Kuwait’s parliament prepared to drop loan purchase bill if government raises wages

Debt purchase legislation had created tensions between the National Assembly and ministers

MP Shuaib Al Muwaizri, head of the National Assembly's financial and economic affairs committee, has asked for measures to improve living standards AFP
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Kuwaiti MPs have offered to withdraw a loan relief bill that has led to deadlock with the government — provided ministers raise wages in the country in return.

This follows a meeting of the National Assembly's financial and economic affairs committee, which had previously drafted the bill calling on the government to buy up several billion Kuwaiti dinars worth of citizens' consumer and personal loans.

The government says the move would be too expensive, costing almost $46 billion in public funds. MPs say it would cost less than $6.5 billion.

Committee head Shuaib Al Muwaizri said MPs are now prepared to scrap the proposed law, if the government pledges to increase salaries and take other measures to improve the standard of living.

“It was agreed among the members of the committee to withdraw the report of the debt purchase law in the next session if the government made a commitment in the same session confirming the increase in salaries, pensions of retirees, social assistance, and the cancellation of interests,” Mr Al Muwaizri said on Thursday night.

Parliament is set to hold its ordinary sessions next Tuesday and Wednesday, a fortnight after two ministers walked out and then boycotted parliament following a heated debate on the bill.

The government said it welcomed Al Muwaizri’s statement but will still insist upon hold its condition that ministers will not face questioning in front of parliament before the sessions.

Jenan Boushehri, one of the assembly's two women MPs, formally submitted a request to question Cabinet Affairs Minister and former foreign minister Barak Al Shaitan in parliament next week.

Opposition MP Mubarak Al Hajraf has submitted a request to question the finance minister.

Kuwaiti political analysts warn that a continued impasse between the government and assembly could lead to popular unrest.

“I call on the government and its Prime Minister to show wisdom and return to attending the parliamentary sessions, because the continuation of the boycott means turning the dispute with the National Assembly into a popular movement in the street that will force the country into turmoil, and here the prime minister and his first deputy will pay a heavy price,” Kuwaiti political analyst Dahem Al Qahtani wrote on Twitter.

“The Kuwaitis elected their representatives, so you have to deal with them,” he added.

The latest moves come as Emir Sheikh Nawaf issued a decree pardoning dozens of jailed political figures and critics, as the country builds on efforts to end domestic political feuding that has hampered fiscal reforms.

The Emir, who assumed power in 2020, handed over most of his duties in late 2021 to Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Sabah.

Last year Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Sabah replaced the country’s prime minister, dissolved parliament and called for early elections, in a bid to defuse a standoff between the government and assembly.

Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Sabah named the emir's son Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al Sabah as prime minister.

Updated: January 23, 2023, 5:16 AM