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Tue 21 Jan 2020 02:04 PM

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Kuwait's finance minister under fire over wage cuts comments

Mariam Al-Aqeel is looking to address a projects $30bn budget deficit

Kuwait's finance minister under fire over wage cuts comments

Kuwait’s finance minister Mariam Al-Aqeel. Image: KUNA

Kuwait’s finance minister Mariam Al-Aqeel has come under fire for suggesting the wages of civil servants could be cut as part of future budgetary requirements.

In presenting the new budget for 2020/2021, Al-Aqeel had also said taxes and charges could be introduced in order to address a budget deficit which is projected to hit KD9.2 billion ($30bn).

But, according to a report in the Kuwait Times, the figures were challenged by MP Abdulwahab Al-Babtain who stressed that interfering with the wages of workers was not an option.

He is quoted as saying: “Don’t think about borrowing or imposing taxes or (reducing) salaries of Kuwaitis, and if you are incapable of avoiding these, you should resign.”

Al-Babtain warned that any move to reduce wages would result in loss of support from fellow MPs.

He also called on Aqeel to make public the actual figures surrounding Kuwait’s investments abroad and the value of the sovereign wealth fund.

He said the minister claims there is a budget deficit, while KD20bn ($65.9bn) of profits are “seized” by a number of state establishments, and there is KD1.3bn in state debt that should be collected, adding that foreign aid was set at KD100 million but has increased substantially to KD600m.

Babtain said the cost of the Eurofighter jets and Caracal helicopters is KD6bn, and “if we add to them the scale of corruption at the interior ministry… and other embezzlements of public funds, the total will be KD13.19bn, and this will be more than enough to meet the deficit,” he is quoted as saying.

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