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Assembly panel not to drop controversial laws

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The National Assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee will not withdraw a number of controversial draft legislations, including the purchase of bank loans that last week forced the government to boycott parliamentary sessions, rapporteur of the panel MP Saleh Ashour said.

But he added that the committee may decide to recall those draft laws if fundamental changes on them were proposed and the National Assembly approves the move. Two ministers attending the Assembly session last Tuesday walked out of the chamber when MPs refused to return those draft laws to the financial committee and insisted to debate the laws.

The government completely boycotted the next day’s session and held an extraordinary meeting after which it said that the panel did not allow the government to provide its opinions on such laws which are costly for public funds.

One of the draft legislations requires the government to purchase billions of dinars of bank loans owed by over half a million Kuwaiti citizens, write off interest and then reschedule their repayment by deducting the KD 120 monthly cost of living allowance.

The government said the purchase is too expensive for public funds. It said the total value of such loans is KD 14.7 billion while MPs insist the value is under KD 2 billion because the rest is housing loans not included in the proposed scheme.

Finance Minister Abdulwahab Al-Rushaid said on Sunday that the government’s proposed purchase of the bank loans will stimulate consumption as a result of boosting spending, eventually leading to a major rise in prices. He added the purchase will convince citizens that the state will always repeat the process, which will encourage them to take more loans and refrain from repayment.

MP Mubarak Al-Hajraf last week filed to grill the finance minister over a variety of allegations including mismanagement of Kuwaiti investments. The grilling will be listed on the agenda of the January 24 Assembly session.

MP Ashour also said that the committee will meet with representatives of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry to review a draft law calling to convert the chamber into a trade union for businessmen.

In the meantime, National Assembly Speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun yesterday submitted a draft law calling to amend the election law including a major change in the voting system. In his bill, Saadoun proposes that Kuwaiti voters are allowed to vote for up to four candidates at least one of them must be from their constituency.

Under the amendments, the voters have the right to vote for a maximum of three candidates from their constituency and at least one from other constituencies. The amendments state that the winners in the election will be the first 50 candidates who score more votes regardless of the constituency they have registered in. Under the current voting system, Kuwaiti voters vote for just one candidate from their constituencies only.

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