Pay up your debts or stay
The Kuwaiti government may prohibit expatriates from leaving the country if they still have debts. Do you agree with the country’s stand?
March 10, 2009 11:15 by Aarti Nagraj
A senior Ministry of Communications (MoC) official told Kuwait Times that the ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Interior on a new plan that will not allow expatriate residents to travel abroad until they pay their outstanding debts.
Kipp assumes the ministry is taking such steps to combat the effects of the financial crisis on the country’s liquidity. A recent report by the Kuwait Audit Bureau accused the MoC of negligence in collecting more than KD120 million ($406 million) worth of customers’ debts. However, an official from the ministry denied the report, telling Kuwait Times that the sum doesn’t exceed KD9 million ($30 million).
Although Kuwaiti nationals are also responsible for the huge debt problem, it appears only the expatriates are getting a rough deal out of it.
Even before the financial crisis, however, Kuwait has always had a strained relationship with its expatriates. According to the July 2008 estimate of the CIA World Book, non-nationals make up more than half of Kuwait’s 2.5 million population.
Kuwait’s deputy prime minister and state minister for Cabinet Affairs, Faisal Al-Hajji said earlier this month that 12,700 jobs were created for Kuwaitis through the so-called expatriate replacement program; the program is designed to create employment for Kuwaitis by replacing 10 percent of expatriate workers in the government sector with nationals every year. The second phase of the program requires that 15 percent of the expatriates employed in 29 government departments must be replaced by Kuwaitis every year, reports Kuwait Times.
The country gained international media attention in July last year when thousands of Bangladeshi workers were deported for staging violent demonstrations and demanding better pay and working conditions. After the incident, the government also announced that it was planning to limit the number of work permits for some nationalities.
An August report in Al-Watan Daily said “State agencies are to coordinate efforts to deport at least 800,000 unskilled expatriate workers within the next three years.”
While the latest step by the Kuwaiti government can be blamed on the economic slowdown, is the country being fair to its expatriates?