Kuwaiti emir warns budget down 60 percent on low oil prices

By Hussain Al-Qatari, Associated Press

Kuwait's ruler warned Tuesday his nation's revenue is down some 60 percent due to low global oil prices, urging citizens of this tiny country to be prepared for any economic reforms.

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Kuwait's ruler warned Tuesday his nation's revenue is down some 60 percent due to low global oil prices, urging citizens of this tiny country to be prepared for any economic reforms.

Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah's comments, coming as he addressed parliament as it began its new session, did not include any specifics about what cuts may be in the works. This OPEC nation provides its 1.2 million citizens an extensive social welfare program, while not imposing any taxes on them nor the 2.8 million foreigners living there.

"There must be speedy, serious and urgent measures to complete the economic reforms and attain their objectives, namely with slashing the public spending," the emir said, according to a report on the state-run Kuwait News Agency. "While I declare in front of you facts and ramifications of the crisis, I ask the government and the assembly to take urgent reform measures."

Global oil and gas prices have fallen by more than 50 percent since the middle of last year. While Kuwait and some other Mideast countries have sizeable reserves, continuing low prices could put them under increased pressure.

Kuwait has the most free-wheeling political system among the Gulf Arab states and a vibrant press. Recent protests have focused on graft allegations in the country.

The emir also warned in his speech against sectarian division after an Islamic State attack in June on a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City killed 27 people and wounded 227.

"I, as the father of all, ask you and all the citizens to be aware of the dangers threatening our security, with the necessity of maintaining our national unity and participating in the protection of the homeland," he said.

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