Ten lawmakers yesterday filed a no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Nayef Al-Hajraf after a quick and surprising grilling debate for refusing to abolish interest on loans taken by pensioners. Following the motion, Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem warned against what he called “hidden agendas” by some MPs and others who are spreading rumors that the Assembly will be dissolved and that the minister had resigned. The speaker denied both.
Opposition Islamist MP Mohammad Hayef on Monday filed to grill Hajraf, accusing him of not fulfilling a promise to abolish interest on loans taken by retired people from the social security agency. The grilling was placed on the agenda of the first session in the next term starting in October but the minister surprised the Assembly yesterday by asking that his grilling be debated immediately, and the Assembly agreed.
The minister categorically denied that he had promised during a grilling two weeks ago to abolish the controversial interest because this can be done only through legislation. But Hayef and at least one lawmaker insisted that the minister made the pledge as part of efforts to convince Hayef to withdraw his name from a list of lawmakers who had planned to file a no-confidence motion against the minister after the first grilling.
Hayef withdrew his name at the last minute and foiled the motion, because he was the tenth MP on the list who signed the motion. Under Kuwaiti law, 10 MPs are needed to file a no-confidence motion against ministers. Ghanem said some circles have been circulating that the Assembly will be dissolved as a way of convincing more MPs to support the no-confidence motion. He said dissolving the Assembly is in the hands of HH the Amir, adding he is confident the Assembly, elected in 2016, will complete its four-year term.
Hajraf denied reports that he had submitted his resignation, saying that the grilling had finished and he did not quit. Ghanem said the voting on the motion will take place on July 3 in accordance with the law, and after that the Assembly’s term will come to an end, which means that the closing date has been delayed by one day.
During the debate, Hayef accused the minister of providing MPs with false information and pledges over the cancellation of the interest, and that he failed to fulfill his promise. The minister categorically denied that he had made the promise, saying that he cannot concede public funds and any measure like this needs a law from the Assembly.
After the grilling, the Assembly debated and approved the budgets and final accounts of eight government bodies that include the authorities of ports, industry, telecom, roads, youth and printing the Holy Quran, in addition to the budgets of the Assembly and the Credit Bank. MPs however clashed over demands by some to abolish the Quran printing authority, saying it was functioning. Islamist MPs strongly defended the authority and recounted its achievements. The Assembly continues to debate budgets today.