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Nod to bills for COVID-hit business; Al-Dahoum seat announced vacant; PM grilling postponed

KUWAIT CITY, March 30: National Assembly Speaker Marzouk Al-Ghanim tabled the reports of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee on the proposal to grant financial support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as they suffered from damages caused by the coronavirus and the bill on postponing the collection of installments for citizens’ loans for six months.

Tuesday’s session of the National Assembly during which bills calling for relief for COVID-hit businesses were passed.

Chairman of the committee MP Hamad Al-Hamad clarified this bill is different from the one which was rejected in the last legislature in terms of allocating support exclusively for nano, small and medium enterprises. He said the bill has nothing to do with other projects or other clients which were the reasons behind the rejection of the first bill, which was deemed as supporting major businesspersons who do not deserve such assistance.

The Assembly unanimously approved the bill with all 34 attendees voting in favor in the first and second readings. The bill mandates local banks to grant loans — maximum loan amount is KD 250,000 — to the owners of nano, small and medium enterprises who suffered from damages due to corona. During deliberations on the proposal to postpone the collection of installments for citizens’ loans for six months, Minister of Finance Khalifa Hamada requested for adding a phrase stating that the postponement will be done only if the concerned citizens request for it.

The Assembly approved the minister’s request. The bill was unanimously approved in its two readings as 33 attendees voted in its favor. MPs Khalil Al-Saleh and Hesham Al-Saleh called for approving the bill on writing off the citizens’ loans before the holy month of Ramadan. Earlier the new government took oath in front of the National Assembly during the legislative session on Tuesday with 18 MPs and members of the government in attendance. This is in accordance with Article 91 of the Constitution which states: “Before taking up his functions at the National Assembly or at its committees, a member of the Assembly shall, at a public meeting of the Assembly, take the following oath: ‘I swear by God Almighty to be loyal to the Amir, to respect the Constitution and the laws of the State, to defend the people’s liberties, their interests and their property, and to perform my duties faithfully and sincerely.’”

During the session, MP Yousef Al-Fadala asked the newly appointed ministers if they are satisfied with taking oath in front of the minority at the Assembly as majority of its members are absent. He said the government committed mistakes recently; hence, it should be questioned in this regard. A total of 32 MPs announced that they will boycott the session earlier in a bid to prevent the new government from taking oath.

Moreover, MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri disclosed that he and the MPs who announced their plan to boycott the session will stand opposite the main gate of the legislative building from 8:30 to 10:45 am on Tuesday, indicating they will upload video messages every 20 minutes. Also, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah met with a number of MPs, during which he issued directives regarding the importance of helping the new government take the oath and to give Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid a chance to carry out the tasks assigned to him.

The MPs present at the meeting included Khalil Al-Saleh, Ali Al-Qattan, Khalid Ayed Al- Anzi, Mubarak Al-Khajma, Salman Al-Helailah, Ahmed Al-Hamad and Homoud Al-Azmi. These MPs vowed to obey HH the Amir’s directives. Meanwhile, Al-Ghanim read the letter he received from the Constitutional Court regarding the appeals filed against former MP Badr Al-Dahoum. He then announced that the seat of Al-Dahoum is vacant and the supplementary elections will be held within two months as per Article 84 of the Constitution. On the other hand, the Assembly unanimously approved, in its two readings, the proposed amendment of the Penal Code for the year 1960 in order to cancel the remand for the accused in opinion cases; while the General Amnesty Bill was rejected as only six voted in favor and 28 voted against.

The Assembly then moved to discuss the reports of the Education, Culture and Guidance Affairs Committee on the bills to amend the printing, publishing and audio-visual laws. A number of MPs expressed their desire to make changes in the bills, so they were given time to do such changes. In another development, MPs Hassan Jawhar, Mehalhal Al-Mudaf and Muhannad Al-Sayer have submitted a grilling motion against HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled. The motion focuses on these issues — the government dodging its responsibility to present its work program as stipulated in Article 98 of the Constitution, systematic plundering of public funds and continuous manipulation of the Kuwaiti people’s wealth.

Article 98 of the Constitution states: “Upon formation, every ministry shall submit its program to the National Assembly and the Assembly may express whatever comments it deems appropriate thereon.” The motion highlighted several corruption crimes in which senior officials are involved, resulting in the decline of Kuwait’s credit rating in international indexes. Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim confirmed receiving the grilling motion and that he informed HH the Prime Minister about it as per the relevant laws, indicating the motion will be included in the agenda of the next session.

His Highness the Prime Minister, meanwhile, said Tuesday his government was dedicated to serving citizens and determined to address challenges related to health, economy, education, employment and corruption, among others. Addressing the parliament session, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled added, the challenges were related to “health, economy, education, housing, employment, and fighting corruption and need sufficient time to solve.” Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said, “we are at the end of the current session, so I ask for postponement of the interrogations that are due to be submitted to me until after the end of the second session to resolve many of these outstanding issues and to achieve what is in the interest of the country and the people.”

The Parliament agreed to postpone the grilling for two weeks, with 29 MPs voting yes, out of 34 MPs in attendance. His Highness the Prime Minister added, “I have repeatedly confirmed in the past that I believe in democracy and adhere to it and always welcome positive and effective supervision by the National Assembly.” The premier also affirmed on the constitutional right of MP to interrogate ministers, who follows strict guidelines from the constitution and bylaw.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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