Kuwait’s parliament on Wednesday passed a bill allowing the government to raise power and water charges on foreign residents and on businesses but exempted the Gulf state’s citizens.
Thirty-one MPs voted in favour while 17 members opposed it. The second and final round of voting will take place after two weeks.
MPs initially rejected the bill but later approved it after Kuwaiti citizens were exempted. If given the final clearance, it will be the first time in 50 years that oil-rich Kuwait raise power charges.
Move after dwindle in oil revenues
Like other crude exporters, Kuwait’s oil-dependent revenues dwindled since oil prices crashed by over 70 percent from its mid-2014 peak.
The bill stipulates to raise power charges in apartment buildings, overwhelmingly used by foreigners, from the current flat rate of two fils per kilowatt gradually to up to 15 fils per kilowatt. For commercial uses, it will be raised from two fils per kilowatt to 25 fils per kilowatt. Water prices will also be more than doubled.
Government paying $8.8 billion annual subsidies
Electricity and Water Minister Ahmad Al Jassar told a heated debate in parliament that the government was paying around $8.8 billion annually to subsidise power and water production.
If no action was taken, consumption would triple by 2035 and subsidies would rise to $25 billion, the minister said. The aim of the bill was to cut consumption by over 30 percent, he said.
But most lawmakers strongly rejected the government plan to raise power charges on citizens and blamed it for what they called economic mismanagement.
The government also plans to hike heavily-subsidised petrol prices, one of the cheapest in the world.
Kuwait has remained the only country in the Gulf not to raise power and petrol tariffs since the sharp drop in oil prices.
The emirate is home to 1.3 million native citizens and around 3.0 million foreigners.
– Extracts from AFP article