MP urges debate over scrapping petrol hike

KUWAIT: Opposition MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari yesterday began collecting signatures of other lawmakers on a request to debate a report by the financial and economic affairs committee over scrapping the hike in petrol prices. Kandari demanded in his request that the report of the committee be debated urgently and approved during the National Assembly’s opening session of the next term on Oct 24.

The government raised the petrol prices last year by up to 80 percent, and its decision was met with strong opposition by the previous Assembly and later by the current Assembly elected in Nov 2016. The government utilized a loophole in a law issued in 1995 that bans the government from raising prices of charges on public services, except all types of fuels.

Several months ago, a number of MPs submitted an amendment to the law to plug the loophole by making any increase in fuel prices to be carried out in accordance with the law and after the approval of the Assembly. An attempt to get the government decision scrapped by court has failed, after top courts rejected the move.

Meanwhile, Islamist MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei yesterday sent a series of questions to Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh about reports of an imminent merger between two Islamic banks. Tabtabaei asked the minister if the two banks have submitted an application for their impending merger either to the Central Bank or the Capital Markets Authority. He demanded a copy of the request if any, and if the two banks have not filed any request, what would be the procedures.

The lawmaker asked the minister if trading in the shares of the two banks has been suspended and for how long. Tabtabaei asked if Kuwait Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, has appointed any advisor to study the merger and demanded a copy of the contract with the advisor and its technical reasons. He asked about the government’s stake in the two banks before and after the merger. He also inquired if the Central Bank has imposed any conditions on the planned merger. Tabtabaei asked if the government has received any offer from any side to buy its stakes in one or both banks.

By B Izzak

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