KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem yesterday said that a meeting is expected to take place next week between MPs and the government to study the Cabinet decision to hike petrol prices and find ways so that the raise does not harm citizens. Ghanem’s statement came a day after he held an informal meeting with about 14 lawmakers, who strongly lashed out at the unilateral government decision and vowed that they will press for ways to compensate citizens.
The move appears to be focused now on persuading the government to financially compensate Kuwaiti citizens, making the hike only apply on expatriates, like the planned hike in electricity and water charges. Ghanem said that based on the meeting of the Assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee, it was decided that petrol prices will be liberalized and at the same time Kuwaiti citizens will be compensated.
The speaker said that accordingly, the increase in petrol prices is unacceptable without applying the decision of the financial committee to compensate citizens. Ghanem said that the informal meeting by MPs on Tuesday reiterated the decision of the financial committee and insisted on the need to compensate citizens.
The speaker said he has informed the prime minister of this issue and also told him about the need to hold a joint Assemblygovernment meeting next week to reach a solution on how to counter the economic challenges without harming citizens. Asked what measures would the Assembly take if the government insists on its decision, Ghanem said he is optimistic that the issue will be resolved through dialogue, adding that the Assembly has its tools that could be used if no solution is reached. The National Assembly cannot meet now because it is in the middle of its summer recess.
However, it can hold an emergency session only if 33 MPs sign on a motion. In a related development, lawyer Mohammad Al-Ansari yesterday filed a lawsuit at the administrative court calling for an urgent ruling to scrap the decision to raise petrol prices. The lawyer said it appears that Kuwaiti citizens have to seek the help of courts to stop decisions against their interests. Interior ministry assistant undersecretary for nationality and passport Maj Gen Sheikh Mazen Al-Sabah said yesterday that the new law regulating the affairs of domestic helpers has been enacted after its bylaws went into effect.
He said that under the law, maids will be renamed as housekeepers and also announced that the ministry is ready to receive any complaints either from the workers, employers or recruitment offices. Sheikh Mazen said that the domestic labor law includes the obligation to pay salaries monthly, not insult the worker, provision of adequate housing, no more than 12 hours of work, providing healthcare and annual leave.
Director General of the Residency Department Maj Gen Talal Maarafi said there are 616,000 housekeepers in the country, with Indians, Filipinos and Sri Lankans topping the list. He also said there are another 63,000 domestic helpers who are residence violators. Under the law, the minimum wage for housekeepers is KD 60 monthly and the minimum age for employment is 30 years.
By B Izzak and Faten Omar