KUWAIT CITY, April 7: MP Faisal Al-Shaye has proposed formation of a committee in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to decide on the prices of local agricultural products. In his proposal, Al-Shaye pointed out that farms in Kuwait play an important role in maintaining food security as they supply vegetables and other agricultural products to the local market. He said these farms guarantee ample supply of such products; thereby, addressing the needs of consumers and gradually working towards self-sufficiency.
He lamented the efforts of Kuwaiti farmers are being wasted due to the existence of middlemen who buy their products at low prices which do not even cover the production cost. He cited as an example the auction price of a carton of tomatoes at 100 fils, but the middlemen sell them to cooperative societies and stores for KD 1.
He said that under such circumstances, the middlemen are the ones benefiting from the produce although they do not exert effort as much as that of the farmers. This has prompted the lawmaker to propose the following:
■ Form a committee under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, consisting of one representative each from the ministry, its social affairs and labor counterpart, Kuwait Municipality, Cooperative Societies Union, Farmers Union, and Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources.
■ The committee shall determine prices of local agricultural products including vegetables, in accordance with the mechanism laid down by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and based on the type and quantity of the products. It shall hold weekly or bi-monthly meetings for this purpose.
■ The committee shall set the minimum price during auctions.
■ Around 10-20 percent of the approved prices shall be added to the cost for middlemen who should transport the products to retail outlets without any additional charge.
■ Subsidies will be eliminated and the prices specified by the committee shall be applicable only to local agricultural products, not the imported ones. In this manner, the farmers will earn what they deserve.
Meanwhile, MP Saleh Ashour has bombarded Finance Minister Anas Saleh with 58 questions on the metro and railway projects. This came a day after Ashour protested against pulling out the metro project from the Ministry of Communications to be under the Public and Private Sectors Partnership Authority. He argued the metro and railway projects will not see the light if they are left in the hands of the private sector.
Ashour said the head of the Technical Agency for Initiatives or Partnership Authority had earlier asked the government to grant the following privileges to the investor:
■ Government grant amounting to KD 1.5 billion for the first phase of the metro project and KD 453 million for the railway project, around 40 percent of the total cost of each project.
■ Guarantee for loans, about 50 percent of the amount borrowed for each project.
■ Annual payment for the investor amounting to KD 529 million for the first phase of the metro project and KD 120 million for the first phase of the railway project.
■ The government shall bear the risks estimated at KD 617 million for the first phase of the metro project and KD 405 million for the railway. The lawmaker wants to know if the government has agreed on these privileges for the investor, reasons behind preparations to launch the partnership for the implementation of both projects considering the government had earlier agreed on the BOT system, feasibility studies on these projects, ability of the private sector to complete metro lines within six years and the railway within four years, and actual cost of the projects with the participation of the private sector.
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff