Kuwait MPs unanimously call for restoring diesel, kerosene subsidy

Cabinet ministers did not object to resolution

KUWAIT CITY - Kuwait's parliament unanimously called on the government Thursday to restore subsidies on diesel and kerosene barely two weeks after scrapping them following price hikes to several products.
A non-binding resolution called on the authorities to "suspend raising the prices of diesel and kerosene until a comprehensive study" is carried out on the issue.
Cabinet ministers present in the session did not object to the resolution, and Oil Minister Ali al-Omair said the government will do "whatever possible" on the issue.
The oil-rich Gulf state tripled the prices of diesel and kerosene from the start of the year as the first step of measures to cut spending in the wake of falling oil income, which makes up 95 percent of public revenues.
The measure resulted in price rises for several goods and services, which angering deputies, who demanded an urgent parliamentary debate.
During the debate, MPs strongly criticised the government for lifting the subsidies and failing to prevent price hikes.
A number of MPs threatened to grill the prime minister and the minister of commerce over the price rises.
Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh told parliament the government has cracked down on companies and commercial activities that increased prices. He said 13 companies have been shut and more than 100 others referred to prosecutors.
Saleh said that subsidies on fuel and services rose from around $3 billion (2.5 billion euros) in the 2004/2005 fiscal year to $16 billion in the latest fiscal year.
Diesel and kerosene subsidies accounted for just under $1 billion, he said.
The minister said that because of the sharp decline in oil prices, Kuwait is likely to post a budget deficit sooner than 2017, as projected by the International Monetary Fund.
The price of Kuwaiti oil closed Wednesday at $38.90 a barrel from an average of $103 a barrel last year.
Kuwait has boasted a budget surplus in each of the past 15 fiscal years, helping to increase its sovereign wealth fund to more than $500 billion, according to unofficial estimates.