He added there are four bodies which send patients for treatment abroad — ministries of Health, Defense, Interior and Oil.
He affirmed the Council of Ministers usually forms committees whose members come from these ministries to review applications for treatment abroad. He described the proposals of the committee members as fruitful, adding an agreement was reached on the technical decisions particularly those concerning the companions of patients. On patients who need physical therapy and rehabilitation, Al-Obaidi said the ministry did not stop procedures for sending such patients abroad but steps are being taken to offer these services in the country through coordination with private hospitals. He also cited the proposal to coordinate with a global investor to carry out physiotherapy in the country.
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff