x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Kuwait ministers face vote of no confidence 

The move could precede the dissolution of parliament 

Kuwaiti Oil Minister Bkheit Al Rashidi speaks during a parliamentary grilling session at the Kuwait National Assembly in Kuwait City on May 1, 2018. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP  
Kuwaiti Oil Minister Bkheit Al Rashidi speaks during a parliamentary grilling session at the Kuwait National Assembly in Kuwait City on May 1, 2018. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP  

Two ministers face a motion of no confidence less than six months after their appointment, Kuwait’s top lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Hind Al Sabeeh, the minister of social affairs and labour and of state for economic affairs, and Bkheit Al Rashidi, the minister of oil and of electricity and water, were initially set to face the votes next week.

Ten members of parliament filed the vote after a three-hour grilling session on Tuesday, according to Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Al Ghanim.

Opposition member Omar Al Tabtabai accused on Tuesday Mr Al Rashidi of complacency and pointed at “chronic delays” over a biofuel project worth $10.25 billion (Dh37.6 billion) that Kuwait hopes would generate an energy capacity of 800,000 barrels.

Fellow MP Abdulwahab Al Babtain questioned Mr Al Rashidi on the failure to meet the facilities’ April deadline, less than six months after his appointment in December.

Mr Al Babtain interrogated the minister about senior officials in the oil sector, who were “involved in financial and administrative irregularities that have led to the plunder of public funds".

Mr Al Ghanim said, however, the vote will likely be delayed to allow for a full investigation into the matter.

Meanwhile, MP Saleh Ashour’s grilling of Ms Al Sabeeh marked the fourth time she underwent interpellation in parliament since her first appointment in 2014.

He accused the minister of attempting to intimidate civil society institutions instead of providing support.

"When she is unhappy with a certain institution or trade union, the minister instigates some members of the general assemblies of such institutions to take the issue to courts. This is not the right way to solve problems; it is rather an indicator of failure," Mr Ashour said.

"The law provides that a decision to dissolve such institutions is solely in the hands of their respective general assemblies, not the government," Mr Ashour stressed, noting that such decisions by the minister can undermine the trust of the public in the government.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor unjustifiably disbanded the cooperative society of Salwa though the latter was able to increase its deposit from KD 2.5 million (USD 8.3 million) to KD four million (some USD 13.3 million) and distributed dividends amounting to 10 percent to its shareholders.

The trade unions of the Ministry of Information and the Municipality were shut down three months ago because the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor withholds permissions for them to open bank accounts, he added.

_____________

Read more:

Kuwait's government upheaval puts energy reforms in jeopardy

Kuwait MP: 300,000 locals suspected of forging citizenship

Kuwait MP: anti-corruption committee 'silly' in face of pressing problems

_____________

Minister Al Sabeeh will face her vote on May 10, whereas Minister Al Rashidi’s vote could be delayed until after Ramadan in mid-June.

Kuwait’s cabinet was formed by Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak in December 2017 after the government submitted its resignation.

During the previous government, opposition MPs said they plan to question ministers over claims of mismanagement at the Kuwait Oil Company and the ministry of social affairs.

Kuwait’s constitution stipulates that it is the National Assembly’s right to file requests to summon ministers for questioning, which in the past has often resulted in fierce grillings over corruption allegations and led several ministers to resign in recent years.

In the past, the National Assembly has been bogged down by such drawn-out questioning processes, resulting in MPs neglecting more pressing concerns while still seeming to appear effective to voters.

Mr Al Ghanim called of Wednesday’s parliament session from lack of attendance after Tuesday’s session which began at 9AM and ended past midnight.

Despite the calls, the speaker of parliament said resignations from the two ministers are unlikely as the Thursday parliament session will allow for the ministers to prove their competency.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad, the emir of Kuwait, lauded Wednesday the healthy democratic exchange between the National Assembly MPs and the cabinet members.