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Govt seeks to privatize oil sector as part of reforms; Kuwait to tackle population imbalance, mulls quotas

KUWAIT: A top finance ministry official yesterday said Kuwait is going ahead with the privatization of its oil sector and will offering a portion of its shares to the public as part of the state’s privatization program, similar to the plan by Saudi Aramco announced in April. “This plan will also enable Gulf and foreign investors to bid for part of the offered shares in the Kuwait market,” Finance Ministry Undersecretary Khalifa Hamada said.

While Hamada did not set a date for the underwriting, he said offering oil sector shares to citizens and investors is within the projects and plans of Kuwaiti programs like the rest of the GCC countries to strengthen citizen and private sector participation and reduce the burden on the state’s general budget. He said Kuwait plans to establish companies whose shares will be put up for public underwriting or for foreign investors, and other shares will be for citizens.

“This move may be like the Saudi offering of a percentage of Aramco shares. Oil prices have dropped and indicators show the slump may last five more years. These forecasts are by most financial bodies including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, who expect oil prices will not exceed $50 a barrel, so we have adopted our reforms based on these figures,” Hamada said.

As for Gulf investments in Britain after it voted to leave the EU, he said “it is for sure that we will be affected by the lack of clarity, as there are indicators that the British economy will shrink”. He said that the government makes its investments through its investment office in London, adding measures to counter the risks will be an internal matter according to the investments and their size.

Separately, informed sources said development projects and the imbalance in the population structure will be the issues that will receive most attention by the government in the summer recess, as meetings by committees will be intensified to prepare follow-up reports and plans so they are ready by the Cabinet at the start of National Assembly’s new term in October.

The sources said Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Planning and Development Hind Al-Subaih will be involved in intensive meetings with the committee preparing the plan to deal with the population structure with the participation of senior officials at the social affairs, interior and other ministries, in addition to the Civil Service Commission and manpower restructuring department.

The sources said a comprehensive report by Subaih to present solutions to deal with the population structure will be ready at the Cabinet by November to be discussed by the government to seek legislations from the Assembly when necessary to implement the recommendations, especially since dealing with the population structure requires changes in the laws of importing workers and terminating and deporting them.

The sources said the government’s decision to curtail expats in government departments will be implemented and exemptions will only be for specialties still needed by ministries, adding that this aims at setting quotas for each nationality. This means hiring doctors for the health ministry will not be limited to one country only, as it is noted a concentration is on Egyptian doctors, so if hospitals need 1,000 new doctors, then they will be hired from various countries, as each nationality will be limited to 10 percent for example, and the same goes for other specialties.

By A Saleh

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