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Lawmakers ask govt to scrap power, fuel hikes

MPs warn to grill premier if demand rejected

KUWAIT: Five opposition lawmakers yesterday signed a draft law calling for abolishing the hike in fuel and power charges and warned that they will grill the prime minister if the government rejects their demand. The bill, signed by Islamist MPs Mohammad Al-Mutair, Mohammad Hayef, Adel Al-Damkhi, Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Abdullah Fahhad, calls for abolishing any hike in fuel, electricity and water prices and makes any future increases linked to the prior approval of the National Assembly.

Mutair later wrote on his Twitter account that the hike in fuel and electricity charges is totally rejected, and “we have submitted a draft law calling for scrapping it”. “If the government opposes the abolishment of the hikes, we will directly grill the prime minister,” Mutair added.

The previous Assembly approved a law earlier this year allowing the government to increase the prices of electricity and water from the middle of this year for commercial shops, government offices and expatriate homes, but excluded Kuwaiti citizens from the hike.

The government also hiked the price of petrol, widely used by motorists in the country, by up to 80 percent and applied the decision in September, triggering a standoff with the previous Assembly that eventually led to the Assembly’s dissolution and holding fresh polls in November. Opposition lawmakers made a strong showing in the election, winning nearly half of the 50 Assembly seats after making abolishing the price increases the top issue in their election campaigns.

Although Kuwaiti citizens were spared from the huge increase in power and water prices, MPs argue that any increase in electricity and petrol prices will reflect negatively on the cost of living and inflation rates in the country, thus affecting citizens. Mutair said the proposed bill also amends a 1995 law that bans the government from raising charges on public services without the prior approval of the Assembly, in order to add petrol and other fuels to the law.

The lawmaker said that any increase in power prices will deal a heavy blow to small enterprises run by young Kuwaitis, charging there are influential people who do not want to see Kuwaiti youth succeed. Another opposition MP Riyadh Al-Adasani is moving in the same direction with a number of other MPs, and will submit a draft law calling for fixing the price of petrol at the levels before the September increase.

The bill also calls for adding petrol to the 1995 law that bans the government from raising the prices of services and products mentioned without the prior approval of the Assembly. The two similar bills are expected to be passed with a huge majority by lawmakers since the issue has massive popular backing. The issue will likely be debated on Jan 10, when the Assembly is scheduled to hold a special discussion on government-sponsored economic reforms. According to the electricity hike law, the increase on expatriates’ homes will come into effect late August. The increase will be huge, especially in the summer months.


By B Izzak

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