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Call to halt loans, recruitment from states refusing returnees

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari yesterday called on the government to order Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic and Social Development to stop giving loans to countries that have refused to take back their workers who have been living illegally in the country. Kandari, who heads the National Assembly’s foreign relations panel, said the government should adopt a tougher policy by also threatening to stop recruiting workers from these countries.

At least Egypt and India have refused to allow the return of thousands of their workers living illegally in Kuwait but pardoned by the Kuwaiti government, which also will pay their airfare. The health ministry yesterday reported 168 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to 2,248 cases, while two deaths were reported. The total numbers of deaths have reached 13. During a daily briefing, Health Ministry Spokesperson Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said 50 patients are in intensive care, 21 of them in critical condition.

Those currently receiving treatment at hospitals reached have 1,792 patients, he added. The new death cases are of two Indians aged 75 and 57 – both were receiving treatment in intensive care units. Earlier yesterday, Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah announced the recovery of 31 patients, taking total recoveries to 443.

The Assembly budgets committee has asked the Audit Bureau to prepare a comprehensive report on all expenditures made with relation to the coronavirus, member of the panel MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said. He said the panel requested that the report should include details about every contract approved by the bureau and the total costs of the contracts, Adasani said.

It also asked for the bureau’s technical opinion if each contract is related to the coronavirus and it is necessary to carry out government activities amid a major shutdown of businesses, or if some of the contracts could have been delayed until after the coronavirus. The committee also asked the bureau to include any other opinions pertinent to the report, in addition to its recommendations.

The budgets committee meanwhile pointed out that the state budget deficit for the current 2020/2021 fiscal year which began April 1 is expected to soar to KD 20 billion if spending remains intact in light of the sharp drop in oil prices, more than twice the deficit projected in the original budget prepared before the coronavirus outbreak. The committee however informed the government that around KD 5 billion in deficit could still be posted in the fiscal year if spending is limited only to paying wages and related expenditures.

Kuwait has calculated oil revenues on the basis of an oil price of $50 a barrel, a daily production of 2.7 million barrels per day and a dollar exchange rate of 305 fils to the dollar. But all these three variables deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic. Oil is trading at around $15 a barrel, Kuwait’s production is under $2.2 million bpd and the dollar is now equal to 310 fils.

Meanwhile, the Central Tenders Committee has approved contracts with two companies worth KD 28 million to import 300 million facemasks amid media reports that there is some shortage of masks. The committee also approved other contracts worth some KD 3 million to purchase medical equipment for the ministry of health.

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