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Why Kuwait’s political infighting is leaving its economic plans on ice


Political infighting between the parliament and government has forced the resignation of two cabinet ministers in less than a month and threatens to draw in more of their cabinet colleagues.


June 15, 2012 6:25 by

A Kuwaiti walks into a lost and found bureau and says he is searching for the Gulf state’s vaunted 30 billion dinar ($107 billion) economic development plan.


The cartoon in the Kuwait Times captures frustration at a long-running political row which has engulfed the major oil producer, distracting from economic reforms and stalling legislation.


Political infighting between the parliament and government has forced the resignation of two cabinet ministers in less than a month and threatens to draw in more of their cabinet colleagues.


The minister for social affairs and labour resigned this week and the finance minister quit last month after a questioning session in parliament led by opposition lawmakers.


The opposition MPs, who hold a majority in parliament, are mulling similar sessions for the oil minister, interior minister and defence minister over different issues. Such grillings may end in a confidence vote which could force ministers out of office.


“The political situation in Kuwait is hindering economic development because to unleash Kuwait’s economic potential you really need to make progress on the development plan,” Farouk Soussa, Middle East chief economist at Citi in Dubai, said.


The development plan aims to draw in private investment for huge infrastructure projects and help Kuwait’s economy diversify. The larger multi-billion-dollar projects include a new airport terminal and oil refinery.


Progress is slow because by-laws needed for the plan have to pass through parliament and the current political gridlock makes this impossible, Soussa said.


“We think there are going to be more resignations and that we are going to see further political instability.”


Opposition, mainly Islamist MPs, emboldened by regional upheaval and their electoral success, have been using these tactics more frequently and making demands for cabinet posts.


At present Kuwait’s ruler picks the prime minister who in turn selects a cabinet. Political parties are banned so MPs rely on forming blocs.


Tensions between Kuwait’s elected parliament and the cabinet have brought years of political turmoil to the OPEC member state but the current crisis, less than four months after a snap election, has developed quickly even by Kuwaiti standards.

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1 Comment

  1. dismanirie on June 16, 2012 1:18 pm

    Why is a parliament required if the emir can pick the prime minister who then appoints the cabinet? What a waste of energy and money.

    Either move to a fully democratic system, where the emir remains head of state and the government is elected by the voters, or revert to the old “benevolent dictatorship” model, and convert parliament into a sort of Shoura Council, which can give opinions reflecting electorate concerns but is powerful to influence decisions.

    Kuwait has lost decades of growth and development as a result of its poorly conceived “democracy”.


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