Kuwaiti ruler grants $4-B, free food to citizens

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 17 2011 03:04 PM | Updated as of Jan 18 2011 01:38 AM

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait - Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah on Monday ordered the distribution of $4 billion and free food for 14 months to citizens as the oil-rich emirate prepares to mark national occasions.

Each of the 1.12 million native citizens will get 1,000 dinars ($3,572) in cash as well as free essential food items until March 31, 2012, the KUNA news agency cited state minister for cabinet affairs Rudhan al-Rudhan as saying.

The Gulf state, whose financial assets top $300 billion, will next month mark the 50th anniversary of independence, 20th anniversary of liberation from Iraqi occupation and the fifth anniversary of the emir's ascendance to power.

The announcement was made following an overnight meeting of the cabinet. The 2.4 million foreign residents of Kuwait are excluded from the grant and the free food.

Inflation in Kuwait soared to 5.9 percent in November, the highest in 20 months on the back of high food prices which rose by 12.3 percent.

The fifth largest OPEC producer has posted budget surpluses in each of the past 11 fiscal years, totalling more than $140 billion, and is also headed for another healthy surplus this year thanks to rising oil price.

The government has made similar but smaller grants in the past.

The Gulf Arab state provides a cradle-to-grave welfare system to its citizens who receive most public services and petrol at heavily subsidised prices and pay no income tax.

Some 80 percent of Kuwait's 360,000-strong national workforce are employed in government jobs, where the average monthly wage is more than $3,500.