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Kuwait Appoints New Oil Minister

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah has appointed a new oil minister for the country, following early elections held in late November in which the opposition won more than half of the 50 seats in Parliament.

The incoming oil minister is Essam Abdulmohsen Al-Marzouq, who has previously held several high-level positions, including head of the Kuwait stock exchange and board member of state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC).

The Emir did not reveal to the public any specific plans for the new oil minister. Anas al-Saleh, who served as acting oil minister, retained his other role as Finance Minister.

In October, the Emir ordered the dissolution of Parliament, citing security concerns and “the circumstances in the region”, which includes the oil price crunch and other economic and security worries.

In last month’s elections, the opposition was able to acquire more than 50 percent of the seats in parliament due to some very unpopular austerity measures announced by the government. Despite this clear referendum on the austerity measures, the Emir, speaking at the inauguration of the newly elected parliament yesterday, said that cuts in public spending were inevitable and a necessary step in reducing a growing budget deficit.

In September, when the government attempted to impose a series of fuel price hikes, strong opposition from legislators led to the unexpected dissolution of parliament. The opposition, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood, liberals and pan-Arabists, had boycotted the election in 2012.

Related: Are Airlines The Real Losers Of The OPEC Deal?

The post of Oil Minister is exceedingly important for Kuwait, which is home to around seven percent of the world’s proven crude oil reserves and almost entirely dependent on oil revenues.

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Prior to 2014, Kuwait generated about 95 percent of its income from oil. But since then, its oil revenues dropped from a massive $97 billion in the 2013-2014 fiscal year to just $40 billion in the last fiscal year (ending March 31, 2016), with predictions that it may dip to $35 billion this fiscal year. The ongoing oil price slump saw inflation in the country hit 3.3 percent last year.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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