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Kuwait: Economic Reform Provides $3.3 Bn, Plans to Raise Debt Ceiling | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Kuwait’s Minister of Finance Anas al-Saleh speaks at the opening of the Euromoney Conference in Kuwait City. Reuters

Kuwait- Kuwait’s Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh said the economic reform measures provided the country with more than one billion dinars, equivalent to 3.3 billion dollars in the fiscal year 2016-2017 budget.

The most prominent of these reforms were the raising of gasoline prices in 2016, the adjustment of the ceiling and growth rate of public expenditure, the suspension of uncontrolled expansion in the establishment of public bodies and institutions and the acceleration of the process of collection of outstanding state arrears.

The economic reforms also included plans to introduce a 10 percent tax on corporate net profits in addition to the application of value added tax, which the GCC countries have decided to adopt at 5 percent, said Saleh during “Euromoney Kuwait 2017” Conference.

Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) also grew its assets by more than 34 percent over the last five years, noted the Finance Minister.

According to Saleh, the states reserves and assets managed by the KIA are stable. “This is considered the safety vale to our national economy during any crisis and for the future generations, in addition to enhancing state’s high creditworthiness,” he said.

The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute ranks KIA as the world’s fourth-biggest sovereign fund, managing $524 billion.

Kuwait’s financial leadership heralded a positive outlook for the country’s slow growing economy, pointing to a significant reduction in government spending and growth in assets under management as key achievements.

Kuwait shaved off “more than KD one billion in government expenditure between 2016 and 2017,” said Saleh.

“To reach this result the public financial bodies implemented measures including adjusting cap and growth rate of public spending and treating the waste in this spending, accelerating the process of collecting late state debts, shifting from the annual budget system to the medium-term budget system, limiting the violations of the social allowances and other measures,” he explained.

For his part, Head of the debt management department at the Ministry of Finance Abdulaziz al-Mulla said that Kuwait’s parliament is likely to approve a law to extend the country’s borrowing limits, enabling 30-year debt issues.

The law would allow Kuwait to increase its debt ceiling to 25 billion Kuwaiti dinar ($83 billion) from 10 billion currently, and it would also allow the Gulf state to issue debt instruments with maturities of up to 30 years, from a current limit of 10 years.

“We’re optimistic that the parliament will pass the law as it is, it’s a matter of getting it though the process,” Mulla said during the conference.

Kuwait issued a debut $8 billion international bond in March with maturities of five and 10 years.

“The government decided to extend its borrowing limit to 30 years after noting interest from pension and insurance funds for long-term paper when the bond sale was presented to international investors,” Mulla explained.

“We believe time is a very important aspect, as we need to finance this fiscal year, from the beginning of April to the end of March 2018, and as we all know there are windows in the market,” he added, without specifying when a new bond issue is likely.