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Only KD 238m budgeted for fuel and gas subsidies – Allocation for treatment abroad slashed in new budget

KUWAIT: Head of the National Assembly’s budgets committee MP Adnan Abdulsamad said yesterday the budget for the 2016/2017 fiscal year includes KD 238 million for subsidies for petroleum and gas products. The amount is far less than the “billions of dinars” which used to be allocated in fuel subsidies in previous years, when the oil price was well over $100 a barrel. The new announcement comes amid reports that the government plans to partially lift subsidies on petrol next month after the Assembly starts its summer recess.

Press reports said yesterday the government plans to raise prices of various grades of petrol by between 40 percent and 80 percent to considerably reduce the amount of subsidies it pays for fuel. Last year, Kuwait completely lifted subsidies on diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel. Abdulsamad said the budget also includes KD 310 million for ration card subsidies offered to Kuwaitis. The amount covers subsidies for food items and construction materials. The committee however urged the ministry of commerce and industry, which oversees ration card subsidies, to review the cost of food items offered to citizens in light of the sharp drop in oil prices and transportation costs.

The new budget also allocates KD 266 million for aid to friendly and sisterly countries, said Abdulsamad, adding that the committee called on the finance ministry to monitor that aid is spent in areas specified by the decisions. Other subsidies in the budget include KD 300 million in social aid to 42,000 recipients, including divorced women or those married to stateless people and others. It also includes KD 125 million for sending patients for medical treatment abroad, far less than over KD 300 million spent in the previous budget.

Abdulsamad said the committee urged the government to carry out a courageous revision of the role of many independent government and semi-government bodies and departments which depend on state funding of more than KD 4.6 billion, which is the main source of the budget deficit estimated at over KD 11 billion in the fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the legal and legislative committee yesterday agreed to lift the parliamentary immunity of lawmaker Abdulhameed Dashti to face interrogation in two new cases, one for violating the electronic crimes law and the second a state security case. Dashti’s immunity has been lifted several times for similar cases, but the public prosecution could not take action against him because he has been living outside the country for several months. The public prosecution has already issued arrest warrants against him over a number of lawsuits, mainly for criticizing Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

By B Izzak

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