MP: Govt unwilling to cut spending

KUWAIT: Head of the National Assembly’s budgets committee MP Adnan Abdulsamad yesterday criticized the finance ministry’s reluctance to cut spending to face the budget shortfall caused by low oil prices. He said that despite repeated calls by HH the Amir for rationalization of expenses, the government does not appear to be ready to reduce spending, while the Assembly is pushing in that direction.

Abdulsamad said according to the law, if the Assembly wants to increase budget allocations, the government’s approval is required, but the Assembly can cut expenditures without the prior approval of the government. He said that whenever the committee asks certain government departments to reduce their spending projections for the current budget, the first items they reduce are those related to citizens, including subsidies.

Abdulsamad also said that in preparing next year’s budget, the government depends on the previous year’s final accounts, which is a wrong method because most ministries and government departments normally overspend in the last few months of the fiscal year, thus inflating spending for that year and the next. He said some government departments request to increase the first chapter of the budget covering wages and benefits under the pretext of needing to appoint new employees. But they do not make new appointments and instead spend the allocations in the form of benefits and increments for their employees.

It may be recalled that the budgets committee had asked the finance ministry to cut spending projections in the 2016/2017 fiscal year by 20 percent. The ministry said it will consider cutting it by around 15 percent, without giving any firm pledges. Kuwait is believed to have posted the first actual budget deficit in the 2015/2016 fiscal year which ended March 31, after 16 consecutive years of surplus due to high oil prices, which have slumped by over 60 percent since mid-2014.

Meanwhile, the Assembly public utilities committee yesterday rejected most of the amendments submitted for the new municipality draft law, which was passed in the first reading last week. Head of the panel MP Mohammad Al-Hadiya said they accepted an amendment submitted by a number of MPs stipulating that authorities cannot enter private homes to check on electricity violations without a prior permit from the public prosecutor.

The committee however kept the bill in the same form as was approved in the first reading, he said. The bill requires candidates for municipal council election to be university graduates. It also imposes hefty fines on violations in commercial, investment and private construction. Hadiya criticized municipal authorities for cutting electricity to dozens of houses in Jahra for violating the construction law, saying the municipality should not implement provisions of the law before it is passed.

B Izzak

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