Grilling motion filed on Finance; Debt bills to panels

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KUWAIT CITY, Jan 10: Kuwait’s top lawmaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun said on Tuesday he received a request from MP Mubarak Al- Hajraf to grill Finance Minister Abdulwahab Al-Rushaid, slated for parliament’s next session. The minister’s planned grilling stems from numerous accusations lodged against him by the lawmaker, which include the “covering up” of financial malpractices allegedly committed by employees of Kuwait’s pension fund, in addition to the “mismanagement” of public funds.

Article 100 of Kuwait Constitution stipulates that each member of the National Assembly has the right to grill the prime minister or members of his cabinet about matters falling within their competence. Speaker Al-Saadoun adjourned the ordinary session on Tuesday due to lack of quorum, as most ministers were absent. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil Bader Al-Mullah and State Minister for National Assembly Housing and Urban Development Affairs Ammar Al-Ajmi were present at 9:00 AM — the time the session was supposed to start.

This implies that the government boycotted the session in objection to the bill on purchasing the citizens’ loans; as well as the Assembly’s rejection of the request of the government to expedite the discussion of its proposed amendments to Prisons Law No. 26/1963, Public Meetings and Envoys Decree No. 18/2007, Mayors Decree No. 155/2010, Private Security Companies Decree No. 52/2016, Weapons and Ammunition Law No. 13/1991, Nationality Law No. 15/1959, Foreigners Residency Decree No. 117/2020, Traffic Law No. 67/1976 and State Council Establishment Decree number 173/2016. Nevertheless, the Assembly continued its discussion, during which State Minister for National Assembly, Housing and Urban Development Affairs Ammar Al-Ajmi said the government believes that the Citizens’ Loans Purchase Bill violates the principle of equality stipulated in the Constitution.

He affirmed the government is keen on adhering to the Constitution. He requested returning this bill and others to the concerned parliamentary committees for the government to conduct the necessary studies, indicating the estimated cost of purchasing the citizens’ loans is almost KD14 billion. Rapporteur of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee MP Saleh Ashour reaffirmed the panel’s commitment to the Constitution, pointing out that the government promised to improve the living conditions of citizens.

He asserted the cost of purchasing the loans of citizens is about KD1.9, claiming the amount mentioned by Al-Ajmi is inaccurate. He added some banks granted loans illegally as per the reports of the government, which stated the number of loans reached 550,000 while the number of borrowers totaled 350,000. This means two loans were granted to some individuals — a violation of the regulations of Central Bank of Kuwait, he asserted. By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff and Agencies

Al-Mullah and Al-Ajmi then walked out of the session hall in objection to the discussion of the bill. Al-Saadoun emphasized that this behavior is wrong and he adjourned the session until Wednesday. The lawmakers and ordinary citizens, who attended the session, expressed dissatisfaction over the absence of the government MP Muhammad Hayef Al-Mutairi considers this an indication that the government it not willing to cooperate with the Assembly. He was surprised that only two ministers attended the session and both them are lawmakers who were appointed ministers as proof of the government’s willingness to address public demands. He stressed the need for the government to present a clear vision and that it should attend the session slated for Wednesday in order to present its comments or alternative solutions, instead of boycotting the session. He warned against attempts to disrupt parliamentary work and push for legislative dissolution, as such moves will only lead to the accumulation of bills; hence, the citizens will continue to suffer. He said the government should have attended Tuesday’s session to discuss the issues, affirming the bills included in the agenda are not new as some were submitted to the Assembly as far back as 2016. He added both the legislative and executive authorities must bear their responsibilities in compliance with the directive of the political leadership.

MP Khalil Abul pointed out that the government’s absence means its program on ensuring a prosperous life for citizens is just talk without action. He stressed it is unacceptable that the government puts pressure on the legislature whenever the latter tries to solve the problems of citizens. He said it would have been better if the government attended the session to defend its position and present an alternative vision.

MP Marzouq Al-Hebeini asserted that the attitude of the government means nothing has changed as it seems to be following in the footsteps of its predecessors. He argued the issue is bigger than writing off the citizens’ loans, considering the cost of purchasing the loans is nothing compared to the enormous losses incurred by the State due to the embezzlement of public money. He called on the government to be honest with the people and reveal the truth in case there are other points of contention that remain hidden, stressing the citizens should not be the victims of such disputes.

Meanwhile, 44 lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Ahmed Al-Saadoun and Deputy Speaker Muhammad Al-Mutair, issued a statement expressing objection to the government’s boycott of the session. They pointed out that while the citizens and lawmakers are keen on following the directives of the political leadership on June 22, 2022; particularly the need to reform the political arena, the government has adopted an unconstitutional attitude to hinder parliamentary work like its predecessors.

The Assembly and its committees have been working for 84 days to address the people’s demands, proving their willingness to cooperate with the executive authority. The attitude of the government is unacceptable. The lawmakers remain committed to the Constitution and their promise to work in the interest of the citizens within the constitutional framework, the statement added. On the other hand, MP Hassan Jawhar said the session scheduled for Wednesday is the last chance for the government to prove that it is serious in cooperating with the Assembly. He asserted it is unacceptable that the government forces the Assembly to approve its requests by leaving the session hall whenever its demands are not met. He went on to say that the government has yet to open the corruption files, which led to the dismissal of its predecessor.

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