Follow Amir’s directives, urges Al-Ghanim; MPs reject dumping sentenced colleagues
KUWAIT CITY, Oct 30: Affirming his trust in the legislative and executive authorities in pushing forward the wheels of development, and asserting the importance of implementing democratic practices in line with the Kuwait Constitution, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah inaugurated the National Assembly’s third regular session of the 15th legislative term early Tuesday morning.
In his opening speech, His Highness the Amir highlighted that he was part of the founding assembly that launched Kuwait’s democratic journey, “therefore, we should not allow anything that might threaten its integrity”.
He said the country always has and will continue to consolidate democratic practices and raise its level of refinement. He indicated that some actions were taken within the National Assembly which unfortunately do not conform to this perspective and impair national development for the benefit of personal and political interests at the expense of the country’s welfare.
His Highness the Amir questioned the insistence to submit fruitless interpellations and grill the Prime Minister on matters that do not fall under his responsibilities and are in violation of the articles of the Constitution.
He said, “These political rights and tools are not free of regulations. There are terms and guidelines in place that all must abide to in order to ensure seamless progression of parliamentary work”. His Highness the Amir touched on the turmoil prevalent in the region and called on the nation to realize that it is being targeted, due to which it needs to work towards reform and set the wheel back on its right course to achieve a brighter tomorrow.
He explained that there are countless means through which individuals with ill intentions can agitate the stability of countries. One of them is the social media where some ghost accounts seek to cause tensions and instability. Due to this reason, he called on the two authorities to implement laws that would ensure proper use of these outlets. Lamenting the trend of accusations being thrown irresponsibly within the political arena, His Highness the Amir said the fight against corruption is vital and requires constant supervision and strengthening of efforts.
Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al- Ghanim in his speech lauded the wise and strong leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah in leading the country and preserving its security, stressing, “Through his proficient political dialogues and diplomatic finesse, we are able to stay away from political conflicts.” He said, “When facing political turmoils, we always have two choices – either act or react. Reacting only adds fuel to the fire, but thanks to the guidance of His Highness the Amir, Kuwait has always chosen the path of taking peaceful actions and relying on sophisticated political dialogues that aim at de-escalation and resolution”.
Kuwait needs to push through economic reforms despite higher oil prices, HH the Amir said, urging Parliament to work with the government to implement measures aimed at diversifying revenues and developing the economy. Kuwait, whose state finances are among the strongest in the region, has been trying to introduce new taxes and reform a lavish welfare system to curb state spending.
“I hope that the recent temporary improvement in oil prices does not obstruct this important path, which aims to protect future generations,” Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah told Parliament in a speech at the start of its new session. Critics say Parliament has long hindered attempts at fiscal discipline.
The current Parliament, elected in late 2016, has yet to pass any major elements of government reforms introduced after oil prices plunged in 2014. Parliament’s budget committee said last May that Kuwait would not implement a value-added tax before 2021, but would push ahead this year with excise taxes on selected products, such as tobacco and sugary drinks.
The Gulf’s six oil-exporting countries originally agreed to introduce a 5 percent VAT at the start of 2018, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates did so. The other states have delayed because of political opposition, potential damage to consumer spending, and the technical challenges of a new tax.
The Gulf economies, including Kuwait’s, are likely to accelerate in coming years as governments boost spending, but growth will not return to the levels enjoyed before oil prices fell in 2014, a quarterly Reuters poll of economists found. Speaker Al-Ghanim speaking on the occasion, insisted, “We can no longer sit back and ignore the issues of our times. We need to rely on our weapon which has never failed us throughout all the hardships we faced. It is the national unity.” He said, “National unity extends to cooperation between the two authorities. No issue can ever be resolved without true cooperation”, calling on his fellow lawmakers and the government to work towards making this a reality and solidify its continuity.
Al-Ghanim reminded that parliamentary supervision is a tool that should not be used without a sense of responsibility, insisting that it must be handled in a constructive and honest manner, and entering political dialogues that only point fingers must be avoided”. He explained, “The issues facing the country today are the same issues we were facing at the beginning of this assembly’s tenure. Despite significant improvement in some issues, they still exist. Therefore, the government, in line with the pieces of advice given repeatedly by His Highness the Amir, must raise its performance in order to keep up with the development of issues at hand, and strengthen cooperation that prioritizes the many and not the one”. Speaker Al-Ghanim lauded His Highness Sheikh Sabah’s stance on issues pertaining to regional developments.
His Highness the Amir’s efforts tried rectifying the unbalanced situation and finding solutions to problems,” said Al-Ghanim who indicated that the Kuwaiti leader’s stance stemmed from his traditional policy to defuse tension and to encourage dialogue. The Kuwaiti people are proud and in debt to His Highness the Amir’s nonstop efforts to fend off all that might harm the country and it citizens. Despite all the odds, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah continued to exemplify strong leadership and wise decision-making, taking the country to the shores of development, welfare and was named as the humanitarian leader and Amir of diplomacy.”
He highlighted the keenness of his government to respect the separation of powers and strengthen cooperation with the Parliament in accordance to the law and constitution. His Highness the Prime Minister indicated, “Despite the government’s achievements in elevating the standards of public utilities and developing services, there are some who actively criticize its performance and offend its efforts”. He briefl y touched on the prominent achievements of the government in the last five years such as the construction of 156 bridges to ease traffic congestions around the country.
His Highness the Prime Minister explained, “In the health sector, the country has been able to double the number of hospitals with the construction of 15 new ones, thereby increasing the total bed capacity of all hospitals of Ministry of Health to 18,184 from the previous capacity of 7,554 beds, which is an increase of 144 percent.
Since the interpellation submitted by MPs Shuaib Al-Muwaizri and Mohammed Al-Mutairi against His Highness the Prime Minister was lifted from the agenda, the National Assembly, immediately after the opening ceremony and the departure of His Highness the Amir, moved on and voted MP Ouda Al-Ruwaiee once again as the Parliament Treasurer and MP Nayef Al-Ajmi as the observer.
This was followed by the interpellation submitted by MP Riyadh Al-Adsani against the State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Adel Al-Kharaficoncerning unjust appointments in senior government positions and promotions, “embezzlement” of budgets and expenditures, and undermining parliamentary supervision (in security, said Speaker Al-Ghanim. He added that Kuwait’s reaction to developments in the region and the world should be calculated and precise to avoid pitfalls, affirming that thanks to His Highness the Amir’s wisdom, the country managed to overcome every obstacle and challenge.
The Speaker of Parliament affirmed that the National Assembly should unconditionally support His Highness the Amir’s efforts both regionally and internationally, stressing that national unity was the only path to fend off challenges both at home and abroad. “Cooperation” is key to eradicate all threats posed by sectarian strife and corruption. It is the duty of the Kuwaiti people to remain vigilant in this regard, affirmed Al-Ghanim.
Also, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al- Hamad Al-Sabah affirmed that His Highness the Amir’s policy is based on a humanitarian perspective and in consideration of the welfare of the country as well as empowerment of the law and strengthening of national unity, adding, “It is a policy that the whole world has come to acknowledge, due to which he accordance with Article 135 of National Assembly’s internal regulations).
The interpellation ended with a motion of no-confidence and with MPs voicing their disappointment over addressing an interpellation that served no purpose. During his address, MP Riyadh Al- Adsani outspokenly accused the minister of acquiring his seat via a political deal, claiming that majority of the National Assembly knows this fact. He explained, “Dealing with parliamentary affairs is straightforward and does not demand the same effort and attention as the rest of the ministries.
Therefore, the issues being addressed are all created by the minister. He deliberately employs family members and friends of certain individuals in order to gain political support and favors. This in turn has been creating tensions within the ranks of the ministry, as it is not just a violation of employment laws but a violation of public funds”. The MP presented documents that allegedly prove the inconsistency of numbers in the ministry’s budget, saying he believes this points towards the minister’s intentional embezzlements by referring the expenditures to other ministries. Rebutting the MP’s allegations and claims, State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Adel Al-Kharafistated that he does not want the position if it only subjects him to scrutiny and offences.
He insisted that the documents and accusations of the MP are untrue, adding that he explicitly follows the orders of His Highness the Prime Minister and directives of His Highness the Amir to curb any impediments to MPs and their parliamentary work. Al-Kharafistressed that the ministry facilitates parliamentary work and ensures everything referred to the government reaches its correct destination as quickly as possible.
He clarified that the responsibilities of his ministry are not less significant than other ministries, as it forms parliamentary recommendation reports and conducts political implication studies, adding, “If there is nothing being done at the ministry, who then keeps track of all the legislative projects, reconditions and parliamentary queries?” Regarding the point on unjust employments, the minister questioned how such a thing would be possible if there are no vacancies in his ministry. He revealed that an MP recently gave him the CV of a friend for a job but I apologized and rejected the CV. Al-Kharafilamented that, “MP Al- Adsani has gone all out and spoken to every media outlet about these allegations but not one solid evidence has been presented. The names and numbers disclosed in terms of the squandering and embezzlement of expenditures and public funds have not been included in the interpellation request, rendering it unconstitutional”.
After a prayer break, the National Assembly discussed the amendments to the sports law No. 87/2017 since the ban on Kuwait has been lifted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after the State of Kuwait and its sport authorities conformed to the provided guidelines. The submitted amendments are based on the country’s keenness to abide by the recommendations of IOC; therefore the National Assembly quickly approved them with 51 votes for and 8 against.
In addition, the National Assembly discussed the report issued by the Parliament’s Legal and Legislative Committee regarding the dropping of the parliamentary memberships of Waleed Al-Tabtabaie and Jama’an Al- Harbash following the verdict issued by the Court of Cassation to imprison them for their involvement in the case of storming of the National Assembly building. After deliberations, the National Assembly voted to reject the motion for dropping the two MPs’ memberships. MP Yousef Al-Fadhala said majority of the assembly including the government changed their stance in terms of dropping the membership of the two MPs. He insisted that, even though the discussion on the matter is constitutional and in accordance with internal regulations, their memberships should be dropped due to the court verdict which is final.
By Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies