Government seeks $20bn more from MPs for arms

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National Assembly members seen during Tuesday’s session of Parliament.

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 1: Kuwait’s government has asked Parliament for $20.5 billion in additional funds for defence purchases over the next 10 years, local media and a minister said Tuesday. Kuwait is looking to upgrade its firepower amid increased security concerns in the region linked to the rise of the jihadist Islamic State group.

The country is a member of the US-led coalition that has been bombing IS targets in Syria and Iraq since last year and is also taking part in a Saudi-led coalition pounding Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. But it is unclear if the additional funds are also linked to that.

State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah told reporters a bill has been sent to Parliament requesting the additional funds, but he declined to specify the amount. Local dailies Al-Qabas and Al-Rai reported Tuesday that the amount is 6.2 billion dinars ($20.5 billion). Parliament is expected to review the request soon.

The government does not publish specific figures for its defence budget. Several reports have recently linked Kuwait to several arms deals amid regional turmoil. The Eurofighter consortium said in September Kuwait agreed to buy 28 Typhoon warplanes in a deal worth 7-8 billion euros ($8-9 billion). Last month, Kuwait signed 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion) worth of fixed and provisional military deals led by the purchase of 24 Airbus-built Caracal helicopters. Paris said Kuwait would purchase the helicopters for 1.0 billion euros, with an option for a further six. Further deals included provision of French light armoured vehicles and patrol boat maintenance.

The National Assembly on Tuesday referred to the government the recommendations of the parliamentary Public Funds Protection Committee on the partnership between Kuwait Investment Company (KIC) and Advantage Consulting Company. The committee recommended referral of some Advantage Consulting Company officials to the Public Prosecution for their alleged involvement in forgery and misappropriation of company funds from 2009 to 2009.

In its report, the committee highlighted irregularities in the partnership between KIC and Advantage; indicating KIC lost about KD 156,000 while the loss of Advantage is estimated at KD 602,000. KIC also failed to take legal action against Advantage for non-payment of loan amounting to KD 55,000. The committee explained KIC is a Kuwaiti company founded in 1961 and a subsidiary of Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA). Its activities include internal and external investments in stocks, real estate, bonds, certificates of deposit and portfolio management. The government owns 76 percent stake in KIC which is monitored by the Central Bank of Kuwait and State Audit Bureau, while Advantage Company is a private shareholding company with a capital of KD 500,0000.

In the meantime, the Parliament started debating on the report of the committee about the Dow Chemical deal but Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim adjourned it until Wednesday due to lack of time. On the other hand, the Parliament rejected the request of the Public Prosecution to lift the immunity of MPs Abdullah Al- Mayouf and Nabil Al-Fadel on press misdemeanor cases filed by Sheikh Talal Al- Fahad Al-Sabah and former MP Musallam Al-Barrak respectively. MP Abdul-Hameed Dashti said the current legislature has, so far, handled 57 lifting immunity requests and this makes him think the Parliament is being targeted.

On another issue, the Speaker announced the cancellation of the interpellation motion against former Minister of Public Works, Electricity and Water Ahmed Al-Jassar in view of the government’s acceptance of his resignation as per the rules of the Parliament. This came after the Parliament read the decree on accepting the resignation of Al- Jassar, as well as the appointment of Ali Al-Omair as Minister of Public Works in addition to his current post of State Minister for National Assembly Affairs, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah as acting Minister of Electricity and Water, and Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh as acting Minister of Oil

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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