Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair said yesterday that the government has no plan to back down on its decision to scrap subsidies on diesel and kerosene but said that a similar decision on electricity and petrol is postponed for the moment.
The minister was responding to questions raised by MPs during a session held to debate the reports of 10 investigations on a number of issues including one on smuggling of diesel. One month after cancelling the subsidies, the government has decided to reduce the market price of diesel and kerosene from 170 fils a liter to 110 fils from the beginning of next month. Omair said that there is an agreement at the higher planning council postpone raising the prices of electricity and diesel after government officials said the issue has been under consideration especially after the sharp drop in the price of oil.
The investigations debated yesterday included one on the construction of the new Jaber Stadium, the awarding of tender for Subbiya Causeway, a report on suspected corruption regarding the loan to Russia, a report on a probe into smuggling of subsidized diesel, the $800 million contract with Shell and the purchase of new planes.
Following a lengthy debate that at times witnessed heated exchanges between MPs who also traded accusations, speaker Marzouk Al-Ghanem adjourned the session until after two weeks after there was no quorum to take a decision to extend the session behind regular duration. Most of the reports included non-binding recommendations to refer the issues to the public prosecution. Omair told the house that the government has referred those suspected of diesel smuggling to the public prosecution and the government is prepared to refer any issue to the prosecution if necessary. But MP Nabeel Al-Fadhl stressed that those behind the suspects are more important.
A number of MPs criticized the expensive deal with Shell and doubted if it is beneficial for the oil sector. The oil minister said that only half of the deal’s value has been spent and that the government has referred the issue to the public prosecution to establish if there was any violation in awarding the contract.
Head of the public funds protection committee MP Abdullah Al-Turaiji said that responsibility of the problems at Jaber Stadium has been pinned at the minister of public works, the ministry undersecretary, head of the youth and sports authority, the construction company and the tenders committee. He said the investigation committees do not condemn but recommend actions for the government. Turaiji said that this National Assembly has proven that it confronts public funds thieves more efficient than those who just make accusations by raising documents without a proof, an indirect reference to former opposition MP Mussallam Al-Barrak.
Jail term extended In other developments, the appeals court yesterday raised the jail term against online activist Abdulaziz Jarallah Al-Mutairi from two years in jail to five years for allegedly insulting His Highness the Amir. Mutairi was sentenced to two years in jail over a year ago but asked to pay a bail to suspend the implementation of the term until the appeals court has issued its verdict.
Now, Mutairi must start serving the sentence in order to be able to challenge the ruling at the supreme court. The criminal court meanwhile sentenced leading stateless (bedoun) activist Abdulhakeem Al-Fadhli to one year in jail with immediate effect to be followed with deportation for taking part in an illegal gathering and assaulting police.
Five others, including Fadhli’s brother Nasser, were handed the same sentence but were asked to pay a KD 200 bail each to suspend the jail term. The criminal court also sentenced former parliamentary election candidate and prominent businessman Sahoud Al-Mutairi to three years in jail for buying votes during the July 2013 election.