Prime Minister Of Kuwait Unveils ‘100-day’ Blueprint For Reform

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KUWAIT CITY, Feb 6: The government has officially presented its work program to the National Assembly on Tuesday. In his speech about the program, HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Dr Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah said: “We are receiving a new era full of determination, optimism and national responsibility. We will work hard as a council and government to enhance constructive cooperation and redouble efforts in serving the country to embody the hopes and aspirations of citizens.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Dr Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah

In the work program, which bears the slogan, ‘A Just, Safe and Sustainable Homeland’, the government affirmed that “the cost of financial and economic reform will increase the longer we delay in addressing this issue, and confronting it may become extremely difficult, along with harsh and painful consequences.” It stressed that “the pivotal goal of economic reform in Kuwait is to achieve balance in the structure of the national economy by redrawing the government’s role in economic activity in a way that restores the private sector’s leading role, while enhancing the diversity of its sectors to ensure the creation of productive job opportunities for graduates, as well as supporting the sustainability of economic and social well-being in the long term.” It pointed out that the work program is aimed at optimally managing economic resources and meeting the expectations of relevant parties to achieve sustainable well-being for citizens. It also stated that the first step is the activation of Article 20 of the Constitution by expanding the offering of investment opportunities to enable the private sector to create national job opportunities in various economic sectors, which is the main goal of the government’s work program.

It has identified achievements that must be reached within 100 days, the most prominent of which are as follows: ● Take measures to curb price hikes ● Launch the digital platform for companies and commercial licenses ● Conduct a study on the financial, economic and technical feasibility of a railway link between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia ● Handover of the Maternity Hospital ● Inauguration of Kuwait Compulsory Insurance Complex ● Inauguration of research centers for cybersecurity and artificial intelligence ● Implement the amendment to law number 71/2023 regarding adding housewives to the health insurance beneficiaries ● Expansion of specialized primary healthcare clinics ● Open new hospitals and health centers ● Launch the Ministry of Health application with a new vision and new services ● Launch the medical human capital development program ● Receive Jaber Al-Mubarak Stadium at Sulaibikhat Sports Club ● Receive Khatib Lounge at Arab Sports Club ● Submit a draft law on regulating the media ● Submit a draft law on amending the Tenders Law ● Re-price government services that are not linked to the law and have a limited impact on citizens ● Re-price land rents affiliated with the State Property Administration ● Prepare a draft law on corporate profits tax ● Study the categories eligible for support ● Enable the next wave of savings in government contracts The government work program also specified the legislative requirements for its projects in the second session of the 17th legislative term as follows: ● Northern Economic Region ● Development Plan Law ● Amend the law on partnership between the public and private sectors ● Draft law on amending the Import and Export Law ● Draft law on electronic commerce ● Amend the Industry Law ● Public sector wages (strategic alternative to the salary scale) ● Amend the Public Tenders Law ● Establish an independent body for standards and metrology ● Draft law on amending the Right of Access Law ● Draft law on amending the Electronic Documentation Law ● Business Profits Tax Law ● Re-price rents on State-owned lands ● Excise tax ● Liquidity Instruments Law ● Foreigners Residency Law ● Civil Aviation Law ● Electricity and Water Corporation Law ● Law on the strategic transformation for electric energy and water ● Law on media regulation ● Reform the insurance system of the Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS)

The National Assembly discussed several incoming letters in its ordinary session on Tuesday – the most important of which is the government’s request to postpone the discussion and voting on the reports of parliamentary committees about the bills for one month for further study, taking into consideration that the government is new.

Some MPs supported the new government’s request, pointing out that the Assembly approved a similar request submitted by the previous government headed by HH the former Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah; so the new government deserves to be treated in the same manner. However, other MPs argued that even if the Assembly approved a similar request in the past, it was in response to the cooperation of the previous government that led to the ratification of four bills.

They pointed out that the new government seems to be buying time since it did not promise to approve the bills in case they are discussed after the one-month grace period. The Priorities Committee chairman disclosed that during their meeting with the government, many options were presented, such as voting on urgent bills in the first reading and the second reading should be done in the session scheduled for March 5, 2024 – when the government is ready to present its opinion. He added the government rejected all the other options, an indication that it is not keen on passing the bills.

On the other hand, Minister of State for National Assembly and Youth Affairs Dawoud Maarefi affirmed that the new government is as committed as the Assembly in improving the citizens’ standard of living and ensuring financial sustainability for the State. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheriada Al-Meosherji also stressed that improving the citizens’ standard of living is the main item of the government’s work program. He explained that the request to postpone discussing the bills is only aimed at giving the government a chance to study them carefully, before presenting its opinion. Nevertheless, MPs Mubarak Al-Hajraf, Abdulkareem Al- Kandari, Bader Nashmi and others stressed that this excuse of the government is unacceptable, considering the technical teams in different ministries have already studied the bills and submitted their reports. They also pointed out that the new government consists of some ministers who were members of the previous government and they affirmed support for the bills. They said the institutions should not change whenever the ministers change. To settle the argument, the government’s request was subjected to open voting with 30 approvals and 33 rejections.

Following are the approved incoming letters: ● A letter from former State Minister for National Assembly and Cabinet Affairs Essa Al-Kandari requesting to expedite the discussion and approval of the bill on the charter of the Digital Cooperation Organization. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Environmental Affairs, Food and Water Security Committee be assigned to investigate the alleged recruitment violations of the Environment Public Authority (EPA) and the rising air pollution rate. ● A letter from MP Hamad Al-Elyan requesting to assign the Education, Culture and Guidance Affairs Committee to conduct a study on the deteriorating conditions of special needs schools. ● A letter from MP Fahad Al-Masoud requesting to assign the Education, Culture and Guidance Affairs Committee to study the regulations on accrediting higher studies programs in private universities. ● A letter from MPs Badr Nashmi and Fahd Al-Masoud requesting to assign the Interior and Defense Affairs Committee to investigate the obstacles to the establishment of the Ministry of Interior centers in Doha and Sulaibikhat. ● A letter from Badr Nashmi and Fahd Al-Masoud requesting to assign the Public Facilities Committee to investigate the obstacles to the establishment of Kuwait Municipality centers in Doha and Sulaibikhat. ● A letter of from Chairman of the Education, Culture and Guidance Affairs Committee MP Hamad Al-Elyan requesting to extend the period given to the committee to submit its report on the suffering of students in southern areas. ● A letter of from Chairman of the Human Rights Committee MP Muhammad Hayef requesting to extend the period given to the committee to investigate the alleged torture citizen Turki Al- Anzi at the Military Intelligence Unit for several months. ● A letter from MP Mubarak Al-Hajraf requesting to assign the Public Facilities Committee to hold meetings with the concerned institutions to discuss the maintenance of the roads mentioned in the letter. ● A letter from MP Osama Al-Shaheen requesting to assign the Digitalization, Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity Committee to assess the methods of combating online banking fraud. ● A letter from MP Hamad Al-Matar requesting the Health Ministry to coordinate with its Foreign Affairs counterpart to expedite the process of bringing Palestinians, who were injured in the Israeli attacks on Gaza, to Kuwait for treatment. ● A letter from the Budgets and Final Accounts Committee chairman requesting to assign public institutions to conduct investigations on the reports of the State Audit Bureau (SAB) about the violations in converting the unused leave days of public sector employees into cash. ● A letter from the Budgets and Final Accounts Committee chairman requesting to refer SAB’s report on the non-implementation of the fingerprint attendance system in the Ministry of Education to the Education, Culture and Guidance Affairs Committee to discuss it and determine the reasons. ● A letter from MP Abdullah Al-Mudhaf requesting to assign the Education, Culture and Guidance Affairs Committee to investigate the poor monitoring the minors’ bank accounts. ● A letter from the Public Facilities Committee chairman requesting to refer the proposal on hackers to the Digitalization, Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity Committee. ● A letter from MP Shuaib Shaaban requesting to assign the Health Affairs Committee to review the justifications for not establishing a hospital or increasing the capacity of the health center in Jaber Al-Ahmad City and the delay in providing health services in Al-Mutlaa City. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Public Utilities Committee to investigate the causes of the dilapidation of the buildings allocated for the Ministry of Social Affairs in Sulaibikhat. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Public Funds Protection Committee to investigate the amounts that Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) spent on media advertisements. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Environmental Affairs, Food and Water Security Committee to investigate the environmental damage resulting from the lack of sanitation in Al-Mutlaa. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Environmental Affairs, Food and Water Security Committee to investigate the environmental situation of the landfills in South Abdullah Al-Mubarak. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Environmental Affairs, Food and Water Security Committee to investigate the lack of green spaces in various regions. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Environmental Affairs, Food and Water Security Committee to investigate the existing environmental violations in Asherij. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Environmental Affairs, Food and Water Security Committee to investigate the environmental damage caused by telecommunications towers. ● A letter from the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee requesting for an extension of its mandate to submit its report on the draft law on establishing the Northern Economic Zone for four months. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting to assign the Priorities Committee to set two hours in one of the upcoming legislative sessions for the discussion of the report of the State Audit Bureau (SAB) on assessing all the work of the Al-Dhaman Hospitals Company. ● A letter from a group of MPs requesting that the joint committee between the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee and the Human Resources Committee urgently study and discuss proposals to issue laws regulating the appointment of officials ● A letter from MP Saad Al-Asfour requesting to assign the Values Enhancement and Combating Negative Phenomena Committee to discuss the reasons behind the increasing number of websites for gambling and illegal mortgage. ● A letter from MP Hamad Al-Medlej requesting to assign the Public Funds Protection Committee to investigate the violations found in the contract for the maintenance of the headquarters of SAB.

Meanwhile, the Assembly read the letter of HH the Amir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah thanking the MPs for their condolences over the passing of HH the late Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and another letter expressing gratitude to the MPs for congratulating him on his ascension to power. It also looked into the report of its Secretariat General about the meetings of parliamentary committees from Oct 31, 2023 to Dec 31, 2023.

Moreover, Assembly Speaker Ahmed Al-Saadoun adjourned the session for 30 minutes, then it resumed to discuss the parliamentary queries. Deputy Speaker Muhammad Al-Mutair presided over this part of the session. MP Badr Al-Mullah revealed that the queries he forwarded to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil Emad Al-Atiqi aim to find the truth about the contract signed directly with a company known for its “deep infiltration” into public institutions. He asked about the rationale behind signing the contract directly with such a company, instead of floating a public tender. He said the value of the contract increased by 50 percent, so it was not be referred to the Central Agency for Public Tenders (CAPT). He urged the minister to address the issue immediately.

On his queries for Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and acting Minister of Interior Sheikh Fahd Yusuf Al-Sabah; MP Adel Al-Damkhi asserted that Kuwait Army is suffering from chaos. He disclosed that the report of the parliamentary fact-finding committee highlighted violations, including the manipulative acts of the Purchase Committee at the Ministry of Defense regarding the deals to buy Caracal helicopters and Eurofighter planes. He called on the minister to read the report on the armament deal carefully to take the appropriate action. He went on to say that some officers were punished and humiliated, because of their role in discovering the truth and some of them were even forced to retire.

MP Abdulhadi Al-Ajmi commented on his queries to Minister of Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research Adel Al-Adwani about increasing the capacity of the College of Medicine and the health institutes. He added some students, who obtained a grade of 99 percent, could not enroll at Kuwait University due to the lack of seats. He also inquired about the reasons for suspending the scholarships for medical sciences in Jordan and Egypt, while the country hires doctors who graduated from the universities in both countries. The session was adjourned until Wednesday to discuss other items in the agenda, including the government’s work program and the MPs’ response to the Amiri speech.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh
Al-Seyassah/Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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