KUWAIT: Lawmakers yesterday called for forming a strong and competent new Cabinet in order to be able to deal with the dangerous escalation in regional tensions and internal conflict within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). A senior opposition lawmaker meanwhile urged MPs to suspend all planned grillings at the time being in consideration of the dangerous political situation in the region and the possible disintegration of the GCC.

Other lawmakers said that the new Cabinet must retain a number of efficient ministers in the outgoing Cabinet. In an appeal to both the new prime minister and lawmakers, leading Islamist opposition MP Adel Al-Damkhi called for taking into consideration the future of Kuwait amid a grave situation that could see the collapse of the GCC, which has acted as a strong protection for Kuwait.

He said the country is facing clear political and economic challenges that HH the Amir cautioned of in his address at the opening of the National Assembly term last week. He urged the new prime minister to take his time in selecting capable and efficient members for his Cabinet and to avoid including ministers who initiate problems.

Damkhi urged the next prime minister to pick up statesmen and decision-makers who work to serve the interests of the country and not their selfish interests. He also urged lawmakers to delay all planned grillings at this stage and focus attention on legislation and approving issues that are needed urgently. Damkhi called for holding frank discussions with HH the Amir over the prevailing situation and also to allocate Thursdays to hold an Assembly session to evaluate the functioning of ministers.

Opposition MP Mohammad Al-Dallal said the methodology of selecting ministers has proven to be futile in the past and this policy must change in favor of selecting capable and competent ministers who can deal effectively with the Assembly. He said if the same selection process is used, it will lead to the same deadlock and political crises, adding that the next Cabinet must give priority to the security issue and be prepared to face regional risks.

National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem adjourned the Assembly session yesterday after the government abstained from attending. Under Kuwaiti law, at least one minister must be present for an Assembly session to be legal. Ghanem had said he will not call for new sessions before the new Cabinet is formed.

Meanwhile, rapporteur of the foreign relations committee MP Mohammad Al-Huwailah said yesterday that his panel has asked the financial and economic affairs committee to review two agreements of the GCC regarding value-added tax (VAT) and selective excise taxes. The two agreements must be approved by the Assembly to become law. GCC states have agreed to impose five percent VAT on products and services in 2018. Some countries have decided to start from January next year, while others are implementing it later. The excise taxes include raising taxes on tobacco and energy drinks by 100 percent and soft drinks by 50 percent. Saudi Arabia and UAE have already applied this tax.

By B Izzak