By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The National Assembly holds crucial regular sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday with populist demands on top of the agenda, the first litmus test between opposition MPs and the government, described as reformist by lawmakers. The Assembly is scheduled to debate several draft laws including a controversial bill supported by an overwhelming majority of MPs calling for debt relief for Kuwaiti citizens.
The government is strongly opposed to the draft law, saying it is too expensive for state coffers to bear, saying bank loans owed by over half a million Kuwaiti citizens exceed KD 14.7 billion. MPs however insist that the draft law is not too expensive because it deals with only personal and consumer loans taken from local banks, which amount to less than KD 2 billion.
Moreover, MPs add, under the law, the government is required to purchase the capital of the loans, scrap the interest and then deduct KD 120 per month from debtors, which is the amount paid by the government as cost-of-living allowance. Citizens who have not taken loans will continue to receive their allowance. A minority of lawmakers are also opposed to the law, saying it violates the rules of equality among people and can affect local banks.
MPs backing the draft law called on citizens to attend the session and vowed they will support the law. MP Faisal Al-Kandari urged Kuwaiti people to attend in large numbers, adding he will support populist laws including the purchase of loans, repayment of illegal interest, raising the pensions of retired citizens and others.
MP Shuaib Shaaban also vowed to support draft legislation that help improve the standard of living of citizens, in addition to draft laws that stipulate key political reforms, especially amending the election law and establishing an independent election commission.
MP Khaled Al-Otaibi said he is confident that a majority of lawmakers will vote for the laws, which will improve the standard of living of Kuwaiti citizens, and also for political reforms. He urged the government to accept the laws. The government had urged lawmakers to study such laws more carefully because they will overburden the state budget, which has been posting deficits for several years.