PM meets Editors in Chief, discusses development plan

By Mona Sheshtar and Nouri Al Ustaz KUWAIT, July 7 (KUNA) His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah stressed the government is keen on accomplishing the state’s set development plan and is stressing cooperation among all state bodies and diligent effort to work out difficulties as means towards that end.

His Highness was addressing a press conference he held with Editors in Chief of local papers, and stressed all due effort shall be exerted and all due cooperation shall be within the framework of the constitution.

The government shall respect all supervisory tools used by Members of Parliament (MPs) and would cooperate with them “and would not allow differences and conflicts stall development or cause tension in the relationship between the two authorities, and we have relentless determination to overcome all hurdles.” His Highness expressed thanks to the Almighty for blessing the state “with guidance and strength to utilize constitutional tools, and coordinate their usage as well as coordinate efforts by the civil community institutions and all groups within Kuwaiti society, and investing all that to serve the homeland and push forward development and bring about prosperity.” His Highness also expressed appreciation to Their Highnesses the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah and His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah for their great and continued support to all authorities and for their wise counsel which bolster national action and protect it against shortcomings that could lead to deviation from the set path.

The premier also expressed appreciation for the constructive effort of MPs and the time they put in “to enable as much achievement as possible.” The judicial authority efforts also merit appreciation, as it maintains law and order and justice even in the face of challenge.

As for the role of media, His Highness hailed the achievement and performance and pioneering role of media in Kuwait. He specifically hailed media institutions’ cooperation to support and maintain the political track.

“I address you here today as we look back on a very sensitive stage, and the last few months saw great and most serious and keen effort to maintain the homeland’s best interest on the long run.

“It is crucial now to look back and assess what has been achieved throughout last year before we all go on summer break; the achievements have been unique and of great weight if considered within the perspective of Kuwait’s political history,” His Highness remarked.

“For the first time, we have an agreed strategic vision that shall guide our policies till the year 2035, drafted in consultation with His Highness the Amir and by national and international experts. This shall serve as framework for the efforts of the current and coming governments as they seek to meet the expectations of the people.” His Highness remarked, “This is the first time in our legislative history for parliament to unanimously pass the development plan for the next four years,” and “the process of realizing this blueprint is to go according to a clear methodology approved by the constitutional institutions and realized through cooperation and integration of initiatives by all economic and social sectors.”

His Highness remarked, “This is the first time in our legislative history for parliament to unanimously pass the development plan for the next four years,” and “the process of realizing this blueprint is to go according to a clear methodology approved by the constitutional institutions and realized through cooperation and integration of initiatives by all economic and social sectors.” “The approved plan would put us on the right path towards economic development and help achieve our ambitions. And through the plan, we would determine and fund several hundred projects and initiatives, and the state treasury would spend great sums, and all would, God willing, lead to improvement in the state’s infrastructure and improve general services.” The premier pointed out several legislations passed to meet the demands of development and the challenge facing the state, including laws on the monetary authority, privatization, rights of those with special needs, and labor.

Cooperation between the government and MPs was manifested when the government did not oppose several grilling requests, though some had crossed the lines set by the constitution and the constitutional court, and the government passed all grillings, which were both frequent and serious.

The premier finally prayed the Almighty bless all in the state with wisdom and continued resolve to best serve the homeland and the people’s interests under the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir and the Crown Prince.

The conference was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Minister of State for Development Affairs and Minister of State for Housing Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al Ahmad Al Sabah, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Roudhan Abdel Aziz Al Roudhan, Minister of Oil and Information Sheikh Ahmad Al Abdullah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, Minister of Finance Mustafa Al Shimali, Minister of Communication and Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Mohammad Al Busairi, Minister of Commerce and Industry Ahmad Al Haroun, Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs Dr. Fadhel Safar, Minister of Electricity and Water Dr. Bader Al Shuraian and Minister of Health Dr. Hilal Al Sayer.

For his part, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad said the meeting is follow up to previous meetings that have been regularly held by the HH the prime minister with “the media family and the fourth authority,” indicating that it is intended for “consultations and relay of information regarding the government recent activities.” He affirmed that the talks dealt with the government “road map” for integrated development schemes aimed at restoring Kuwait’s leading status in the region so “it might become a financial and commercial hub.” The government has succeeded, in coordination with the parliament, in thrashing out various legislative issues related to the infrastructure, he said. “We hope that we have taken the first step on the path of the one thousand miles journey,” he added.

The minister indicated at the adoption of the government long term, medium term plans, the 2010 2011 development scheme, backed with the necessary legislations, as well several laws related to the privatization, the cases of special needs and housing during the latest legislative term of the National Assembly.

The government ministers have worked collectively, dividing the 2010 2011 strategy into three sub plans, topped by the stratgic projects, Sheikh Ahmad elaborated

Dealing with the implementation of the development plan, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad said: “Before talking about the advantages, let’s talk about the obstacles lying ahead.

“Bureaucracy always constitutes a real bottleneck for carrying out any development project. Yet, we have adopted a new approach which, God willing will help overcome these obstacles and facilitate the implementation of a rage of key projects in the areas of housing, healthcare, transport and ports.

“The government has finalized the building of four housing cities, namely Sheikh Saad, Sheikh Sabah, Sheikh Jaber, and West Solaibkhat cities.” Sheikh Ahmad highly appreciated the efforts made by the Ministry of Public Works in carrying out the major projects in the transport and ports domains.

“Today, in the presence of HH the Prime Minister, we celebrate the signing of contracts on launching the Mubarak Al Kabir and the Boubyan ports,” he said. “We also inspected the expansion of Sheikh Jaber Hospital where the developer is striving to finalize the project at an early date. The Minister of Health (Dr. Hilal Al Sayer) instructed the senior leaders of his ministry to step up the launching of 11 hospitals which will be put up for tendering late this year.

“The Ministry of Public Works and global consultancy firms signed contracts on launching four other hospitals the first of which, with a bed capacity ranging between 350 and 400 beds, will be cast for tendering in October.

The four hospitals and the Police Hospital will relieve the burdens on the country’s current 11 hospitals,” Sheikh Ahmad revealed.

As for the transport projects, he said a contract has been signed on building the United Nations Road. The upgrading of Jamal Abdul Nasser Road, the First and Fifth ring roads, and Al Sabiyah Road is in the offing.

“The capacity of the air and sea ports has been expanded through ambitious projects involving Kuwait International Airport and Boubyan Seaport.

“The Ministry of Communication scaled up efforts to finalize the draft bill on the launching of a transport authority,” Sheikh Ahmad disclosed

Regarding industry, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad said: “It is an essential part of the development plan. The country will depend on the manufacturing industry as one of the most important sources of non oil income in the period ahead.” “The government is building the infrastructure of new industrial zones. The development plan envisages launching 14 major construction projects. We expect that contracts of the development of such projects to take place by next February,” he said.

“The plan also envisages setting up five public shareholding companies and a shareholding company for low cost housing projects. We are studying the funding for these projects,” he pointed out.

Dealing with the issue of power supplies, Sheikh Ahmad said: “The construction of Al Sabiya power station has been completed. We will get the first 1,000 megawatts from the station in early 2011.” “We are poised to put up for tendering a public shareholding company for launching Al Zour station. This could take place by the end of 2010,” the minister predicted.

“There are other medium size projects which will add 6,300 megawatts to the country’s power generating capacity and 300 million gallons to the water supplies a day. As for tourist and leisure facilities, Sheikh Ahmad said they constituted an integral part of the development plan.

“We coordinated with the Touristic Enterprises Company (TEC) for launching 14 touristic projects in the coming three years after raising the capital of TEC from KD 15 million to KD 50 million,” the minister pointed out.

“Coordination is also underway with Kuwait International Fair Company and the public utilities Co. for launching the fairground project and other key projects under the BOT system.

“The State of Kuwait is competing with the other sisterly GCC countries to become an international commercial and financial hub as per the instructions of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah ,” he went on to say.

Commenting on the law to restructure the state departments, Sheikh Ahmad said the process will start only after finalizing the semi annual report as per the provisions of the law.

“We are about to finalize the quarterly report which will be turned over to the cabinet in mid July. When complete, the report will be made public in a transparent way according to the instructions of HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

“The report, to serve as nucleus for the semi annual report, will then be referred to the brother MPs who will debate it before developing the necessary administrative and legislative measures,” he noted.

Sheikh Ahmad added that the government was working out new tools for financing the projects involving the shareholding companies, noting that five, out of the 14 such companies envisaged in the development plan, would come to existence soon.

“Due to the funding strains brought about by the global financial crisis, we are trying to leverage the returns of all the new projects to 16 percent.

“As the public would own up to 50 percent of the stocks of these projects, the projects would be of great benefit for both the country and the citizen investors. “This is why we try to find out new tools to support the banks funding the projects. The issue is being discussed by the members of the parliamentary committee on financial and economic affairs,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Minister of Public Works and Minster of State for Municipal Affairs Dr. Fadhel Safar said the implementation of the infrastructure and development projects went very well as per schedule.

“The Ministry of Public Works is receiving bids to develop and run a range of new projects under the BOT system in the domain of services, complexes, drainage and waste recycling.

“These projects are expected to have positive impacts on the state revenues, ” the minister pointed out.

On his part, Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Roudhan Abdulaziz Al Roudhan said the government sticks to the principle of separation between jurisdiction of the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities according to Article 50 of the Constitution.

“Despite the emergence of some disagreements, the executive authority is keen on pursuing cooperation with the legislative authority while exercising its mandate,” Al Roudhan affirmed.

Asked about the purported overlap between the mandates of the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Kuwait, Minister of Finance Mustafa Al Shimali said: “There is close coordination between the two sides regarding the fiscal policy of the country.” Admitting that some of the planned projects are too huge to be developed by small firms or contractors, the minister said the government was mulling involving the stumbling large size firms instead of launching new shareholding companies.

“The projects, to be developed under the BOT system, will not be open for the developers listed on Kuwait Stock Exchange only as they could require the involvement of a strategic partner from inside or outside Kuwait,” he noted.

Al Shimali added that the projects would have high financial returns particularly the planned power company to be cast for tendering in the coming four or five years.

For his part, Minister of Electricity and Water Bader Al Shuraiaan said his ministry has an old study pertinent to the category system as regards the estimation of power and water consumption cost.

He said the study in question would “see light shortly”, noting that the said system is put in place in all other Gulf nations.

The study, in its final shape, would be taken to the cabinet soon as a prelude to sending it to the National Assembly (parliament) for further deliberations and then approval in the form of a law, he said.

But, he said HH the premier had instructed that the category system, once put in place, should not touch low income groups.

“The citizens will continue footing the bill by paying just a couple of fils for electricity and water consumption, while the second category will apply to some investment and trade facilities,” he reminded.

Asked about the use of public shareholding companies in running power plans, the minister said most world countries, together with all other Gulf countries, allow their public sector to manage their power plants, or ask the private sector to do the job under the ITT or IWTT systems.

The first project to be subject to Law 39/2010 on public shareholding companies for power and water production is the northern Al Zur electricity station, which will be carried out through four stages, he said.

The plant will generate 1,500 megawatts in the first and second stages, 1, 800 megawatts in the third stage and 4,800 megawatts in the fourth stage, the minister said. The plant, once operational, will produce 200 million water gallons, up 50 percent over the country’s current 400 million megawatt production, he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Minister of Commerce and Industry Ahmad Al Haroun, elaborating on the position of the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE), believed that an injection of funds, even by 10 percent, into the market would be fruitless, given that some companies have lost roughly 75 percent of their capital.

But, he said the government would seek to find a set of solutions to corporate bankruptcies, through the Capital Market Authority.

For his part, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Minister of State for Development Affairs and Minister of State for Housing Affairs Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al Sabah said: “Although we are convinced that the market will improve by one way or another through our legal and legislative tools, in addition to other diverse market instruments, a package of edicts is still to be made in an effort to shore up those companies which have positive cash sufficiency.” A congenial atmosphere ought to be provided for real estate, service, banking and productive sectors in order to be able to recover immediately, he requested.

Asked about national unity, he said: “It is the main concern of the government, HH the Amir and HH the Prime Minister.” He quoted the country’s high level leadership as calling for, on several occasions, maintaining and safeguarding national unity.

He said national unity can be protected by taking adequate legal measures against anybody that seek to jeopardize the country’s national fabric.

A relevant committee involving competent figures is to be set up, Sheikh Ahmad unfolded.

“A joint action involving the government, fourth authority (media) and the legislative as well as the Kuwaiti citizen is required for keeping national unity intact,” he argued.

Acknowledging that national unity is now apparently in jeopardy, the minister vowed that relevant fears would be quenched soon.

On Kuwait’s national development drive, he said the government has spent a lot of money on planned development projects by signing multimillion contracts with executors, adding that the government is going to spend a total of KD five billion on development enterprises.

Regarding the state of the stock market, Minister of Commerce and Industry Ahmad Al Haroun said the government attached great importance to the KSE which “is reflective of many things.” “The KSE does not operate remotely of the world’s stock markets. The entire world has been suffering from the impacts of the economic downturn since mid 2008.

“The 220 KSE listed investors made excellent results in 2008 but the results of the following year reflected the challenging conditions undergone by the firms,” Al Haroun recalled.

“The KSE suspended trading in stocks of 66 firms which failed to announce their financial results,” he said, noting that the stock market pinned hopes on a range of regulatory measures including the launching of the Capital Market Authority (CMA).

“The planned authority will be equipped with legal tools to solve the numerous problems of the market. The law, establishing CMA, consists of 45 penal articles which will enable the authority exercise its regulatory and legislative mandate and bring to book the law violating traders.

“The government started injecting to the authority which will have a positive impact on the stock market,” Al Haroun pointed out.

Asked the impacts of industry on environment, he said: “Under the instructions of HH the Amir and HH the Prime Minister, the government licensed the launching of 110 new environment friendly industrial firms with investments amounting to KD 600 million.” He added the development plan envisaged raising the percentage of industry in the GDP from 5.6 to 12 percent in the coming four years.

“Planning is underway for launching an industrial zone in Sabhan Area housing some 112 firms by the end of this year in addition to 1,062 firms in Al Shaddadiya Area,” he said, noting that Kuwait has 875 such firms at present.

Asked about a power network expansion and control center, the minister of electricity said a contract was signed on December 24 to link new power plants together through three phases.

Concerning control center, he said: “It is a screen that shows main points of high voltage. There is no problem for control center.” Responding to a question about BOT projects to be set up according to five year, 10 year and long term plans, the minister of finance said the projects are suggested upon initiatives or proposals from businessmen in Kuwait.

But, he emphasized that only serious investors would be given the opportunity to join such projects.

Al Shimali said projects put up by the State, including northern Al Zur electricity station, “have a priority and clear cut plans”.

All relevant procedures have been taken for carrying out development projects, he said, noting that only a special law is yet to be passed for the purpose.

The Higher Committee for Development Project is reflecting on a large number of such projects, mostly suggested by electricity, municipal and communication agencies, he noted.

On the economic situation in the country and alleged governmental failure to shore up the market, just as did the US and French governments, the minister said: “It unacceptable to say today after all this period that the government has done nothing.” He added that other countries which tackled the problems triggered off by the global financial crisis “didn’t do so through the bourse or shares, rather through their financial institutions”. “They tried to create a catalyst for these institutions to work to avoidance stoppage,” he said.

In this context, he called for approving the financial stability bill, which he said would lead to an appropriate solution to the turbulent situation of the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE).

The minister also stressed the necessity of corporate amalgamation involving small sized companies that deal in the bourse in order to help them become stronger financially.

The minister of public works and minister of state for municipal affairs said there are six projects, including six labor cities, Sulaibikhat and Jahra beaches, a central slaughterhouse at Shuwaikh and three waste treatment sites for electricity generation, in addition to several other entertainment parks.

As for the role of the private sector in the development plan, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad said the private sector would be a major player in the economic process.

“There are three ways to bring into full play the role of the private sector, firstly, to launch public shareholding companies, secondly, to step up the privatization drive, and thirdly to expand the adoption of the BOT system.

“The financing tools include the government funding, the banking sector in which Kuwait is one of the pioneering countries, and the issuance of bonds and stocks,” he said, noting that the government turned over to the National Assembly a host of draft legislations on bond and stock issuance.

He added that the planned launching of an electricity company would not be based on the BOT system unlike the Failaka Island restructuring project.

He highlighted the prospects of success of private sector in areas such as land based phones and post, saying that the Ministry of Communication was probing privatization initiatives in these areas.

He categorically refuted speculations about privatization of vital projects such as the power generating stations, healthcare and education, saying “we will start with medium size projects.” HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Ahmad Al Sabah said, replying a question on the formation of CMA: “we’ll not push this matter through because the authority should be made up of highly qualified experts in the legal, financial and administrative affairs.” “No favoritism will be following in the formation of the authority,” Sheikh Nasser said.

Noting that some of the candidates for CMA membership apologized, he voiced appreciation for them and understanding of the reasons which prevented the nominees from coming forward.

On national unity, Minister of Information Sheikh Ahmad Al Abdullah Al Sabah said the government is all for raising ceiling of freedoms within law, stressing that the government told the parliamentary committee on negative phenomena that media shall not be utilized to tarnish others, as such matter is unacceptable to begin with.” “I’m abiding by and implementing the law endorsed by the parliament itself and what proves it is more than 450 detailed cases I followed since the law was put in action.” The minister’s remarks were referring to the audio visual and publications code.

“We showed seriousness in implementing the law despite the fact that the ministry of information is not solely concerned with the matter, but other bodies also have responsibilities to shoulder in this regard,” Sheikh Ahmad pointed out.

He added that the government is rather irritated by some material some satellite TV channels are putting on air, which put down the Kuwaiti society, “and that is why the ministry is seeking to add few amendments to the code without limiting freedoms, but rather expand them even further.” Meanwhile, HH the Premier Sheikh Nasser said “we are a country of constitution and laws, as we consider them our ‘safety pins’.” On the development plan, Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad, Deputy Premier and Minister of State for Housing Affairs and Minister of State for Development Affairs said “as the country expands in terms of democratic practices, political movement grows along with it, and we cannot keep on delaying development.” “One of the government’s developmental approaches is having infrastructural and services’ mechanisms work parallel with political movement. We shall not wait for things to calm down, yet we build our country left and right and we keep on practicing democracy in a sound manner,” Sheikh Ahmad said.

He explained that despite the eight interpellations tabled during the last legislative term, the government managed to sign as much contracts for development projects as it could, which proves maturity and development of the country’s economic sector.

As for corruption in governmental bodies, Al Fahad said the government is dealing with it without going into quarrels or pointing fingers at anyone, as it presented the financial liability and corruption laws to legal committees and the Fatwa and Legislation Department before forwarding it to the parliament.

On his part, Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs Dr. Fadhel Safar said al Jahra road will link al Jahra roundabout with the UN roundabout and goes across Shuweikh.

Commenting on the just ended legislative term, Minister of Communication and Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Dr. Mohammad Mohsen Al Busairi said the MPs and the government reached agreement on prioritizing 49 draft bills.

“Out of these 46 bills were passed but not in the priority order of the draft legislations due to the mechanism of operation of the legislature,” he pointed out.

“The percentage of the bills which were passed to the ones agreed upon tops 75, which is the highest,” the minister said.

“There are some very important bills which have yet to be cleared; these include draft laws on financial liability, the anti corruption authority, the consumer protection, the military service, the communication authority, the transport authority, the e commerce, the tenders and the judiciary,” he disclosed.

Al Busairi voiced hope that the parliamentary committee on priorities would reconvene during this summer to arrange for the coming legislative term with the government being represented.

Concerning the key projects of his ministry, Al Busairi said: “The government mall, started at the Liberation Tower four years ago, helped to relieve the burdens of up to 20 state departments.

“The government is expanding this idea to other governorates starting with a second government mall at Al Ahmadi Governorate in last January and a third branch in Al Jahra Governorate in April,” he noted.

As for the planned launching of a transport authority, Al Busairi said the Ministry of Communication studied the experiments of countries in the Arabian Gulf region and other parts of the world in this regard.

“The ministry developed a draft bill on the authority which is being probed by the cabinet’s Legal Advice and Legislation Committee. The legislation will be ready for parliamentary debate in the coming legislative term,” he affirmed.

“The underground metro, the railway and monorail projects, costing up to KD 4.5 billion are among the gigantic projects in the development plan. They implementation will pass through stages ending in 2017.

“The ceremony of opening the envelopes of the consultancy firms vying for these projects took place last week,” Al Busairi revealed.

“The planned railways will be underground in some parts of the country and overpasses in others to cover all areas of the country as a prelude to hooking up with the railway networks of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and subsequently with the Arab network.

“The GCC countries are working with the World Bank for developing the joint railway system and consultancy firms are expected to produce studies and designs on the project this summer,” he added.

Regarding the privatization of Kuwait Airways Corporation, the minister said the process was going on as per the provisions of Act No 6 for 2008.

The law provides for the metamorphosing of KAC into a shareholding company with the public owning 40 percent stake, a strategic investor 35 percent, the Kuwaiti employees 5 percent and the government the remaining 20 percent.

Source: Kuwait News Agency