MANPOWER AUTHORITY TO UP FEES FROM JUNE – MPs wrestle with power charges

KUWAIT CITY, April 6: The Subsidies Committee in the government presented a chart of electricity fees based on consumption during its meeting with the parliamentary Finance and Economic Affairs Committee on Wednesday. In his statement to the press after the meeting, Minister of Electricity and Water Ahmad Al-Jassar admitted there are discrepancies between the charts presented by the two committees. He affirmed that the government explained the electricity billing system based on consumption. He said the citizens with low consumption will be given subsidy of up to 80 percent so they will pay only 20 percent, indicating the current subsidy is 95 percent and the citizens shoulder five percent. He added those with higher consumption will be given 65 percent to 70 percent subsidy and citizens shall bear 30 percent. He believes this proposal will have a positive impact on the budget.

Meanwhile, Rapporteur of Financial and Economic Affairs Committee MP Mohammad Al-Jabri disclosed the panel rejected the government’s proposal and presented its own recommendation which protects low-income earners.

On the other hand, committee member MP Faisal Al- Kandari rejected both proposals, asserting the government must provide technical solutions before touching the pockets of ordinary citizens.

Talking about the proposal to limit electricity consumption, Al-Kandari pointed out there should be a system used in construction and insulation to conserve electricity. He cited as an example the air conditioning system currently used in Ahmadi Governorate, indicating that air conditioning constitutes 80 percent of the total power consumption.

He said the prices of commodities will increase once subsidies are cancelled, as it happened when the price of diesel increased. He asserted nobody can control the prices and what is happening now is an ‘attack’ on the pockets of citizens, not rationalization of subsidies. He suggested exempting private houses from the decision to lift electricity and water subsidies for two years, once it is proven that this move is beneficial to the country and its citizens.

On another issue, MP Saud Al-Hariji accused the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of working without a plan, particularly since it has failed to address the soaring prices issue. He argued that high prices and inflation are detrimental to national development efforts.

He stressed the need for the strict implementation of laws to protect consumers, check the quality of products and ensure that basic commodities are sold at reasonable prices. He said he forwarded questions in this regard to Minister of Commerce and Industry Yousif Al-Ali.

He asked the minister about the measures taken to regulate prices in light of the government’s plan to lift subsidies on some commodities, if there is a plan to deal with greedy traders who manipulate prices to earn higher profits, if there are proposals or studies on unifying price control procedures, and if there is a mechanism for monitoring food supply.

Moreover, MP Yousef Al- Zalzalah said the main function of the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) is to regulate the labor sector in order to guarantee a healthy and productive working environment, as well as ease procedures for the private sector which is considered the second wing of the local economy. However, the authority has been transformed into “a swamp of corruption,” while its officials have been taking advantage of the law by blackmailing laborers who are working hard for a day’s wage honestly, he added.

Talking about Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Hind Al-Subaih, the MP said Assembly believes that the minister advocates combating corruption. He then asked her to quickly look into the issues concerning PAM and to hold responsible the erring officials, affirming he will closely monitor this issue and identify those involved in corruption.

Manpower Public Authority will start applying the increased charges of some of its services from June 2016, reports Aljarida daily quoting sources from the labor sector. They said, “The charges will be increased for services such as transactions pertaining to the transfer, renewal and first-time issuance of work permits”. The sources indicated that these new charges for the services of the authority are comparatively lesser than the charges of similar transactions in other GCC countries, stressing that this increase in service charges is “necessary and inevitable”. They affirmed that Law No. 6/2010 related to labor in the private sector has given the concerned minister the right to increase the relevant charges.

Meanwhile, informed sources revealed that the Manpower Public Authority has issued an administrative circular concerning the issuance of work permits for citizens of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Yemen who require security clearance. They explained that the employer was previously responsible for obtaining the approval of the Manpower Public Authority for recruiting employees from the abovementioned countries, after which the employer had to refer to the Ministry of Interior in this regard.

However, the approval process is now under the authority of Ministry of Interior while the Manpower Public Authority will complete the process by issuance of the work permits. The sources said, “The Manpower Public Authority has exempted employees who are registered under governmental contracts and it will be responsible for informing Ministry of Interior about the number of required employees”.

They revealed that the implementation of this circular will reduce the burden on the employers and will save them a lot of time and effort required for obtaining work permits. Kuwait, like other countries the bulk of whose incomes is derived from oil, currently faces challenges and deficits in its budget for this year and next year, said Wednesday Masood Ahmed, Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Middle East and Central Asia Department.

The global slump in oil prices has affected Kuwait’s economy seen in lower general revenues which in turn have chipped away at the nation’s budget, Ahmed told KUNA on the sideline of his attending a meeting for Arab ministers of finance, currently taking place in Manama, Bahrain.

Kuwait, he noted, has a long arm in fiscal responsibility over the years, enabling the government at this juncture to set in place reform policies to deal head-on with the new financial and economic realities and to ensure the sustainability of the nation’s economic growth.

Further, he opined that, to deal with falling revenues, Kuwait should constrict expenditures and seek alternative sources of revenues and income from non-oil origins. If that tack is followed, he said, the country will enjoy diversification of income and the generation of ample employment opportunities.

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

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