By B Izzak
KUWAIT: New ministers of finance and education were appointed on Sunday to replace the two ministers who resigned after weeks of forming the new Cabinet. Fahad Al-Jarallah, a senior official at the finance ministry, was appointed finance minister, while academic Adel Al-Mane was appointed education minister. The two ministers took the oath before HH the Deputy Amir and Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who called on them to ensure smooth cooperation with the National Assembly to face challenges and boost development.
Former finance minister Manaf Al-Hajeri resigned in protest at moving Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, from the finance ministry to the oil ministry, according to local press reports. No reasons were given for the resignation of the former education minister. Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Ahmad Al-Awadhi has initiated a new electronic service that enables Kuwaiti citizens to obtain sick leave without the need for a medical consultation.
This innovative service, designed to streamline health services and alleviate the burden on healthcare facilities and staff, is part of ongoing efforts to digitize healthcare processes for the convenience of the public. The introduction of this service allows employees to request sick leave through approved electronic platforms without the requirement of visiting a healthcare center. This change is particularly beneficial for cases where medical consultation is unnecessary, and it aims to ease the strain on primary healthcare centers and medical personnel across the nation, ultimately enhancing the overall quality of healthcare services.
Dr Awadhi also communicated his proposal to amend the Civil Service Council resolution concerning leave durations, regulations and provisions. This proposal encompasses the introduction of sick leave without medical consultation through approved electronic means and establishes guidelines for granting such leave: Full pay for the first 15 days; half pay for the subsequent 15 days; quarter pay for the third 15 days; and leave without pay for the final 15 days. Furthermore, the proposal restricts sick leave granted via electronic means to a maximum of three days per month.
Separately, Interior Minister Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled Al-Sabah on Sunday urged various ministries to speed up linkage with the interior ministry to ensure that expats in the country pay services bills to these ministries. The interior ministry has been leading a campaign to force expats living in the country to pay fines and bills to various ministries before they can leave the country. Last month, the interior ministry said expats must pay traffic tickets before leaving the country. Tickets can be paid online, at offices or at the airport, except tickets for speeding and parking in places allocated for the handicapped, which must be paid at traffic offices.
On Sept 1, the ministry began implementing the same restrictions on expats who do not pay electricity and water bills. And talks have been held to include the ministry of communications to the list. Official sources have revealed the interior ministry is also considering raising the renewal fees for residency permits from the beginning of the next year. They have indicated that a report is currently in preparation and will be submitted to Sheikh Talal for approval. The proposed fee increase is expected to be three times the current amount.
These sources have stated that this decision had been under consideration previously and had been postponed multiple times. However, it is now deemed essential to implement it in order to align with the fees charged in neighboring countries, even though Kuwait’s fees are currently lower. Certain exempted groups will remain unaffected by this fee increase. These include National Guard workers, expatriate military personnel, residents employed in the defense ministry or the interior ministry, GCC nationals and foreign children of Kuwaiti women.
The sources have also noted that the fee increase will encompass all types of residencies, including article 14 (temporary), article 17 for government workers, especially doctors and teachers, article 18 for the private sector, article 20 for domestic helpers, family visas under article 22, and school residency under article 23 for foreign students studying in Kuwait’s universities and schools.