Kuwait’s Oil Minister resigned in late June, following an explosion at this Gulf state’s main oil refinery that killed five people. Sheikh Saud Nasser al-Sabah, a member of the ruling family, denied any criminal liability for the blast but accepted political responsibility for it. The refinery, which produces 440,000 barrels per day, suffered 80 percent damage in the explosion.
Kuwait’s government and Parliament continue to battle over economic issues. At stake is a new procedure delivered by the Emir that would allow foreign companies to develop the country’s northern oil fields, which are believed to contain 10 billion barrels valued at more than $200 billion. The government claims that this move would generate $7 billion in foreign investment, create jobs, bring in new technologies and enable the country to augment its oil production capacity by 900,000 barrels per day.
A group of 30 Kuwaiti Islamist and liberal Members of Parliament who contest the oil policy demanded a comprehensive and prompt debate. Opposition leaders insisted upon full disclosure of the selection process of foreign firms, having become wary after the recent history of fraud and embezzlement by Kuwait's state-owned enterprises. These parliamentarians were also concerned with the manner in which the government unilaterally implemented legislation. Their resistance to oil policy -- as with the legislation that would have allowed women to vote -- is perhaps as much a means to protest the government’s legislative stiff-arming as it is objection to the policy itself. Many opposition politicians want to act as a body that balances the government's power. They object to the Emiri decrees, issued while Parliament was dissolved, and not necessarily to the principles behind these laws.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)