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Kuwait picks acting Finance Minister after Al-Shamali quits-KUNA

Kuwait-acting Finance Minister after Al-Shamali quits-KUNA

Hajraf is education minister; Finance Minister resigned after opposition attack; Political upheaval in three-month-old government

May 29, 2012 12:08 by

Kuwait has appointed Nayef al-Hajraf as the country’s acting finance minister, state news agency KUNA said on Monday, after his predecessor Mustapha al-Shamali quit amid allegations of financial irregularities in his departments.

Political upheaval has become common in the major oil producer and OPEC member in recent years, holding up decisions on large investment projects and putting off foreign investors, analysts and bankers say.

Kuwait ushered in its fourth parliament in six years after a snap election in February.

Shamali denied all allegations of mismanagement on his watch but stepped down last Thursday after opposition lawmakers accused him in parliament of failing to deal with alleged irregularities in his departments.

Hajraf, who is higher education minister, replaces Mustapha al-Shamali on an interim basis, KUNA reported, citing the outcome of a government cabinet meeting. A more permanent replacement is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, according to Kuwaiti media.

Shamali, 69, had served as finance minister from 2007 and worked in the ministry for more than four decades. His resignation is another sign of political discord between the government and parliament.

Opposition candidates, mainly Islamists, won a majority of seats in the February parliamentary ballot, which was triggered by another political row between the government and parliament.

Kuwait’s market index lost 1 percent, falling to a six-week low as political instability in the country weighed on sentiment.

“The problematic relationship between the government and parliament is indirectly impacting the economy by crippling the development plan,” said Safaa Zbib, head of research at Kuwait and Middle East Financial Investment Co.

Opposition lawmakers have accused the government of mismanaging deals and revenues, which mainly come from the oil sector. The government rejects this and says the opposition is absorbed with scoring political points and settling scores.

While Kuwait has one of the most open systems of government in the Gulf region, political parties are banned and opposition politicians instead form blocs in parliament.

Kuwait’s 50-member parliament is elected, while the country’s ruler selects the prime minister who in turn appoints a 15-member cabinet.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall in Kuwait, additional reporting by Nadia Saleem in Dubai; Editing by Amran Abocar)

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