Kuwaiti govt walks out to nix pay hike vote


To override the government rejection and impose the law on the government, MPs needed to approve the law with a two-third majority which they comfortably had. Speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi ordered the vote to be taken despite government appeals that it be postponed for at least two weeks so the issue can be discussed in the Assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee.


As the secretary general began calling names, the prime minister and the defense minister stood up and headed towards the exit. They were followed by other ministers with State Minister for Housing Abdulwahed Al-Awadhi the last one to leave the hall. As soon as the last minister left the chamber, Khorafi called off the voting and then adjourned the session to allow the government and MPs talk the matter over. Half an hour later, Khorafi tried to resume the session but no minister returned, so he immediatel

y adjourned the session until today.


Under Kuwaiti law, for an Assembly session to convene legally, there must be at least one minister in attendance. The absence of all ministers means there is no quorum for the session to be held. Before the vote, Finance Minister Mustafa Al-Shammali warned MPs that approving further increases will overburden and strain state finances, insisting the KD 120 approved by the government was sufficient.


He said the KD 120 increase for Kuwaitis and KD 50 hike for expats working in the government would cost the state KD 1.018 billion and that the wages bill will be more than 50 percent of the budget. Following the session, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Faisal Al-Hajji told reporters the government will attend the session today and will demand postponing the voting for two weeks. He insisted that legal procedures were violated when the voting took place because the issue was not on the Assembly agenda i

n the beginning and thus the government has the right to demand postponing it for two weeks.


The increase fell below the ambition of parliament… inflation has reached 7 percent and we will insist on a vote in the next session," lawmaker Jamal Al-Omar later told reporters. More than 90 percent of the national work force is employed by the government in clerical and largely unproductive jobs. For decades of oil plenty, such jobs have been seen as a way of distributing oil wealth, but it has become difficult now to provide all Kuwaiti graduates with such jobs.


Efforts to attract young Kuwaitis to more demanding private sector jobs have been met with only modest success. The private sector is dominated by more than 2 million foreign workers. "We face a challenge of turning Kuwait from a temporary country to a permanent one," independent economist Jassem Al-Saadoun told a seminar on the country’s future Monday. He described the hikes proposed by the legislative and executive branches as an "auction" for selling the country’s assets.


Cutting the Assembly session short prevented opening a debate on the sensitive issue of the mourning rally of former Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyah as a number of MPs had planned to file a motion for a debate. The two MPs who took part in the wake, Adnan Abdulsamad and Ahmad Lari, both attended the session from the start and the issue was not at all raised.


Later, MP Saadoun Hammad said they decided not to debate the issue now and delay it until the public prosecution requests the lifting of parliamentary immunity of the two MPs to be interrogated. Assembly officials introduced tight security measures ahead and during the session and only authorized people and journalists were allowed entry into the Assembly parking. Nevertheless, a good number of people, including many women, were in the gallery.


In a related development, secret service agents yesterday arrested former Shiite MP Nasser Sorkhouh on orders by the public prosecution for interrogation over his participation in the mourning rally of Mughniyah. Sorkhouh is among six new men who have been summoned to the public prosecution for interrogation. Three other men have been in custody for several days over the same issue.


Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Khaled Al-Sabah yesterday said that the ministry is acting on orders of the pubic prosecution. He declined to confirm or deny statements attributed to him by the local press that Kuwait plans to deport expatriates who took part in the mourning rally.

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