MP Omar Al-Tabtabaei

KUWAIT: MP Omar Al-Tabtabaei yesterday called on Finance Minister Nayef Al-Hajraf to pay greater attention over what he claims are a host of violations in Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), the country's sovereign fund which manages over $600 billion in assets. The lawmaker alleged that a number of senior officials at KIA made highly suspicious deals that contradict their positions and undermine public finances.

He cited the example of an official who ordered the establishment of a $500 million equity fund without proper studies that eventually led to losses of around $80 million. Some officials, Tabtabaei claimed, had ordered key investments in projects that they were personally involved in, an example of conflict of interest. He said that officials at KIA had refused to answer some of his questions addressed to the minister under the pretext they are unconstitutional, adding they did not want to reveal important information.

The lawmaker also claimed that managers of investment portfolios received highly exaggerated fees for their work and when other officials scrutinized them, they saved $30 million. He called on the minister to pay greater attention to such managers because they manage around $300 billion without committing to basic standards.

Meanwhile, MP Saleh Ashour yesterday submitted a proposal calling on the government to forgive outstanding debt of citizens after their death. He said many Kuwaiti citizens are repaying government debt resulting from housing loans or commitments to the pension agency or others. He said after their death, their debts are paid by their wives or children or other close relatives. Ashour said the government should forgive such debts of Kuwaiti citizens after their death, adding this will relieve inheritors of huge financial burdens. A number of MPs are currently campaigning to press the government to drop billions of dinars in consumer loans for Kuwaiti citizens.

The Assembly's financial and economic affairs committee did not meet yesterday to finalize the early retirement law to be presented for final approval to the Assembly on Jan 30. The panel did not convene because the finance minister did not attend, as he has traveled as part of the Kuwaiti delegation to attend an Arab economic summit in Lebanon. MP Ali Al-Deqbasi however said that the committee still has ample time to finalize the law before the Jan 30 session and called on its members to complete the law.

By B Izzak