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MPs blast govt over cuts in overseas treatment – Panel wants to cut spending by 20%

KUWAIT: The National Assembly’s budgets committee yesterday strongly criticized the government for failing to cut spending despite the sharp decline in oil prices and announced it plans to cut the budget by 20 percent, head of the committee MP Adnan Abdulsamad said. The lawmaker said that after reviewing the draft budget for next year starting April 1, which was approved by the Cabinet, the committee found that public spending was cut by only KD 279 million.

He said the committee will work in its next meeting to cut the budgets of all government departments by at least 20 percent and will not exempt any authority from the cuts. If this is carried out, spending will be reduced by around KD 3.7 billion to KD 15.2 billion, eventually reducing the projected deficit from KD 11.5 billion to just KD 7.8 billion.

Abdulsamad said the initial cut in spending made by the government of KD 279 million was due to the decline in oil prices and consequently the drop in subsidies provided to fuel and electricity production. Current spending of all government departments remained almost unchanged while capital spending, the driver of economic growth, was reduced by 12 percent, he said.

“This reflects confusion in planning,” Abdulsamad said. He added that next year’s budget was supposed to pave the way for true reforms and rationalization like a major reduction in spending on medical treatment overseas, whose budget reached KD 441 million last year. Revenues in the new budget are projected at KD 7.4 billion, of which 77 percent come from oil revenues which were calculated on the basis of price of oil at $25 a barrel. The projected deficit of KD 11.5 billion is the highest in Kuwait’s history.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah said yesterday that the government is determined to apply the new rules for sending Kuwaiti patients for treatment abroad. The Cabinet decided on Monday to cut personal allocations for such patients to just KD 50 per day in the US and Europe and KD 30 for other countries, while it stopped such allocations for companions. The government will still pay medical expenses.

The decision was strongly criticized by several MPs as “inhuman”. MP Majed Mousa described the decision as unfair and inhuman that will harm a large section of the patients, adding that rationalization of expenditures should not start with patients. Mousa said he totally rejects the decision and called on the government to revise it. MP Fares Al-Oteibi said the decision is irresponsible, adding that the government is responsible to provide complete medical care for citizens. MP Hamdan Al-Azemi said it is clear that the government wants to solve problems resulting from its mismanagement at the expense of the people, while it ignores rife corruption.

By B Izzak

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