Govt gives priority to VAT bill, voting eyed before year's end

KUWAIT: The government has put the value-added tax (VAT) bill on its priorities' list during the next parliamentary term which kicks off in October, well-informed sources said. The parliament's financial affairs committee is likely to receive the bill in September in order to discuss it before it is put up for voting when the parliament resumes sessions the following month, said the sources, adding that the current plan calls for the voting session to take place before the end of the year.

Further, the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the cabinet's economic affairs committee was currently making the final touches on the VAT bill before it is referred to the Fatwa and Legislation Department in order to phrase it in a way compatible with the constitution before the bill's final referral to the parliament. "The government is very keen on passing the VAT law to achieve the economic reforms suggested by IMF and follow the steps of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," the sources explained.

Moreover, the sources pointed out that the government had officially notified the parliament that it rejects parliamentary demands to cancel decisions of increasing the fuel, electricity and water prices. The cabinet also rejects a proposal to impose fees on expatriates' remittances. "The cabinet's economic affairs committee argues that imposing fees on expats' remittances would harm the economy, force specialized manpower out of Kuwait and scare away foreign investments," the sources explained.

Non-oil revenues

The budget deficit in five years starting from 2014-2015 until 2018-2019 accumulates to KD 28 billion, well-informed oil sources said, attributing the deficit to the sharp drop in oil prices to below $20 per barrel in 2016. According to Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), oil price in the current fiscal year's budget has been set at $50 per barrel, and is expected to exceed $65 on the short and medium ranges as predicted by international oil agencies, which expect prices to be $66.6 in 2018 and $64.5 in 2019. Meanwhile, non-oil revenues increased by KD 140 million in 2018-2019 to become KD 1.77 billion, compared to only KD 1.63 billion in 2017-2018.

Health insurance

Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education Dr Hamed Al-Azmi issued a ministerial resolution to provide health insurance for Kuwait University's KU non-Kuwaiti teaching staff members, as stipulated by the university's supreme council. The insurance also covers staff members' family members, for whom they already receive social allowances, while the university will pay all the fees and no compensation would be paid for bills issued from private health facilities.

On a different concern, the head of History Department at KU's Faculty Of Arts Dr Abdullah Al-Hajri announced launching the PhD program for Islamic history. Hajri also denied reports suggesting that there was shortage in teaching staff members, and stressed that the department's 42 teachers do their best in teaching students of the department as well as students studying history in other colleges.

Businesses closed

The Public Authority for Industry (PAI) recently issued decisions concerning land plots that the authority owns, said informed sources, noting that the decisions include closures and administrative penalties. The sources explained that the decisions ordered closing down plots in Shuwaikh industrial area and Kabd because they had been utilized without having a PAI license. Other facilities were closed for violating labor dormitory conditions.

KD 101,000 in compensations

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) recently complied to court orders and paid KD 101,000 in compensations in 45 cases filed against it in 2016 and 2017. Informed sources explained that most of the cases were filed because the ministry refused to issue commercial licenses or register trade marks for a number of applicants.

By A Saleh