Kuwaiti prime minister calls for unity as new Cabinet is formed to address challenges

Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah's government will have to boost state coffers hit by the coronavirus crisis and low oil prices

Members of the Kuwaiti knights team carry a national flag as they perform with their horses on the sea side, 70 kms west of the capital Kuwait City on December 11, 2020. / AFP / YASSER AL-ZAYYAT
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Kuwait's Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah called for national unity while taking an oath on Monday as he was re-appointed prime minister.

The country’s emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Sahab, approved a new Cabinet on Monday that included new ministers of oil and finance after the previous government resigned after parliamentary elections earlier this month.

A new Cabinet must be formed within two weeks after the ballot is counted, according to the constitution.

Sheikh Sabah called for united efforts "and especially by the National Assembly" to address challenges facing Kuwait.

He thanked Sheikh Nawaf for entrusting him with the duty.

“We pledge to put your highness’s words as our roadmap and to make every effort to fulfil the aspirations of our loyal people,” Sheikh Sabah said after taking the oath.

The new prime minister, who had been foreign minister since 2011 before being elevated to the post of premier in late 2019, will have to boost state coffers hit by the coronavirus crisis and low oil prices.

Sheikh Sabah must also overcome legislative gridlock on a debt law that would allow Kuwait to tap international debt markets to plug a growing budget deficit.

The Cabinet is Sheikh Sabah’s second in less than a year, and 10 of its 16 members are new, many of them technocrats.

Rana Al Faris, the only woman in the Cabinet, was appointed Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs.

Emir Sheikh Nawaf signed a decree approving the new government with Hamad Al Sabah as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister.

Foreign Minister Ahmad Al Sabah also retained his post in the new Cabinet.

Sheikh Nawaf said the public have great faith in the new government.

He stressed that it will fulfll its objectives as it deals with “new challenges and tasks that will warrant extraordinary efforts, diligence and faith in Parliament”.

While the emir has the final say in state matters, the prime minister traditionally helps navigate the relationship between government and parliament.

In the elections this year opposition and tribal candidates make gains in the legislative vote, reflecting a desire for change among voters.

Liberals fared poorly and many leading pro-government legislators lost their seats.

Frequent rows and deadlocks between Cabinet and the National Assembly, the Gulf region's oldest and most outspoken, led to successive government reshuffles and dissolutions of Parliament, affecting investment and economic and fiscal reform in the cradle-to-grave welfare state.