Kuwait Replaces Oil Minister

Source: Reuters 5/8/2011, Location: Middle East

Kuwait named a new oil minister in a cabinet formed to replace one that quit rather than allow lawmakers to question three ministers from the ruling family amid calls for economic and political reforms.

But the new government did not include any changes to key portfolios such as interior, defence, foreign affairs and finance, and was unlikely to blunt criticism over the slow pace of political and economic reform.

"We have a new government, but it's not new. We have a new formation but it's part of the old paradigm," said Shafiq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University, adding he did not see the government lasting more than a year.

The most significant change was the appointment of former communications minister Mohammad al-Busairi as the new oil minister, replacing Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, who is a member of the ruling family, state news agency KUNA said.

Busairi's appointment as oil minister was not expected to affect Kuwait's energy policy, which is set by the Supreme Petroleum Council. The new cabinet is also the seventh for outgoing Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah since his appointment in 2006. The previous cabinet quit in March to avoid the questioning of three ministers who are all members of the ruling al-Sabah family.

Kuwait's parliament, the most outspoken in a region mostly dominated by autocratic rulers, has triggered numerous cabinet resignations or reshuffles through questioning. While the fierce questioning in parliament serves as an outlet for voicing criticism, the frequent resignations also effectively prevent much change from happening.

Indeed, shortly after the announcement, opposition lawmaker Khaled al-Tahous said he plans to submit a request on Tuesday to question the prime minister, already presenting the first hurdle for the newly appointed cabinet.

Mustapha al-Shamali was re-appointed as finance minister, KUNA said, and Amani Bouresli, the only female in the new cabinet, was named as minister of trade and industry. She is one of six new faces in the formation.

"There are goals and ambitious developmental expectations in front of you, and the citizens are looking forward to that becoming a reality," the country's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah told the ministers on Sunday, KUNA said.

KUNA said Sheikh Sabah stressed the importance of cooperation between the country's legislative and executive authorities. Jassim al-Saadoun, the chairman of Kuwait's al-Shall economic consulting company, said he expects to see a very short life for the new cabinet, and that the next challenge to the government could lead to parliament's dissolution.

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