Ministry to submit sponsorship study Finance rejects debt interest write-off

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 20: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor plans to present its study to the National Assembly on the sponsorship (kafeel) system and the rights of expatriates, says Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Human Rights and Bedoun Committee, MP Taher Al-Failakawi.

This came after the committee held a meeting Sunday with a number of government authorities to discuss the human rights issue in Kuwait as well the report of international organizations in this regard.
He said the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor has prepared a study on the sponsorship (kafeel) system in the country and the rights of expatriates “and it will submit this study to the Parliament soon as part of government program.”

Al-Failakawi said the committee has also inquired from representatives of Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor about domestic violence in Kuwait.

He explained, though number of domestic violence cases in Kuwait is small, they exist and that there are centers that have been established in the country to shelter victims of domestic violence.
He added the committee also inquired from representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about citizens who are held in Guantanamo. He added, the representatives have requested a special meeting with the committee to discuss this issue.

On another issue, the Interior and Defense Committee of the National Assembly has approved 14 draft proposals and a draft amendment on the law of naturalizing 4,000 bedoun in the country.

This was disclosed by the Rapporteur of the committee Abdullah Al-Tameemi who added the committee will discuss its priorities during its next meeting Sunday and submit them to the Parliament Office.

In another development, MP Khaled Al-Shulaimi announced his intention to submit a grilling request against Minister of Commerce and Industry Anas Al-Saleh on the high price of commodities.

Speaking to reporters, Al-Shulaimi said he has submitted queries to the minister “on real violations committed by the minister since he assumed the ministerial post in February 2012.”

Once again Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mustafa Al-Shamali was attacked by majority lawmakers Sunday for rejecting their proposal to write off accrued interest on consumer loans of citizens owed to local banks.

This happened after the Finance and Economic Committee of the National Assembly held a meeting with the Minister to discuss the bills to write off the interests on loans and reschedule the payment of loans.

After the meeting, Al-Shamali told reporters the government’s position on the loan issue is clear “which is to move on with the Defaulters Fund and reject writing off accrued interests on loans.”

It can be recalled last month the minister was strongly criticized when he stated the government had no intention either to write off the interests on consumer loans or buy their loans because the government had already resolved the issue of the defaulters — about 28,000 citizens — through a fund which was established for that purpose.

The minister made the statement after several lawmakers presented different versions of the bills urging the government to buy the estimated KD 6 billion worth loans of citizens — loans owed to banks and financial companies. Most bills called on the government to waive the accrued interests on these loans and reschedule the payment over a long period of time.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Rapporteur of the committee, MP Safa Al-Hashim said the Finance Minister attended the meeting and read from prepared statement and talked about lack of fairness if the interests on loans are written off. She indicated the Governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait, also in the meeting, explained the total annual increase of the consumer loans.

She added the minister did not present any solutions or proposals on how to tackle the issue. The government has not yet studied the parliamentary bills on this issue “rather, it only explained the financial cost and the government excuse is that if the interests are written off, it will set a precedent.”

She explained mistakes were committed earlier on the loan issue saying “the government was at fault since the Central Bank failed especially from 2002 to 2008 to supervise the banks and the financial companies and calculate the interests on the loans.” She added, however, the current Central Bank Governor has intensified supervision on the banks since April 2008.

She pointed out the committee agreed the government was at fault on the loan issue which will cover about 480 loans and that the committee will draft a law to resolve this problem and will present it to Parliament for approval. She added, Parliament will submit its report in this regard during the next meeting Sunday.

MP Faisal Al-Kandari said he is astonished over government lack of seriousness in resolving the loan issue. He stressed, “In spite of the fact that the Amir has demanded finding a solution to this problem, the government, unfortunately has presented nothing.”

He said the banks had badly exploited the citizens and imposed accumulated interests on them.” So either the government should come out with a solution or the lawmakers should bear their responsibilities,” he added.

He stressed the minister did not come up with anything new “but we will give him a chance until the next meeting because the government wants to study the bills presented by the MPs.”

MP Hussein Al-Qallaf also attacked Al-Shamali for his refusal to write off the interests on loans. He added, if the minister’s refuses to change his stance, the opposition will laugh at both the authorities.
After criticizing the minister on the issue, MP Asker Al-Enzi said they have presented a request to the Speaker of Parliament Ali Al-Rashid calling for a special session to approve the bills to write off the interests in case the Finance Committee fails to come to terms with the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank on the issue.

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff

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