Kuwait oil minister has tense ties with parliament

KUWAIT - Kuwait appointed a new oil minister on Monday whose conflict with parliament two years ago triggered the resignation of the entire cabinet -- a move that could rekindle tension between government and legislature.



By (Reuters)

Published: Mon 9 Feb 2009, 8:57 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:54 AM

Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, a member of the ruling family, was health minister until a previous cabinet quit in March 2007 to avert a no-confidence vote against him.

"Of course this is part of the political escalation ... It's a political tactic by the government to challenge deputies," political analyst Shamlan al-Eissa said.

Changes in the oil ministry usually have little impact on the energy policy of the world's seventh-largest oil exporter which is decided by a council including industry experts and top government and ruling family members.

But the appointment of Sheikh Ahmad may escalate tensions with parliament which has a history of challenging the government, analysts say.

OPEC-member Kuwait has been hit by a series of political crises with the cabinet resigning in November after three MPs moved to question the prime minister, threatening economic bills aimed at attracting investors and softening the impact of a global crisis.

Sheikh Ahmad is Kuwait's fifth oil minister in three years. Several cabinets and ministers have resigned after deputies scheduled questioning or non-confidence votes.

Sheikh Ahmad replaces Mohammad al-Olaim who resigned in November along with the rest of the government after three MPs moved to question the prime minister.

RESTORING CONFIDENCE

Olaim, who belongs to the political group the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM), had been under fire from parliament over a scrapped $17 billion deal with U.S. firm Dow Chemical DOW.N and a plan to build a $15 billion oil refinery.

Political analyst and head of the American University in Kuwait Shafiq Ghabra said it was still unclear how critical any confrontation between parliament and legislature might be.

"The general political situation in Kuwait is moving towards collision," he said.

The new minister's main task will be to restore confidence with investors after Kuwait cancelled the joint venture with Dow Chemical in December, less than a month after signing the deal, following opposition from some MPs.

Sheikh Ahmad will also have to decide on a $15 billion plan to build the giant 615,000 barrels per day al-Zour refinery, which has been halted since May when parliament launched an investigation into whether the tender process was conducted correctly.


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