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Assembly renews confidence in public works minister

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The National Assembly yesterday rejected a no-confidence motion against Minister of Public Works Ali Al-Mousa, renewing confidence in the minister who was grilled just three weeks after assuming office. The opposition-sponsored motion needed 24 votes to pass, but it only secured 22 votes, with 21 other MPs voting for the minister. Under Kuwaiti law, Cabinet ministers are not allowed to vote on no-confidence motions. MPs backing the minister insisted yesterday that the minister has started dealing with issues but wanted more time, adding they have trust that the minister is a reformist.

In its regular session yesterday, the Assembly agreed to amend the law governing the housing authority to exempt its projects from the prior supervision of the Audit Bureau for the next five years to accelerate those projects to meet ever-rising demands for government housing.

The Assembly also discussed the government’s five-year program (2021/2022- 2024/2025), which highlights the main development objectives the government aims to achieve over the next five fiscal years. Minister of Oil and Electricity and Water Mohammad Al-Fares said the program is based on main issues including reforms, restructuring public funds, developing human resources and boosting renewable energy.

The minister said the implementation of the program faces major challenges, mainly the rising budget deficit, adding that the expected budget deficit over the next five years is expected to be between KD 45 billion and KD 60 billion. Challenges also include the low productivity of the public sector, adding that the big contribution of the government in domestic economy prevents the participation of the private sector, the low quality of education where the level of 12th graders in Kuwait is equal only to seventh graders in advanced countries, in addition to the low quality of infrastructure.

Minister of Finance Abdulwahab Al-Rasheed said 72,000 Kuwaitis work in the private sector and the government aims to increase this to 100,000 over the next five years. He said the breakeven price of oil, where there will be no deficit in the budget, is $90 a barrel, and the government aims to cut it to $70 a barrel.

MP Saifi Al-Saifi lashed out at the program, saying there can be no plan without a timetable, adding that it is not enough to have a program in 26 pages with spending exceeding KD 100 billion. Saifi said if the government implements just 10 percent of the program, “ministers will be champions”, adding that the government does not have legislation to carry out the program. He said the difference between Kuwait and the rest of the Gulf is like the difference between a Nokia phone and an iPhone. The Assembly is scheduled to hold a special session today to debate the rights of retired Kuwaitis.

Meanwhile, the court of appeals yesterday upheld a two-year jail term against MP Marzouq Al-Khalifa and former MP Sultan Al-Shemmari and others for taking part in outlawed tribal primaries. The verdict is not final as it needs to be looked by the court of cassation, the country’s top court whose verdicts are final.


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