Kuwait's central bank governor resigned after 25 years in the post yesterday, protesting against a rapid rise in government spending, but his departure may be linked to political change in the state and not any immediate economic crisis.
State news agency Kuna announced the resignation of Shaikh Salem Abdul Aziz Al Sabah, a member of the country's ruling family. It quoted him as saying the government's failure to push through economic reforms had created imbalances that could become serious if high global oil prices fell back.
"The challenges facing the local economy amid an increase in public spending to very high levels will hinder the central bank from taking responsibilities in the future to achieve its objectives as defined by the law," said Shaikh Salem, 60.
Last year's uprisings in the Arab world emboldened workers in Kuwait to stage a string of strikes which added to upward pressure on wages of state employees. A strike at the national airline ended with a 30-per cent wage hike; oil sector workers received a wage rise after a strike threat.
Some top Kuwaiti policymakers, including Shaikh Salem and the finance minister, publicly urged the government to restrain spending and reduce waste in the budget last year. The finance minister said public sector wages had risen to about 85 per cent of the country's oil revenues, which he called "a real danger".
"The resignation is probably linked to monetary policy. If he's trying to keep inflation down, government policy is clearly going to work against that," said an economist at a global bank, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.