Experts hail, MPs hit fuel price rise – ‘Decision hasty’

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KUWAIT CITY, Aug 2: The National Assembly discussed Tuesday the government’s decision to increase the prices of different types of gasoline.

The 14 lawmakers, who attended the meeting, expressed displeasure over the government for not consulting them before taking such a decision. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mubarak Al-Khurainej explained that upon the invitation of Speaker Marzouq Al- Ghanim, the MPs convened for a consultative meeting to tackle the issue.

He affirmed most of the MPs warned about the negative impact of this decision on the finances of Kuwaitis, especially the low and middle-income earners. He said the government seems to have contravened its own statement in an earlier discussion on the electricity charges that it will not raise the prices of gasoline without consulting the Assembly since this is a matter of cooperation between the two authorities. He confirmed the lawmakers are keen on finding suitable alternatives to compensate citizens for the gasoline price hike and mitigate the negative aspects of this decision in the upcoming meeting with the government.

Meanwhile, MP Saadoun Hammad claimed the government took a hasty decision when it increased the gasoline prices. He said he was surprised when the government took this decision solely, alleging this is a way of targeting the pockets of citizens while ignoring other important issues like the plots in Shuwaikh. He asserted the government took this decision at the wrong time and in a hasty manner, so the legislature must play its role effectively to address the issue. He hinted there will be a series of meetings in this regard, with the possibility of a special session, in a bid to protect the interests of citizens.

MP Jamal Al-Omar condemned the decision saying, “The government appears to be confused when taking economyrelated decisions while mismanagement and wastage of public money continue without a clear vision to solve these problems. Addressing the fiscal deficit at the expense of citizens is unacceptable.” MP Mohammed Tanna called for a special or emergency session to tackle the repercussions of the decision. He urged his colleagues to cut short their summer vacation and attend the session for the sake of the nation. The Cabinet’s decision to raise fuel prices has the greatest significance in positively impacting the country’s economy, experts said on Tuesday.

The Government’s economic reform plan will eventually help diversify the country’s resources and release its reliance on a single source of income, they told KUNA. Head of Kuwait National Competitiveness Committee Dr. Fahad Al-Rashid said that this decision is considered a step forward to improve the country’s budget deficit and encourage austerity to face economic challenges. Raising gas prices will reduce individuals’ high unconscious consumption of fuel; this consumption is rated the highest in the world, he pointed out. Meanwhile, Kuwait Accountants and Auditors Association chairman Ahmad Faris described the raise in gas prices as “acceptable” in comparison to that in the GCC and Arab countries. He added that the positive side of the Cabinet decision is that gas prices will be reviewed every three months, reassuring that this raise will not be “permanent but changeable” in accordance to the fl uctuations of oil prices. “It’s a quick fix,” and a “precautionary measure” to improve the economy, Faris pointed out, hoping that the Government would not rely on short-term solutions but rather utilize other investment tools to strengthen the country’s financial situation.

Yesterday, The Cabinet approved recommendations presented by the economic affairs committee with respect of a proposal by the committee charged with revising various kinds of State subsidies, on setting fuel prices. It approved the commission recommendation and decided to begin “rationalizing subsidies for benzene in the country, as part of the Government reform scheme where the fuel products’ prices will be restructured to be in harmony with the average rates in the other GCC states. “The new pricing policy will be in effect as of 1-9-2016 in line with the policies adopted in the GCC countries.”

The news prices are as following: Octane-91: 85 fils per liter, Octane-95: 105 fpl, Ultra- Premium: 165 fpl. The new prices have been set after examining global rates. Kuwait is the last GCC State to embark on “restructuring the fuel prices,” however the new ones remain the lowest among the Council countries, as well as globally. Moreover, the Cabinet has tasked a special commission to re-examine the State subsidies and the fuel prices every three months, to be in harmony with the global rates. In a related development, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) stressed that the Cabinet’s approval of the proposal to reduce gasoline subsidies seems to be a continuation of its ‘inaction’ when it comes to administrative and financial corruption cases in public institutions. In a press statement, the alliance added the government’s has been promoting the economic and financial reform document but nothing concrete has been presented on issues concerning citizens, particularly the increase in electricity and water prices and reducing subsidies on energy derivatives, or its recent decision to cut gasoline subsidies. Apparently, the so-called economic reforms are still on paper as no tangible step in this regard has been taken so far, the alliance lamented.

The alliance pointed out the economic reform, until it gains the trust of citizens, must be linked with the exceptional condition in order to combat administrative and financial corruption in government agencies. It alleged the reality is that the government is the main partner in financial wastage and corruption. Examples of which include the overseas medical treatment issue, particularly the cases of those pretending to be sick, the alliance added.

The alliance thinks the reduction of gasoline subsidies is isolated from the economic reform which includes diversification of income sources, creation of a positive environment for the Kuwaiti youths aspiring for self-employment, attracting foreign investment and elimination of government bureaucracy. The alliance stressed what matters now is to stop supporting and protecting the those involved in corruption.

It added this is another failure in the government’s series of failures and an attempt to make the citizens bear the price of such failures. Furthermore, the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM) also released a press statement, saying the government decided to increase the prices of gasoline while Kuwait and its people are preparing to commemorate the Iraqi invasion. The movement believes the decision is part of the supposed financial reform of the government, indicating the experts and the public have been criticizing this reform because it is vague and lacks transparency. The movement also pointed out that the government has been losing opportunities to end public fund wastage and corruption, not to mention the absence of an effective system to deal with the financial crises.

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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