KUWAIT: Prime Minister HH Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah has almost completed the formation of his new government, and the Cabinet is expected to be officially announced and sworn-in by HH the Amir today. The new Cabinet, according to well-informed sources, includes many new faces, with the main highlight being the inclusion of Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the eldest son of the Amir, in his first ministerial posting.
Sheikh Nasser, 69, who has been minister of the Amiri Diwan since early 2006 – a post not in the Cabinet – will become the first deputy premier and defense minister, the most senior post in the Cabinet after the prime minister. Most of the members of the previous Cabinet have either been left out or reshuffled to new posts.
The sources explained Sheikh Jaber agreed to include Jenan Bushehri – a former member of the Municipal Council – in the Cabinet as minister of housing, replacing Yasser Abul. Sheikh Jaber also thought it would be best to exclude former nominee and Municipal Council member Ali Al-Moussa after he settled on appointing another former Municipal Council member Hossam Al-Roumi as minister of public works.
The sources added that some Rasheedi tribe members asked the PM to appoint one of their qualified members as minister, and the PM considered appointing MP Ali Al-Deqbasi, but on second thoughts decided to retain Mohammed Al-Jabri in office. He finally agreed to appoint Bakheet Al-Rasheedi as oil minister.
The sources added that pressure from the Mutair tribe to appoint one of them led to last-minute changes, and Fahd Al-Afasi was appointed minister of justice and awqaf. Jabri has been appointed information minister – replacing Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah – after Sheikh Thamer Al-Jaber declined the portfolio and preferred to remain as Kuwait’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, especially after the ruling family nominated Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah as health minister to replace the nominee Fahd Al-Ibrahim, who placed several conditions to accept the post.
Moreover, the sources said that with support from the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and the liberal bloc, Hind Al-Sabeeh retained her portfolios as minister of social affairs and labor and minister of state for economic development. The Cabinet includes nine new faces including the ministers of oil, finance and public works, which means that the new Cabinet has almost a new economic team. Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh has been given the state minister for Cabinet affairs portfolio and replaced by Nayef Al-Hajraf, a former finance minister and the current head of the Capital Markets Authority, the sources said.
Accordingly, the proposed Cabinet is expected to include:
Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmed as first deputy PM and minister of defense; Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled as deputy PM and foreign minister; Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah as deputy PM and interior minister; Anas Al-Saleh as deputy PM and minister of state for Cabinet affairs; Bakheet Al-Rasheedi as minister of oil and minister of electricity and water; Hamed Al-Azmi as education minister; Hossam Al-Roumi as minister of public works and municipal affairs; Fahd Al-Afasi as justice and awqaf minister; Adel Al-Kharafi as minister of state for Assembly affairs; Nayef Al-Hajraf as finance minister; Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah as health minister; Mohammed Al-Jabri as information minister; Jenan Bushehri as housing and services minister; Khaled Al-Roudhan as minister of commerce and industry and Hind Al-Sabeeh as minister of social affairs and labor and minister of state for economic development.
A number of lawmakers immediately criticized the new Cabinet as the names were leaked out, with MP Omar Al-Tabtabaei saying that the new oil minister was being selected to maintain control over the oil sector and not based on competence and programs. MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said the prime minister still has time to rethink his Cabinet lineup, expressing dissatisfaction with some faces.
In another development, the National Assembly could not hold a special session yesterday to debate national reconciliation and the jailing of 67 opposition activists including MPs. Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem told the Assembly that he was notified that the government will not attend the session. Only 26 lawmakers, well short of the required quorum of 33 MPs, attended the session. A number of lawmakers strongly lashed out at the government and “its lawmakers”, and insisted they will try again to hold the session.
By B Izzak and A Saleh