Kuwait’s growing band of newly elected liberal MPs are hopeful that in 2010 they will be able to push through major reforms to revive the Gulf state’s sluggish economy.
After a summer recess of almost four months, the National Assembly’s (parliament’s) key committee posts have now been filled after a series of elections in October.
Three influential parliamentary committees – education, finance and health – which have the power to stop legislation before it goes to a parliamentary vote, are now chaired by MPs regarded as progressive liberals. In the last parliament, they were headed by conservative assembly members.
“Senior Kuwaiti bankers describe this legislation as ‘crucial’ to the country’s credibility as a financial centre”
The finance committee, chaired by Yousef al-Zalzala, has arguably the most important role in reforming the economy. Before the end of November, the committee is expected to approve a bill calling for the creation of a new capital markets regulator. Senior Kuwaiti bankers describe this legislation as “crucial” to the country’s credibility as a financial centre.
At the end of November, a five-year plan containing provisions for the creation of major companies to work on public projects and create jobs in the emirate will be put to the vote, after vetting by the finance committee.
Having been criticised internationally for its lack of a long-term economic vision, and for its non-existent capital markets regulation, the successful passage of these bills through parliament will be key to Kuwait’s future economic prosperity.
One major obstacle to change, however, is the Kuwaiti cabinet. In May, the country’s emir reappointed his nephew, Sheikh Nasser Mohamed al-Ahmad al-Sabah, as prime minister. Having blocked similar economic reforms in the past, winning Al-Sabah’s co-operation will be key to the liberals’ success or failure in 2010.