KUWAIT CITY, Aug 17: The National Assembly Office has affirmed that measures are being taken to face the global economic crisis and the lawmakers support economic reforms provided they do not affect citizens.
In its statement, the office explained that since the oil prices dropped and the world entered a new phase of rationalization to avoid economic shocks, the Assembly and the government are keen on performing their duties to address repercussions of the global economic crisis.
According to the office, the Assembly remains committed to the principle of balancing economic reform and protection of citizens, without any negative impact on their income and public services. The Assembly agrees with the government on the need to implement economic reforms but they differ on some aspects of these reforms.
The differences surfaced when the government presented the economic reform document as a large number of lawmakers rejected it, the statement explained. Lawmakers have reiterated their rejection of any steps which might affect the citizens, stressing there are many expenses regarded as wastage, hence, the need to rationalize expenditures within the context of economic reforms. MP Kamel Al-Awadhi said the economic reform is required in all countries, including Kuwait. He suggested though that the reform process must be done scientifically, not by taking floundering steps which will only lead to imbalances and dire consequences.
He pointed out the government can take a number of steps such as the elimination of unnecessary expenses, while confirming that the government has been cooperative with its legislative counterpart. He added His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber said the government will study the proposals presented to the Finance Committee to support citizens through direct financial assistance or coupons or other means.
On the other hand, Finance Committee member MP Hammoud Al-Hamdan clarified that economic reform is inevitable in any society which is keen on achieving its development goals. He asserted this reform requires a clear working plan and this what the executive and legislative authorities have been doing since the beginning of the legislative term. He added the Assembly spares no effort in enacting laws which are necessary for economic growth.
He said the reform process should be in accordance with clear plans which must be implemented in coordination ministries and other State institutions. He asserted the citizens’ pockets are redlines, especially since the cost of living keeps on increasing.
It is worth mentioning that the Assembly has started a series of meetings with governmental representatives, followed by a decision mandating the Assembly to study the economic situation and ways to implement the government’s plan to lift subsidies without affecting citizens. Meanwhile, the National Assembly Office asked the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee on Feb 8, 2016 to study the issue and present realistic solutions.
The committee held 13 meetings to tackle this matter with the representatives of concerned government agencies such as the Ministry of Finance, State Audit Bureau and Economic Development Committee at the Supreme Council for Planning. These meetings addressed the economic situation in general, including the proposal to lift subsidies on electricity and water, gasoline price hike and Moody’s rating. The committee came up with several recommendations, notably the need to diversify sources of income, adopt alternative development strategies on oil, address demographic flaws, control public spending and stop wastage of public funds.
Moreover, the Assembly also urged the government to activate the role of the National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), implement administrative reforms, floating gasoline prices by linking them to world market prices while taking into account those with limited income, and reassessment of subsidies to ensure they are granted to the rightful beneficiaries rather than canceling them.
The Assembly managed to prevent the increase in electricity charges for citizens after amending the bill submitted by the government in this regard. This was done by exempting private houses from the increase.
Although the recent Cabinet decision on increasing gasoline prices was taken during parliamentary recess, the MPs have commenced meetings to discuss the implications of this decision and to exchange views in a bid to reach a clear vision in the interest of the nation and the citizens.
The Government-Parliament meeting called by Speaker Marzouk Al-Ghanim on Aug 9, 2016 with Highness the Prime Minister in attendance is regarded as outstanding and the results are expected to become clearer by the beginning of the next legislative round.
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff