Kuwaiti emir approves cabinet with new oil, finance ministers

Kuwait’s economy, which is worth nearly $140 billion, is facing a deficit of $46 billion this year. A priority of the new government will be to pass a bill allowing Kuwait to tap international debt markets.
Monday 14/12/2020
Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah speakis in Kuwait City, last September. (AFP)
Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah speakis in Kuwait City, last September. (AFP)

KUWAIT CITY – Kuwait’s emir on Monday approved the formation of a new cabinet, the government communications office said, following a parliamentary election this month.

The cabinet includes new oil and finance ministers, state media reported, amid calls for reform in the country whose economy is reeling from slumping crude prices.

Like most wealthy Gulf nations, oil-rich Kuwait’s economy and state budgets have been slammed by the double whammy of the coronavirus pandemic and the depressed price of oil.

The new government, whose formation was due after parliamentary elections earlier this month, includes 10 new faces.

Among them Mohammed Al-Fares who was named minister of oil and Khalifa Hamada who was appointed as finance minister, according to the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

Fares is a board member in national oil conglomerate Kuwait Petroleum Corp, while Hamada served as finance ministry undersecretary for over a decade.

The 15-member cabinet is the first to serve under the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who took office in September following the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah.

Besides Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid al-Sabah, who was re-appointed premier by the emir earlier this month and tasked with forming the new government, the cabinet includes four members of the Sabah family — which has ruled Kuwait for two and half centuries.

Sheikh Thamer Ali Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah was appointed interior minister, while Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah was named deputy prime minister and minister of defence.

Sheikh Basel al-Sabah retained his post as health minister, and Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah as foreign minister.

“It appears to be a relatively technocratic government,” analyst Ayed al-Manaa said.

Political analyst Anwar al-Rasheed said people hope that the new government will have a different approach to managing issues, saying the old ways had led to “widespread dissatisfaction.”

It is the second government in less than a year after the previous cabinet stepped down in November 2019 amid accusations of corruption and infighting.

The new line-up includes a woman, one less than the previous cabinet, with Rana al-Fares retaining her post as minister of public works.

Kuwait is the only Gulf state with a fully elected parliament that enjoys wide legislative powers and can vote ministers out of office.

Earlier this month, candidates belonging to or leaning towards the opposition won nearly half of the parliament’s 50 seats in legislation elections, with the sole women lawmaker losing her seat.

Kuwaitis have expressed in recent years their desire for change and reform in their country, where 70%  of the 4.8 million population are foreigners.

The US-allied Gulf Arab state is facing its worst economic crisis in decades due to low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kuwait’s economy, which is worth nearly $140 billion, is facing a deficit of $46 billion this year. A priority of the new government will be to pass a bill allowing Kuwait to tap international debt markets.