Kuwaiti opposition MP Musallam Al-Barrak strongly criticized Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah's official tour of the Caribbean and Latin America, suggesting that “certain individuals are attempting to use the trip as an excuse for tourism under the guise of official business”. Al-Barrak also slammed what he said was an official deal to bail out two unnamed influential figures who he claimed had improperly obtained an air cargo license in a suspicious business deal at the expense of public funds.
The MP was also scathing about alleged conflicts of interests, such as the contracts signed between oil companies and members of the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC), asking "Is it realistic for the country's situation to reach such depths of profiteering from posts and jobs?”
On the subject of the premier's foreign visits, Al-Barrak said: “nobody has the right to object to any personal or private trips which prime minister might make, since these are his right. But when it comes to individuals using official visits as a front for tourism, however, this is unacceptable, he insisted, especially since there are clear standards laid down to differentiate between private and official trips, with the latter losing their status and value if they do not reflect to the country's benefit”.
Al-Barrak suggested that it was strange that the first two first stops on the premier's tour were in two states (Antigua and Barbuda) with one ruler and one premier, “where five insignificant treaties were signed”.
Al-Barrak insisted that he would question the prime minister on his return to Kuwait about the details of the trip and the various treaties signed and projects and investment ventures agreed on, as well as requesting details of all the delegation members and their official duties. The MP said he would also ask for details about the Kuwaiti private sector representatives in the premier's delegation and whether they signed agreements for their companies or did business in their own names or those of their firms.
Al-Barrak also spoke about what he described as “a potentially dangerous issue”, claiming that the government had financially bailed out some extremely influential figures, first illegally granting them aviation cargo licenses then stepping in with a $550 million loan to buy two civil cargo aircraft they had purchased. He claimed that he had obtained reliable information that the higher defense council had rejected the deal since the two aircraft are for civilian purposes and it would be difficult to adapt t
hem to carry military cargo.
July 25, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The statements by Al-Barrak are likely to lead to a serious confrontation between the government and parliament. They touch upon issues that have been considered taboo in a state where cronyism is rife and touches almost the entire ruling family, who secure their position by holding key government positions.
It appears that the opposition are now upping the stakes by openly challenging details of the prime minister’s trips. It will be difficult for the prime minister to convince the opposition, let alone many Kuwaitis of the merits of the trips. The government will likely do its utmost to avoid a confrontation about this issue as it could not only be seem defeated, but opens the doors to parliament to have greater scrutiny of trips taken by officials. This issue may well become the straw the breaks the camel’s back in the already tense situation between the government and parliament, and lead to a parliamentary dissolution after the recess.