KUWAIT: Health Minister Dr Ali Al-Obaidi has stressed the importance of benefiting from qualified physicians and trained medical practitioners, who are the backbone of modern health system, to promote sustainable development.
Minister Obaidi made his remarks Friday in his opening speech at the ‘Updates in Medicine’ conference, organized by Kuwait Medical Association (KMA) with participation of a number of top international medical specialists from the US, Britain, Canada, and Arab countries.
The conference’s agenda tackles the latest updates in the treatment of heart diseases, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs), and cancer, he mentioned. It also comes in line with the ministry’s plan of action, and the state development plan, particularly in prevention and response to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The two-day conference boosts the potential of Kuwaiti medical system in facing the challenges of assuring the quality of medical care, in addition to patients’ safety and rights, Minister Al-Obaidi said. He noted that KMA is a main partner in implementing the ministry’s strategies, health programs, and development programs.
Organizing such an event by KMA embodies the commitment to improve the medical sector and keep up with the latest global updates through exchanging of expertise and updating protocols and policies of action, he said. There are so many challenges facing the medical system, not only on Kuwait’s level but also on the Gulf, regional, and international levels, he said.
He reiterated the ministry’s keenness on keeping up with these challenges through Kuwait’s membership of the executive council of the World Health Organization (WHO), GCC health ministers’ council, and Arab health ministers’ council.
Meanwhile, Dr Mohammad Al-Mutairi, KMA’s President, said that the conference focusrd on six different medical sectors, including general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, medical education and ethics, internal medicine, and intensive care. Over 12 extensive workshops and 33 lectures were during the event, he said. – KUNA
KUWAIT: Kuwait is not a “free-rider” in US-led campaigns against terrorism and other threats, a senior Kuwaiti security official said, rejecting comments by President Barack Obama critical of some US allies. Sheikh Thamer Al-Sabah, President of Kuwait’s National Security Bureau, was referring to Obama’s remarks to The Atlantic magazine last week in which he said some states in the Gulf and Europe were “free-riders” who called for US action without getting involved themselves.
In an interview, Sheikh Thamer said Kuwait, like fellow Gulf state Qatar, had opened up air bases and airspace for the US-led coalition bombing Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Aircraft from other Gulf countries had carried out sorties, said Sheikh Thamer, a member of Kuwait’s ruling family. “I am just wondering what a free ride is when we do all of these things,” he said, referring to Kuwait’s role. “When we share intelligence, when we open our air, land and sea, when we spend billions of dollars in trying to combat terrorism and trying to help the Syrian refugees, how is it free?” he added.
“I actually looked up ‘free ride’ in the dictionary and I would like other people to know what a free ride is and see what we are doing here in this part of the world, especially when he mentioned the Gulf.” Sheikh Thamer’s comments were unusually critical of the United States for a Kuwaiti official. They echo those on Monday by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief, who said the American leader had “thrown us a curve ball” in criticizing Riyadh’s regional role.
When asked about what Sheikh Thamer said, the White House referred to comments it made on Monday. Spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States viewed Saudi Arabia and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) “as effective national security partners who can and should do more.” “We’re encouraging them to do more to contribute to the security situation in their region of the world.”
Hot spot Kuwait, which borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia and lies across the Gulf from Iran, is working to combat the threat of attacks by Sunni Islamist militants like Islamic State on its own soil, Sheikh Thamer said, as well as Iranian-backed operatives. In June last year a Saudi suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait, killing 27, in an attack claimed by Islamic State. The bomber was previously unknown to authorities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, where he had been in transit, Sheikh Thamer said.
“He wasn’t under their radar, they didn’t know him. He was radicalized, to our understanding, through either the Internet or through people he might have known,” he said. “This is something that is very serious for us, if you don’t know the person, how can you defend yourself or how can you protect yourself?” He said countries from the six-nation GCC had been compiling blacklists of suspected militants and shared them with Western allies.
He said Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers had not diminished Kuwait’s concerns over Iran. These included militant sleeper cells and spies, involvement in regional conflicts and the safety of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Kuwait is the closest major population centre to it. “The security issue from Iran was always there and I think will always continue. It is not something new,” he said.
“I salute you for trying your best to work with Iran only on their nuclear program despite knowing what Iran is doing for Hezbollah in Lebanon, for other places in the world, for bombings, for hijacking of aircraft, for assassinations of people,” he added. “I salute them on how they can actually sit down and talk about only the nuclear program with the knowledge they have of how Iran is capable of doing all of these things. I can’t do it.” He voiced concern about Iraq, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias are fighting alongside government forces against Islamic State. “We are living in a very hot spot in the world,” he said.- Reuters
KUWAIT: There is no discrimination with regards to employing Filipino domestic helpers by expats, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa told reporters yesterday, but he added the rules have been tightened to prevent human trafficking. The envoy was responding after Kuwait Times and a local Arabic daily reported that expats could be barred from hiring Filipino domestic helpers. Kuwait Times reported in February that recruitment agencies were refusing to hire out Filipino staff to expatriates living in Kuwait. Several agencies told Kuwait Times that they had been advised by the Philippines Embassy of this, though some agencies disregarded the policy.
“No, that is incorrect,” Ambassador Villa said. “The embassy was taken out of context. We don’t discriminate against anyone or any nationality. We see to it that the employers of our household service workers are in good hands and that the employers are capable of paying the salaries of the workers and paying compensation in the event of a transfer. Recently, we found evidence of human trafficking because many employers take our housemaids to other countries for long periods,” he explained. Villa specifically noted that “expats are taking our maids to their [home] countries without the knowledge of the Philippine Embassy, so a new regulation was necessary”.
New Rules Philippine Labor Attache Cesar Chavez explained the new policy. “What was published in the newspapers is not true. It was taken out of context. What we want to do is strictly enforce the existing policy of the embassy. If employers decide to take Filipino domestic helpers overseas, we have to issue an undertaking that they will bring to the airport to show to immigration officers,” Chavez explained.
The undertaking, according to Chavez, will be signed by the sponsor and will include a letter of consent from the worker and a letter of request by the employer addressed to the embassy. “This way, it is of mutual benefits to both parties – the workers and employers. The workers are protected from being trafficked and taken outside Kuwait, and will be suitably compensated. For example, if the employer decides to take the housemaid to Britain, she must be compensated according to the salary rates in that particular country – likewise for the US. This fact will be added in the amended contracts. If workers abscond in the countries where the sponsors take them, employers can ask the embassy to help them,” he said.
“We want to make sure that employers who are hiring Filipina domestic help are capable of paying the workers. Our benchmark is that employers should have a combined income of not less than KD 1,000, so they can pay their workers – this applies to Kuwaiti employers and expats. We are not restricting the rights of the employers to hire domestic helpers, but we are documenting and protecting the rights of not just the workers but the employers too, to avoid workers being trapped in human trafficking,” Chavez said.
Letter of approval The embassy has advised other embassies here to accept only those workers who will accompany their employers who have a prior letter of approval from the Philippine embassy. “An employer wanted to take a domestic Filipina worker to Germany, but the German Embassy asked the employer to get an approval letter from our post,” he said.
“We started this program a few months back, but from April 1, we will be releasing templates of the one-page undertaking document, saying whenever the employers take workers out of Kuwait, we want them to come to the embassy and submit the letter of request and the letter of consent from the workers willing to accompany their employers. If there should be amendments of contracts, we will do it if necessary,” Chavez added.
The contract approved by the Kuwaiti government says that the place of work should be Kuwait only if workers are employed in Kuwait, and employers cannot take their workers outside Kuwait, so the undertaking and letters are necessary. “They have to get the approval of the workers, the Philippine Embassy and the Kuwait government in order to allow them to take workers outside Kuwait. Nowadays, the immigration department is requiring employers to show documents from the embassy and where they will take the workers from Kuwait,” he said.
400 runaways The Philippine Embassy has about 400 runaway household service workers divided in two shelters. “What is alarming is the fact that many of our runaway workers have petty salary problems – some ran away from employers after only two months of non-payment of salaries, or after minor quarrels with employers or co-workers. We try to negotiate, fix the problem and reconcile,” Chavez noted.
Chavez said around 2,500 Filipinos arrive in Kuwait monthly, and domestic helpers account about 60 percent of the 200,000 Filipino workers in the country. There are an estimated 660,000 domestic helpers in Kuwait, and a vast majority is brought in by recruitment agencies, which charge fees between KD 500 to KD 1,500. Local recruitment agencies charge the highest for Filipino domestic helpers.
KUWAIT: Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh yesterday announced that the Cabinet has approved a six-point financial and economic reform plan prepared by the Cabinet’s economic affairs committee. Speaking at a press conference alongside Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Planning Hind Al-Subaih and the Minister of Commerce and Industry Yousef Al-Ali, Saleh said the plan includes a 10 percent tax on profits of companies.
The Cabinet also approved re-pricing some commodities and public services, he said without elaborating. Saleh added the government would seek to privatize some state-owned projects, including airports, ports and some facilities of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), though not the main oil sector.
Corporate taxes are currently levied at different rates for local and foreign companies, although most Kuwaiti companies do not presently pay taxes on income. Other charges are levied though – some firms must pay an employment tax and make mandatory contributions for zakat, or Islamic alms, and for a scientific research foundation.
Saleh, who is also the acting oil minister, told the press conference that the country welcomed coordination between OPEC and non-OPEC countries, but insisted priority was a consensus.
He said he had not yet received an official invitation to any meeting in Moscow or Qatar. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said earlier yesterday that a global deal to freeze oil production could be signed in April and exclude Iran, which has the right to boost output after years of sanctions. A final agreement on an output freeze to support oil prices, which have fallen 65 percent since peaking in June 2014 due to oversupply, is seen next month, possibly again in Doha, Novak said.
The six-point reform document Saleh presented to the Cabinet during its weekly meeting yesterday includes 41 short and medium-term programs, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah said in a statement following the meeting. It is mainly based on boosting non-oil revenues, cutting public spending in order to reduce the budget deficit, redraw the state’s economic role so that it could gradually turn from production to organization and supervision over economic activities, and reactivating the private sector’s economic role, the minister said.
It also includes allowing people to own privatized projects at a rate of 40 percent and public-private sector joint ventures at a rate of 50 percent, reforming the labor market and civil service system with a view to ensuring justice among workers, improving job performance, boosting the public sector’s efficiency by linking pay to production and maintaining stable living conditions, as well as launching administrative and institutional reforms by means of upgrading the efficiency of general and financial administration, Sheikh Mohammad said.
Central Bank of Kuwait Governor Mohammad Al-Hashel briefed the cabinet on local economic challenges through four aspects involving economic, financial, monetary and bank conditions, the Central Bank’s role, the state’s sovereign credit rating and financial and economic reforms. He reassured that the current monetary and bank positions are “safe and solid”, noting that the Kuwaiti dinar exchange policy which is based on pegging the dinar to a basket of main world currencies marks the main framework of the Central Bank’s monetary policy.
He reiterated the bank’s firm commitment to the dinar exchange policy in a way that ensures its stability and purchasing power, citing relevant positive reports by world agencies, primarily the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, the governor stressed the significance of stepping up efforts to put financial and economic reform programs in place.
Kuwait National Guard Required Below vacant positions from Pakistan, if you think you are fit for these positions then hurry submit your CVs in the embassy of Kuwait Islamabad, Pakistan, Visa and arrangement will be provided by the Government of Kuwait:
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KUWAIT: Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Minister of State for Planning and Development Hind Al-Subaih announced forming a special committee to investigate violations worth millions of dinars, which were detected in the social allowances sector. The violations came in the form of paying allowances to people who did not deserve them, including company owners and board members. Subaih added that the committee had detected around 650 cases earlier and it has now detected some new ones.
“Once the investigation is over, the tally will be declared and legal measures will be taken to hold those responsible for the violations legally accountable, including ministry officials and allowance recipients,” she added, explaining that 85 company owners, business associates and board members were involved in the violations, in addition to 1,127 people who had been unlawfully receiving the allowances since 2008, adding up the total sum they received to KD 2,428,142.
Subaih said that allowances were previously stopped for 1,331 people who are currently indebted by KD 1,517,692, in addition to 454 cases that had been getting allowances from both MSAL and the disabled authority.
Penalties Municipal Council member Nayef Al-Sour strongly slammed penalties and deduction of one-third of the monthly salaries of some of its Kuwaiti employees over violations committed by a cleaning company and some expatriate employees. He also called for an immediate investigation of those who took these measures.
Social care Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor’s (MSAL) Undersecretary Mutar Al-Mutairi said that the social care sector’s efforts resulted in achieving 98 percent of its development plans for this year. Mutairi also denied evicting any of the family care tenants regardless of their age, and noted that that MSAL has been always working on making them feel integrated into the society as normal citizens. Mutairi stressed that within the measures currently in progress to transfer the responsibility of kindergartens to the Ministry of Education (MoE), a joint committee had been formed that met several times pending the transfer.
KUWAIT: Kuwait will commit to a potential global oil production freeze if major oil producers, including Iran, also agree to join the pact, acting oil minister Anas Al-Saleh said yesterday. OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC producer Russia, the world’s two largest oil exporters, said last month they would freeze output at January levels to prop up prices if other nations agreed to join the first global oil pact in 15 years. “If there is an agreement, Kuwait will commit to the freeze,” Saleh told reporters.
Asked what would happen if not all the main producers joined in the freeze deal, he said: “I’ll go full power if there’s no agreement. Every barrel I produce I’ll sell.” Brent crude futures were trading below $40 per barrel yesterday. The Saudi-Russian accord has so far failed to have a dramatic impact on crude prices, partly because OPEC’s third-largest producer Iran plans to raise production after the lifting of international sanctions in January.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that a meeting between OPEC and other leading oil producers to discuss freezing oil output could take place between March 20 and April 1. Novak said the meeting could take place in Russia, Vienna or Doha. Saleh said Kuwait has not received a formal invitation yet but “we will attend” if the meeting of oil producers proved to be “tangible”. Kuwait is currently producing 3 million barrels of oil per day, Saleh said. The state has plans to raise its oil production capacity to 4 million bpd by 2020.
Saleh also said the government plans to issue both international and domestic bonds to help cover a budget deficit caused by low oil prices. Saleh told Reuters on the sidelines of a financial conference that the issues would be conducted once government committees had agreed on a plan. He did not give further details. Previously, Saleh had suggested Kuwait might issue bonds in US dollars or in Kuwaiti dinars. It originally aimed to make its first issue by the end of last year, but officials have not yet come up with a final plan.
The ministry projected in January that the government would run a deficit of KD 12.2 billion ($40.7 billion) in the next fiscal year starting on April 1, nearly 50 percent higher than the deficit estimated for the current year, after contributions by the government to the sovereign wealth fund. The government has begun drawing down its huge financial reserves to cover part of the deficit, but it wants to issue debt to limit the speed of the drawdown and also develop Kuwait’s financial markets. – Agencies