Kuwait has appointed a new Oil Minister, 56-year-old Mohammed al-Baseeri, as part of its new 16-member cabinet unveiled on 8 May.
Al-Baseeri takes over from Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait’s ruling Al-Sabah family, who had been oil minister since February 2009. This follows the resignation of the government on 31 March, after members of parliament (MPs) moved to question three ministers from the ruling family in parliament.
The new cabinet has already faced criticism from parliament and MPs have vowed to question Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah. The cabinet includes five members of the Al-Sabah ruling family, who hold the key posts of defence, interior and foreign affairs.
The US educated Al-Baseeri, a former member of the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM), was appointed Minister of Communications in May 2009, just a decade after first becoming an MP.
Al-Baseeri will oversee a sector with spending plans of more than $90bn over the next five years, as the country attempts a renewed push to launch major enhanced oil recovery projects, as well as increasing domestic gas production. One of his biggest challenges will be to kick-start Kuwait’s stalled refining projects (MEED 29:11:10).
One of Al-Baseeri’s first tasks will be to speed up attempts to fill the key positions in the subsidiaries of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), which have been vacant for about eight months. State-refiner Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) has been without a head since the departure of Farouk al-Zanki, who was appointed chief executive of KPC in October last year.
Kuwait’s attempts to revitalise and grow its oil and gas industry over the past 15 years have been constantly frustrated by political deadlock. Despite the new appointment, little is likely to change, say oil analysts in the country.
In reality, control rests with the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC), the country’s highest oil decision-making body. The body is yet to make a final decision on two refining projects worth more than $30bn, which would overhaul the downstream sector. The $15bn new refinery project has been delayed since 2007, after opposition MPs claimed there were irregularities in the contract award process. However, the SPC has not met for several months.