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Panel rejects govt power tariffs, approves its own; New charges for buildings in 6 months – MP slams manpower authority

KUWAIT: The National Assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee yesterday rejected a government draft bill to raise power charges and approved a much milder one made by the committee itself, the head of the committee said. MP Faisal Al-Shaye said based on government studies, a third of the Kuwaiti population consumes less than 6,000 kilowatts a month and the committee decided to keep charges unchanged for this section.

Those consuming between 6,000 and 12,000 kW will pay 5 fils per kilowatt and 10 fils for those consuming above this level. Shaye said that based on studies, people over-consume by 30 percent and the Assembly bill aims to rationalize this consumption. The lawmaker said that according to the bill approved by the committee, people consuming up to 6,000 kW will still pay KD 12 per month and the government will pay KD 1,800 in subsidies.

The bill aims at saving 20 percent of power consumption to enable the government to build new residential areas without the need to build new power plants, he said. Shaye said those who consume above 6,000 kW will have to pay little extra charges or cut their consumption to below the 6,000 kW level.

A comparison with Gulf states shows that for consumption of up to 6,000 kW, Kuwaitis will pay KD 12, while in Saudi Arabia consumers pay KD 48, in Bahrain KD 34.500 and as much as KD 132 in Dubai, he said. Shaye said the new charges will be implemented on the commercial sector after three months and on the investment sector or apartments (for expatriates) three months later.

The Assembly is due to debate the new charges on April 12 along with the government’s economic reforms. The debate could be postponed by one day if the Assembly decides to debate a grilling against commerce and industry minister. Shaye made no reference to any change in the government’s proposals for raising power charges for apartments, where the overwhelming majority of expatriates live. The government proposed to raise charges to 5 fils for the first 1,000 kW, 10 fils for between 1,000 and 2,000 kW and 15 fils for above that.

Minister of Electricity and Water Ahmad Al-Jassar said after the meeting that there are differences between the government and Assembly’s plans on power charges. He said that even after the proposed increase, the government subsidies will represent 80 percent of the cost and decreases to between 65 and 70 percent for higher consumption categories.

Rapporteur of the committee MP Mohammad Al-Jabri said that the panel’s proposal can help save around KD 500 million in subsidies. MP Faisal Al-Kandari meanwhile said that electricity charges for Kuwaiti citizens must remain unchanged and the Assembly should reject both the committee and government proposals. He said the government should first search for other alternatives before harming people’s income.

Meanwhile, MP Yousef Al-Zalzalah yesterday said that when passed by the parliament, the manpower authority law was meant to regulate the labor market, provide suitable working environments for workers and facilitate business for the private sector. “Unfortunately, the manpower authority has turned into a haven of corruption where some employees are abusing both workers and employers by the powers invested in them by the law,” he remarked, urging the minister of social affairs and labor to investigate the matter and hold these employees accountable for abusing the law to blackmail workers and employers. “I will expose corruption practiced by some of the authority’s senior officials and employees and the government will be held accountable for this,” Zalzalah vowed

Separately, MP Saud Al-Huraiji said the ministry of commerce and industry was being run without any practical plan or executive proceedings in terms of solving the problem of price increases. “Inflation and high prices are things that destroy and impede nations’ progress,” he added, noting that the government’s duties included protecting consumers, guaranteeing quality of products and controlling the prices of basic consumer goods. Accordingly, Huraiji filed a parliamentary inquiry about the measures the ministry has taken in this regard, its plans to prevent manipulation of prices, proposals to control them and whether it was considering reviewing the list of subsidized goods.

By B Izzak and A Saleh

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