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Kuwait reappoints oil, finance ministers in new Cabinet

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah issued a decree on Tuesday approving a new Cabinet that reappointed the oil and finance ministers, the state news agency KUNA said.

FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah gestures as he takes the oath of office at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

The previous government had resigned in January in a standoff with parliament that had posed the first big political challenge to the emir since he assumed power last September at a time the OPEC member state is facing a liquidity crunch.

Oil Minister Mohammad Abdulatif al-Fares, Finance Minister Khalifa Hamade and Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah were reappointed in the new Cabinet.

The previous government’s resignation came after more than 30 members of parliament in the 50-seat assembly supported a motion to question Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah on various issues, including his choice of ministers.

Since being reappointed on Jan. 24 as premier, a post Sheikh Sabah has held since late 2019, he has held consultations with parliamentary blocs.

“The coming period requires cooperation with the legislative authority and the meetings brought points of view closer together,” KUNA quoted Sheikh Sabah as saying.

He stressed the need for agreeing a package of legislation, resolving “some political files” and uniting efforts to tackle “financial and administrative corruption” whether inside or outside the government apparatus, it added.

A key priority is overcoming legislative gridlock on debt legislation that would allow Kuwait to tap international markets to tackle the liquidity crunch caused by low oil prices and COVID-19. Lawmakers opposed to the bill have called for clarity on government plans to reduce reliance on oil exports.

Frequent rows and deadlocks between the appointed Cabinet and elected assembly have led to successive government reshuffles and dissolutions of parliament over decades, hampering investment and economic and fiscal reform.

Emir Sheikh Nawaf, who has final say in state matters, last month issued a decree suspending parliament’s sessions for one month as of Feb. 18.

Kuwait has the most vibrant political system among Gulf Arab states, with a parliament able to pass, and block, legislation and question ministers. Senior government posts are occupied by members of Kuwait’s ruling family.

Kuwaiti opposition figures made gains in last year’s parliamentary polls. Some have proposed electoral reforms and a pardon for dissidents, many in self-exile, to the new emir.

Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait and Alaa Swilam and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Gareth Jones and Alistair Bell

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