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Kuwaiti parliament seeks to question prime minister on housing

Source: Reuters - Thu, 24 Apr 2014 15:15 GMT
Author: Reuters
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KUWAIT, April 24 (Reuters) - Three Kuwaiti lawmakers filed a request on Thursday to question the prime minister in parliament over housing and rising rents, in a sign of renewed political tensions in the Gulf Arab state.

It is the second time members of parliament have moved against Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah in less than a year over a shortage of state-funded homes. Questioning sessions sometimes lead to a no confidence vote which may force a minister to resign.

The lawmakers want to quiz the senior ruling family member about housing, high land and property prices and increasing rents, state news agency KUNA said. One parliamentarian filed a similar request in October which was later withdrawn.

Kuwait has the most open political system in the Gulf Arab region with an elected 50-member parliament that has the power to block legislation and question ministers in such sessions, known as "grillings".

A government poll last year showed that housing was the most pressing issue for Kuwaitis who say they have to wait up to 20 years for a government-subsidised home.

Campaigners have frequently linked the housing issue to waste and corruption in Kuwait, one of the world's richest countries per capita.

In recent years, Kuwait's parliaments have been repeatedly dissolved over procedural disputes or for challenging the government in which members of the ruling family hold top posts. Grilling requests have sometimes led to dissolutions because ministers want to avoid questioning or a vote of no confidence.

Tensions between the government and parliament have stalled investment in large infrastructure projects such as housing in the arid OPEC member state, where residential areas are concentrated near the Gulf coastline.

Under the government housing programme, Kuwaiti men can apply for a home after marriage and receive a loan for it which is paid off slowly.

But the waiting list has grown to more than 100,000 and is expected to grow by thousands each year in a country where more than half of citizens are under 25. Around 3.8 million people live in Kuwait, two thirds of them foreigners. The housing scheme is only open to Kuwaitis. (Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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