29 Sept, KUWAIT CITY- A Kuwaiti court on Wednesday said a government decision to increase petrol prices was unlawful nearly one month after it took effect in the oil-rich Gulf country.
The court said the decision “breached the law” because of procedural flaws, according to a copy of the verdict obtained by AFP.
It said the price hike should have been approved by the Supreme Petroleum Council, the country’s highest oil decision-making body.
The court, whose rulings can be contested, however rejected another request to suspend the hike immediately, before the high courts have issued their verdicts on the matter.
This means the new increased petrol prices, which went into effect on September 1, will remain in place until the appeals court issues its verdict.
The supreme court is the highest in the country and its verdicts are final.
The price hike, ranging from about 40 to 80 percent depending on the type, met stiff opposition from lawmakers and activists when introduced following a slide in oil revenues. It was the first such increase since 1998.
Wednesday’s ruling was based on a petition filed by lawyer Nawaf al-Fuzai who insisted that the hike should have been issued in “a bill from parliament and not from the cabinet”.
The development came after Kuwaiti lawmakers on Thursday requested an emergency session of parliament to debate the price increase.
In their motion, lawmakers said the move had resulted in a rise in the prices of commodities and goods.
Parliamentarians want the government to compensate Kuwaiti citizens who comprise around 30 percent of the 4.3 million population, which also includes about three million foreigners.
The cabinet has said the decision is part of a series of measures to meet a budget deficit due to a sharp drop in oil revenues, which previously made up around 95 percent of the country’s total income.
The emirate liberalised the prices of diesel and kerosene in January 2015 and revises them monthly.
Other oil-rich Gulf states had already raised fuel and electricity prices.
In April, Kuwait’s parliament approved a government-sponsored bill to raise electricity and water prices paid by foreign residents and businesses, but exempted Kuwaiti citizens.
The OPEC member recorded a budget shortfall of 4.6 billion dinars ($15.3 billion) in the fiscal year which ended on March 31.
It was the first shortfall since the fiscal year to March 1999. (AFP)