Kuwait MPs pass $116 bn development plan

AFP , Wednesday 11 Feb 2015

Kuwait parliament Wednesday approved a five-year development plan that envisages spending of 34.15 billion dinars ($116 billion/103 billion euros) on projects despite a sharp drop in oil prices.

The vote on the plan, which starts in April and ends March 2020, was 33-4, with one abstention.

State Minister for Planning and Development Hind al-Sabeeh said the plan is part of Kuwait's efforts to become a regional trade and financial hub by 2035.

The plan aims to boost gross domestic product, increasing the private sector share in the economy and raising the number of Kuwaitis in the private sector, the minister said.

The private sectors share of the economy is projected to increase from 26.4 percent at present to 41.9 percent, Higher Planning Council officials told MPs during the debate.

Among projects envisioned is the construction of 45,000 housing units, a metro system, a railway network and a large number of mega oil projects, including a new refinery.

The plan also aims at increasing the number of Kuwaiti employees in the private sector from 92,000 to 137,000 at the end of the plan. The number of foreign workers in the sector is around 1.2 million.

Several MPs criticised the government for failing to implement the previous five-year plan, and others expressed doubts over its capability to implement the new one.

"The projects listed in the plan are fantastic and look like a sweet dream," independent MP Abdulhameed Dashti said.

"But it is not possible to implement them because the government administration is weak," he said.

Shiite MP Faisal al-Duwaisan demanded that all ministers resign if they fail to implement the plan.

The government proposed the plan despite the sharp drop in the price of oil, which contributed about 94 percent of Kuwait's revenues over the past 16 fiscal years and which all ended in the black.

The government, which has enormous cash reserves, has announced the budget for 2015/2016 projecting a $24 billion deficit and a 17-percent cut in overall spending. But it has insisted that the fall in revenues will not affect spending on projects.

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