Incoming Kuwati legislators appear likely to push for tariff increases

A new slate of Kuwaiti lawmakers appears ready to push for imposing increases to existing water and electricity tariffs in the country, despite widespread opposition.

A curiously worded report on the Middle Eastern news service Zawya.com says incoming legislators will “push for grilling episodes with the aim of creating tension and threat.”

The report also says Kuwaiti MP Mohammed Al-Mutair “disclosed his readiness to propose appropriate amendment to Law No. 20/2016 concerning the electricity tariff raise.”

“Increasing electricity and water tariffs is not just an executive action of the Ministry of Electricity and Water, but an act that concerns the state’s public policies and affects various areas,” Al-Mutair said, according to Arab News.

The report also remarks somewhat cryptically on the intentions of officials at the Ministry of Health to “embark on comprehensive procedures toward reforming overseas medical treatment file (sic) through major reshuffle (sic) and change (sic) of employees in the sector starting from the top echelon to the lowest.”

For additional analysis, the Gulf News Journal turned to Kalpana Krishnadas, assistant manager of Investment Research & Analytics at the research firm Aranca. Krishnadas has worked in several sectors in the Middle East for leading sell- and buy-side research firms. She currently supports a leading investment firm in researching GCC markets and identifying appropriate investment opportunities.

Krishnadas said the issue of whether to change or increase tariffs is one that has kept Kuwaitis on edge.

“We believe that the citizens of Kuwait are currently in a state of concern, with the expectation of significant hikes in electricity tariffs and fuel prices in the near term," she said.

Krishnadas said the issue is part of an ongoing strategy begun by previous lawmakers.

“The intent of new lawmakers at the start of the new parliamentary term is similar to an earlier one, which is expected to renew tensions,” Krishnadas said. “We believe appropriate amendments to laws and clear disclosure on the issues related to citizenship, reform, and an increase in electricity tariff and fuel prices would help to improve the tense situation. Separately, the health minister’s intention to appoint a specialized committee on overseas medical treatment would help to make the process faster and smoother, and provide a positive message to the citizens.”

A Gulf News piece from April makes things a bit clearer, indicating that a previous move to increase prices was to be enacted only on foreign residents and commercial payers

The article cites commentary from two opposing lawmakers: Shiite MP Saleh Ashour, who called the proposal “the biggest crime against citizens and expatriates,” and Independent MP Jamal Al Omar, who said the government is “incapable of managing the country.”

The effort to balance the Kuwaiti economy is an ongoing flashpoint for the country, but whether a new slate of politicians will be able to implement changes remains to be seen.
 

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