SMEs may be exempt from state fees

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KUWAIT CITY, March 10, (Agencies): The Cabinet has assigned government agencies, based on their speciality, to take the necessary measures and decisions to postpone the payment of all fees for the services provided by the state to business owners (small and medium enterprises) for a period of three months from the date of issuance of this decision. This is in accordance with the texts and procedures in force, after the issuance of the decision to close some businesses, reports Al-Qabas daily. In a letter addressed to the concerned ministers regarding the petition submitted by the owners of small and medium enterprises to alleviate their suffering after the issuance of the aforementioned Cabinet decision, the acting Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers Wael Al-Asousi said the council reviewed the recommendation contained in the minutes of a meeting held previously by the Economic Affairs Committee regarding the aforementioned petition, and that the council reviewed the demands made by the applicants.

It is worth explaining that the applicants (small and medium entrepreneurs) demanded reopening of all closed commercial activities, tightening of health requirements, and closing of an activity only in case of violation, as well as provision of compensation for fully closed commercial projects by paying salaries registered in the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) system, paying the rents under the lease contracts registered with the PAM or the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI), and exempting from payment of fees owed to the state.

These fees include electricity, water and telephone bills, fees for the “As-hal” portal of PAM, accomodation and stamp fees, trade license renewal fees, and Kuwait Municipality fees for billboards, workers’ health cards and so on. They also demanded postponement of payment of installments of the Industrial Bank of Kuwait and of the National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprises Development for a period of one-two years without the interest being carried over and with continued support throughout the curfew period and for a year after the opening of the activities. Al-Asousi said the committee reviewed the viewpoints of representatives of the Ministry of Electricity and Water, the Office of the State Minister for Services Affairs and the Industrial Bank of Kuwait about the extent to which facilities can be provided to owners of small and medium enterprises that have suspended their activities or are still not working according to the Cabinet decision to confront the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A representative of the Ministry of Electricity and Water stated that there are two proposals – exemption from electricity and water fees, which requires the issuance of a law, and postponing payment, or allowing payment in installments, or rescheduling the fees owed by the owners of these activities, for which a directive will be required from the Cabinet, after which a decision regulating this matter would have to be issued. Also, a representative of the Office of the State Minister for Services Affairs said a legal opinion is required on the extent of exemption or deferral of landline usage fees.

According to the legal opinion of the representative of the Industrial Bank of Kuwait, the bank, at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, had postponed the payment of installments for a period of six months for owners of small and medium enterprises, and later extended the postponement for a further period of six months, ending in the month of April 2021. Al-Asousi explained that the committee reviewed the legal opinions on the subject. Regarding the fees for services such as electricity, water and telephone, the fees are in exchange for a service due to which it is not permissible to exempt them except by law, considering that the service will be provided free of charge.

Regarding postponing the payment of installments to the Industrial Bank of Kuwait, small projects, and others, it is permissible through a Cabinet decision to instruct the concerned authorities to study and take measures, after presentation to the boards of directors, to postpone payment. All this must take into account the fact that the period of postponement or exemption is within the period of the exceptional circumstance. The emergency committee of charitable societies will hold a meeting this week to set up a new mechanism for providing support and relief baskets to the needy and the affected during the days of the curfew, which will last for a month with the possibility of extension, reports Al-Qabas daily.

According to reliable sources, the upcoming meeting will focus on setting up a coordination mechanism with relevant government agencies, headed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Interior, regarding campaigns for the distribution of relief food baskets and financial aid. Until yesterday afternoon about 326,000 people have been vaccinated, which represents 7.63 percent of the total population, an increase of 15,000 from the statistics published by the daily the day before yesterday, which was 311,000.

Despite the high rate of vaccination in the country, Kuwait still ranks fourth in the Gulf and 42 globally among the 126 countries that has begun vaccination against corona, in contrast to Bahrain’s progress globally and in the Gulf region, ranking second in the Gulf and fourth in the world on the index of vaccination against Covid-19 and is said to have vaccinated 516,000 people, representing 30.32 of the population.

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