MPs overwhelmingly approve amended early retirement law

Bill passes after government agrees to 2% cut in pensions

KUWAIT: The National Assembly yesterday overwhelmingly passed an amended early retirement law in the first reading despite opposition by several MPs to the legislation that allows Kuwaiti civil servants to retire early against a small reduction in pension. Forty MPs including all Cabinet ministers present voted in favor of the law, while 16 lawmakers, all opposition members, voted against the law which was amended through cooperation between the government and the Assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee.

A number of MPs who voted for the law said their approval is conditional to changing several provisions before sending the law for the second and final round of voting, expected within the next two weeks. The law allows Kuwaiti citizens to seek early retirement five years ahead of the official retirement age of 55 years for men and 50 years for women, but only after accepting to reduce their pension by two percent for each year. The government had demanded a five percent reduction initially, but agreed to the two percent cut and said it will pay the remaining three percent to the social security agency.

In the previous term, the Assembly overwhelmingly approved the original early retirement law, but it was rejected by the government, which demanded some amendments to accept it. Finance Minister Nayef Al-Hajraf told the Assembly the new version does not disrupt the retirement system and insisted that retirement is optional and not mandatory. He said the new law does not take away any benefit from thousands of people who retired before this law, adding that the costs of the law will be borne by the social security agency.

The minister said that the two-percent reduction was introduced because the government does not want to see many civil servants seek early retirement, as the state needs their expertise. Hajraf said the law allows the 350,000 government employees to reap the benefits of the law, adding that 6,700 single women will benefit from its provisions, adding that men and women are treated equally by the law.

Head of the financial committee MP Salah Khorshed said that as many as 7,600 employees will be able to seek early retirement without having to cut their pensions. He said the law is one of the biggest achievements of the Assembly. But opponents said the amendments, sponsored by the government, to the law have rendered the law useless and without any benefit. Several MPs called for voting again on the law.

At the start of the session, the Assembly accepted a request by the rain investigation committee to seek the assistance of the Audit Bureau to prepare a study on the technical, financial and legal subjects related to the rain issue. During the debate, Public Works Minister Hossam Al-Roumi said he has tendered his resignation to the Cabinet and is awaiting its response. The minister resigned after heavy rains last month.

By B Izzak

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