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KUWAIT CITY, Dec 23: Several lawmakers have criticized the government’s plan to lift subsidies on several key commodities and services as part of its austerity measures, while stressing the need to find alternative sources of income rather than implementing this plan which will negatively affect the living conditions of citizens.
MP Dr Abdullah Al-Turaiji disparaged the government for its plan to lift subsidies on some commodities and services like gasoline, electricity and water — taking into consideration the continuous wastage of public money and excessive government spending. He cited as an example the Cabinet’s approval of the request to increase the capital of Kuwait Airways Corporation by KD 600 million which will be taken from the general reserve. He said the report about the intention of the government to increase the price of gasoline according to an international study is shocking, especially since it is still shouldering the gasoline expenses of certain officials. He argued the government should stop such unnecessary expenses, instead of touching the privileges given to citizens.
Talking about the overseas treatment, he wondered why the government is regulating this privilege considering that citizens are forced to undergo treatment outside the country due to the deterioration of health services here. He added even the senior State officials themselves do not trust the treatment facilities and services in Kuwait.
On rationalizing agricultural subsidies, he admitted he does not understand why the government insists on regulating these subsidies which are beneficial to many Kuwaitis while it sold a profitable agricultural products company which greatly contributed to the nation’s food security.
Meanwhile, MP Ahmed Mutei Al- Azmi critiqued the recommendations of a governmental committee tasked to study ways to reduce subsidies based on the report of Ernst and Young. He enumerated some of these recommendations that include stopping the financial support granted to the companions of citizens who undergo treatment in other countries. He said this is unacceptable because any citizen whose overseas treatment application is approved by the Overseas Treatment Department should not be deprived of his right to avail of medical services which are not provided here. He argued some patients need companions as they cannot take care of themselves during and after treatment because of the nature of their illness or surgery. He stressed Kuwait has the least expenditure on overseas treatment compared to other GCC countries.
On the recommendation to reduce agricultural subsidies gradually and then stop them permanently, the lawmaker finds this strange because the agricultural sector is one of the most active and vital sectors in the country. He admitted Kuwait is not a fully agricultural country but it has a distinguished agricultural sector which deserves support from the government. He warned against lifting agricultural subsidies as this will lead to a remarkable increase in the prices of agricultural products. He asserted the price increase will, in turn, lead to other problems such as the country bearing unnecessary costs for importing these products. In another development, MP Saud Al- Hareej has forwarded queries to Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and State Minister for Planning and Development Affairs Hind al-Sabeeh as follows:
■ It is assumed that cooperative societies in the State of Kuwait have a unique system which serves as a model for the entire world, playing a distinct role in the service of citizens and residents. However, the situation changed over time as some members of the boards of directors have exploited this vital role to serve personal or political interests.
Article One of Decree No. 24/1979 on cooperative societies stipulates that one of the purposes of the establishment of the cooperative societies is to improve the socio-economic status of members. Do the cooperative societies serve this purpose?
■ It is possible that this unique idea was developed in the service of citizens in line with global development but we noticed a big difference between one cooperative society and another. Why is there a difference in the level of services in cooperative societies? Is this difference caused by the appointed board members? If yes, please submit a copy of the regulations and standards used in appointing the board members, as well as the conditions for terminating or ending the membership.
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff