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Oil minister resigns over alleged internal rifts
December 18, 2018, 4:27 pm
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News of resignation by Oil Minister Bakheet Al-Rashidi on Tuesday rattled the oil industry and surprised supporters and analysts alike. Subsequently it has been reported that His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al- Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah had accepted the resignation. The oil minister was not available for comment and no official confirmation of the resignation have so far emerged.

Though the departure of the oil minister would not lead to any change in the oil policy of the country, which is primarily decided by Kuwait’s Supreme Petroleum Council, the abrupt resignation strengthened reports of internal disputes and strained relations at the helms of power in the oil industry.

Last week, the chief executive officers of two state-owned oil entities, Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) and Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (KIPIC) submitted their resignations. Jamal Jaafar the chief executive of KOC and Hatem Al-Awadi the acting-chief executive of KIPIC cited personal reasons for their resignations. Disagreements and tense relations at the top echelons of the oil industry are believed to be behind the hampering of several crucial development projects in the sector.

The oil industry, which provides more than 90 percent of the state’s revenues and accounts for over half of the country’s GDP, has over the decades been frequently embroiled in infighting and political wrangling over key appointments. More than a dozen ministers have occupied the minister’s chair over the past 20 years.

The oil minister, who had been serving in his post since last December, is reported to have submitted his resignation a few weeks back over allegations of mismanagement and calls for his dismissal by law makers in Parliament. The government refused to accept the resignation and Al-Rashidi subsequently traveled to Vienna, Austria to take part in the meetings of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in early December.

In May, the minister survived a no-confidence motion after being accused of mismanagement by parliamentarians. The government set up a committee to examine the allegations and submit a report. Local media, citing committee sources, had alleged that the report found widespread squandering of public funds, and of providing misleading information on the status of project readiness, by the oil ministry and state entities.

The media reports were vehemently denied by a statement from Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, the parent-company of state-owned oil companies, which stated that the report contained “erroneous information based on incomplete information, and lacks accuracy and professionalism.” In the wake of these reports, lawmakers had threatened to question the minister again.

 

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