Kuwait’s ruler has taken the rare step of ordering cabinet members and lawmakers to meet to settle a political impasse that has blocked much-needed fiscal reform.
Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah called for national dialogue aimed at “directing all energies and capabilities to serve the country and solve all problems,” citing Emiri Diwan Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah.
Years of political tensions have hindered efforts to diversify the country’s oil-dependent economy and stimulate international investment, leading to the Emir’s move. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the economic consequences of the postponed reform.
The cabinet and parliament have been unable to reach an agreement on legislation that would allow the energy-rich country to finance its budget deficit by borrowing from international markets or using its $700 billion sovereign wealth fund. During the impasse last year, the Treasury’s liquid assets were nearly drained.
Before going into debt, lawmakers say the government should better manage its budget and fight corruption. In the midst of the tensions, the Emir issued a decree suspending parliament proceedings for a month.
Political reforms, including an amnesty for exiled opposition members, are also being pushed by opposition lawmakers, who gained ground in the December parliamentary election. Since 2006, Kuwait has had 17 governments and eight elections.