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MPs flatly against any fuel, utility price hike – Discrimination alleged at prosecution; Gitmo Kuwaiti to be freed

KUWAIT: Lawmakers’ opposition to reported government plans to increase fuel prices amongst other spending cuts has gained momentum, with more MPs joining the fray. The reports said that an international consultancy group has advised the government to lift subsidies on petrol prices in addition to electricity and water, besides other measures to cut spending. The increase of petrol prices is expected to be enforced soon, perhaps within weeks, according to reports, but it could take longer to increase the prices of electricity and water.

An unprecedented move by neighboring Saudi Arabia to apply massive cuts to subsidies could have increased MPs’ fears that the Kuwaiti government could adopt similar measures. MP Faisal Al-Kandari warned that any government measures to reduce spending and the budget deficit must be directed to companies and not citizens, who should continue to enjoy the oil windfall.

He insisted that the government can reduce spending through measures that do not negatively impact the income of the people and recalled that most of the financial benefits Kuwaiti citizens are enjoying came through laws and cannot be changed without amending those laws through the National Assembly, which totally rejects the principle of cutting subsidies. Kandari said that MPs will not remain silent toward government plans to tax people while leaving companies.

Deputy speaker Mubarak Al-Khrainej called on the government to tackle the deficit and high spending away from the peoples’ pockets, adding that any measures must not affect low income people or the subsidies provided to essential services and commodities. Khrainej said the government should search for financial solutions to deal with the budget deficit but without lifting subsidies, raising charges or cutting financial benefits. He stressed that the majority of the Assembly will not accept any measures of this type. MP Mohammad Al-Huwaila said that the recommendations to the government negatively and directly impact families, adding that he will not accept those measures.

In another development, a number of Shiite MPs claimed yesterday that recent appointments by the public prosecution were marred with discrimination, and called for an investigation. MP Abdulhameed Dashti demanded that Justice Minister Yaqoub Al-Sane send him the official list of people who have been accepted to work as prosecutors and their evaluations. He asked the minister if some applicants were rejected although they obtained higher marks than some of those accepted, and demanded to know the reasons.

MP Khalil Al-Saleh said that some of the applicants have been discriminated against and demanded the list of those accepted and their grades and the list of those rejected with their grades. The two lawmakers said a number of those accepted are either sons or close relatives of some judges and demanded action.

Meanwhile, MP Ahmad Al-Azemi yesterday congratulated HH the Amir, HH the crown prince and the government in addition to the family of Fayez Al-Kandari, the last Kuwaiti Guantanamo inmate, after US authorities decided to free him next month. A Kuwaiti delegation is scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay on Jan 5 to receive Kandari, who has been at the prison for the past 14 years, and return to Kuwait on Jan 9. Azemi said the release came after concerted efforts by the Amir and the Kuwaiti government.

By B Izzak

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