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Sunday , November 18 2018

No-confidence motion filed against ‘Oil’ – PM grilling held in camera

Kuwaiti Oil Minister Bakheet Al-Rashidi speaks during a parliamentary grilling session at the Kuwait National Assembly in Kuwait City on May 1. Kuwaiti MPs Abdulwahab Al-Babtain and Omar Al-Tabtabaei filed a request to question Kuwaiti Oil Minister Bakheet Al-Rashidi. (AFP)

KUWAIT CITY, May 1: A motion of no confidence was presented against Minister of Oil and Minister of Electricity and Water Bakheet Al-Rashidi during the regular parliamentary session on Tuesday, following a debate on the grilling request submitted against the minister by MPs Omar Al-Tabtabaei and Abdulwahab Al-Babtain.

The ten MPs who presented the no-confidence motion include Safa Al- Hashim, Khalil Abul, Omar Al-Tabtabaei, Adel Al-Damkhi, Salah Khourshid, Abdulwahab Al-Babtain, Hamdan Al-Azmi, Faisal Al-Kandari, Abdulkareem Al-Kandari and Al-Humaidhi Al-Subai’e.

The National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim affirmed that a noconfidence motion was presented by ten MPs against the Minister Al-Rashidi, adding that the vote on it be on May 9. In addition, 16 MPs presented a request to form a committee for investigating the key points mentioned in the grilling request filed against the oil minister. One of the proponents of the grilling request MP Omar Al- Tabtabaei criticized the minister for the delay in completion of the clean fuel (bio-fuel) project, which is one of the largest developmental projects in the country with a production capacity of 800,000 barrels and also costs the highest for the state by KD 3.095 billion (equivalent to about $ 10.25 billion).

He said the expected date for the completion of the bio-fuel project was April 2018 but the project will be delayed until 2020 as per the report issued by the State Audit Bureau in October last year. Al-Tabtabaei claimed that there was “inconsistencies in the statements of the leaders (oil) concerning the date of project completion, which led to continued import of gasoline by the state at a high cost”.

He said the cost of importing gasoline from April last year to February this year amounted to about $350 million, adding that if this continues from February this year to January 2021, which is the latest estimated date for completion of the project, the cost of import could reach about $1.3 billion.

Al-Tabtabaie criticized some leaders of the oil sector of inflicting significant damage to the public funds after manipulating the completion dates of projects in permits as well as of carrying out large financial excesses.

He affirmed that the delay in the clean fuel project has caused serious damage to the public funds as a result of the continued need to buy gasoline and collect public money for payment of interests for the billions of dollars borrowed from banks and the state funds instead of contributing to the public funds the proceeds of the project and committing to pay the salaries of project workers despite the delay, besides the payment of fines for the delay.

Also, MP Abdulwahab Al-Babtain blamed Minister Al-Rashidi for delaying the operation of the Vietnam refinery since he is the executive chairman of Kuwait International Petroleum Company and costing the state losses worth about $9 billion. Al-Babtain questioned the reasons behind the delay in operating Vietnam refinery and what he referred as “extraordinary confusion” over the opening dates of the refinery.

He also wondered about the steamer “Millennium”, which shipped two million barrels of oil. He said the total cost of the Vietnam refinery project was $9.2 billion and Kuwait’s share was 35 percent (equivalent to $3.220 billion), adding that the state had paid 46 percent of the value, which is $1.481 billion and it had taken a loan of 54 percent of the value of the sum, about $1.378 billion.

Al-Babtain stressed the need to hold the oil minister accountable because, according to him, the latter did not deal with the comments made under a former minister and that he was a former executive chairman of Kuwait International Petroleum Company on a ministerial level.

Regarding the clean fuel project, Minister Al-Rashidi responded in his defense by stressing that the clean fuel project will be operational in June, indicating that the completion rate of the project reached 94 percent by the end of March. He said, “The clean fuel project will be operational in June 2018 and not in 2021, as mentioned by the two MPs”, affirming that the project is one of the largest refineries in the world and will produce worldclass products that will transport Kuwaiti oil facilities to the world’s top refiners.

The minister explained that the project of clean fuel is one of the most vital projects of Kuwait, and is being implemented by Kuwait National Petroleum Company. It has saved $11 million of the public money as a result of import of gasoline during the period from April 2017 to February 2018 to cover the need of the local market. He said, “Through the import of gasoline from abroad, the public money was saved, not wasted, as mentioned by the two MPs. They assumed that Kuwait was losing as a result of the closure of the Shuaiba refinery but I confirm that this issue has no place for assumptions.”

Al-Rashidi clarified that the savings reached KD 11 million (equivalent to about $36 million) in 2014/2015, KD 15 million (about $50 million) in 2015/2016 and KD 9 million (about $30 million) in 2016/2017. He affirmed that the bio-fuel project has created job opportunities for Kuwaiti youth with the employment of 537 Kuwaitis so far in the company followed by another group of Kuwaitis to be employed in the operational phase.

The minister revealed that there was not a drop of the delay penalties for any contractors of the clean fuel project, stressing, “As part of the transparency principle, the State Audit Bureau and the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council of Planning were provided with monthly reports on the progress of the clean fuel project”.

He assured that large oil projects as well as projects on solar energy and wind power will be a new link to oil resources, adding, “We will not rely only on oil as fuel for producing electricity. The refining capacity, with the operation of the refinery, will be 1.4 million barrels per day”. Concerning the Vietnam refinery, Minister Al-Rashidi affirmed the completion of construction of the refinery in Vietnam refinery and the operation of units supporting the refinery, stressing that it is one of the most important refinery projects in Asia.

He said, “The shipment of Kuwaiti oil to the refinery in Vietnam prior to the operation is normal and made a profit of $50 million for the project”. Al-Rashidi indicated that the initial production of the refinery in Vietnam will begin this month while the commercial production will begin in July to reach 100 percent capacity for Vietnam refinery. He said, “Kuwait will celebrate with its partners in the Vietnam project mid-May this year”, highlighting the presence of Kuwaitis working in the Vietnam project.

Al-Rashidi stressed that the project of Vietnam refinery is being executed under the partnership of Kuwait International Petroleum Company and international partners represented by a Japanese company and a Vietnamese company, adding that the share of the Kuwaiti company in this project is 35.1 percent. He insisted that the project cost does not exceed the budget allocated for it, explaining that the project is now working at a capacity of 50 percent, and will be 100 percent operational after completion of the units of the refinery.

In another development, the government submitted a request for the grilling motion submitted against His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak by MP Hamdan Al- Azmi to be discussed in camera. The parliament agreed to this request, and the National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim then asked the audience to leave the hall to start the debate in secret session. At the time of going to the press, the debate was ongoing in camera.

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff

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