Kuwait ministers walk out of heated session over loans relief

Impasse centres on draft bill calling on government to buy loans of citizens estimated at several billion dinars

Kuwaiti politicians at a session of the National Assembly in Kuwait City on Tuesday. AFP
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Kuwait’s National Assembly descended into chaos on Tuesday as arguments broke out over a draft law supported by an overwhelming majority of MPs calling for debt relief for Kuwaiti citizens.

National Assembly Speaker Ahmad Al Saadoun was forced to suspend the session and postpone it until Wednesday morning.

Several ministers withdrew from the hall on Tuesday in protest after legislators denied a government request to postpone discussion on a Parliamentary Finance Committee report.

The session was suspended immediately after it started because of the government's absence.

The political impasse centres on a draft bill calling on the government to take over the consumer and personal loans of Kuwaiti citizens with an estimated value of several billion Kuwaiti dinars.

Ammar Al Ajmi, Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs and for Housing Affairs and Urban Development, and Oil Minister Bader Al Mulla walked out of the session after the debate, forcing the session to be adjourned.

Mr Al Ajmi said the government asked the assembly to send back the committees' reports regarding the bills that imply “financial burden” to the commissions for further discussion “with the government for sake of reaching a concord”.

“The government hopes that it will have sufficient time later to express its opinion on these proposed laws to reach concord solutions with members of the National Assembly in line with its manifesto, constitutional procedures and financial abilities, in light of solutions to boost the per capita as enshrined in the government action plan,” he said.

Kuwaiti legislators at a session of the National Assembly on Tuesday. AFP

The government had reached consensus on several bills and affirmed the possibility of reaching an accord on others, Mr Al Ajmi said, criticising MPs who submitted bills to parliament without giving the government and relevant ministers a chance to examine them.

He criticised the proposed bill to purchase the loans, the value of which was estimated at $46 billion (14 billion dinars).

Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nawaf Al Sabah convened an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday in which ministers reviewed several decisions to be made following the government's withdrawal from Tuesday’s session and its decision not to attend on Wednesday.

Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Barak Al Shaitan said after the meeting that the government had only requested to review the parliamentary committees’ reports that were not initially included in the session’s agenda.

“This is what prompted the government to ask the National Assembly to return the reports to the relevant parliamentary committees bill reach solutions that achieve the goals that the government is keen to include in the projects, but the government was not able to do so,” Mr Al Shaitan said.

The Kuwaiti government presented its four-year plan of action to parliament in December, based on major political, economic and social reforms a year after political tension between the two bodies caused a delay in much-needed programmes.

After the session, 44 MPs, including Mr Saadoun, accused the government of adopting the same practices of previous governments that led to years of political deadlock.

The row is reminiscent of past political crises that led to the dissolution of the previous parliament and cabinet led by former prime minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al Sabah.

The previous government faced several months of political feuding and tension with the country's national assembly over allegations of corruption.

Several cabinet members, including the ministers of defence and foreign affairs, survived no-confidence votes in the previous parliament.

Updated: January 11, 2023, 12:33 PM