Kuwait: a changing state for expats

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Kuwait was recently named as the worst place for expats to live and with all the recent changes happening in the country, it’s easy to see why. Over the last few months, the lives of expats in Kuwait have been completely uprooted and the changes don’t seem to be stopping any time soon.

An MP has recently called to impose a 5% tax on expats sending money abroad – a response to the reported KD 21 billion expats have sent overseas in the last five years. If such a tax was implemented, Kuwait would gain around KD 200 million a year in revenue. Expats who break this law in any way are expected to face a fine of up to KD 10,000 or go to jail for up to six months.

This tax was originally proposed in 2015, but was suggested again this year following the changing rules for expats happening over recent months.

Rules and restrictions

Foreign nationals in Kuwait do not pay tax, but do have restrictions because of this. Expats are not permitted to attend public schools, must pay KD 50 a year to receive public healthcare, and are subject to institutional separation – with separate opening hours for expats in hospitals and government departments affecting daily life.

Kuwait is currently considering a proposal that will reduce the foreign population of the country from 69% to under 50%. The proposal will see that expats who lose their jobs be deported in an attempt to avoid extra pressure on public services. However, the government also plans to cut 400 expat teachers and raise the number of Kuwaiti nationals in the education sector.

The Minister of State for Planning and Development, Hind Al-Subaih, states that “the government intends to set a fixed rate of expat population growth which is less than that of citizens”. As well as limiting expat jobs in the country, the government also plan to limit the number of expats coming in. MPs are proposing a demographic imbalance sorting system for expats, checking their bank accounts and income levels to find only the best candidates. If you pass the test, you must pay expat-related fees – but if you fail twice you will be deported.

Looking to the future

The government hope that the cuts will improve living conditions for expats by only letting the most qualified candidates in. The lower numbers will also allow discussions about raising the minimum wage, which will lessen the state’s economic and health burdens.

However, if you do manage to pass the tests and remain an expat in Kuwait, there will still be restrictions. Plans to launch separate hospitals solely for expats are in the works. As well as imposing health insurance on visiting visas to tackle the problem of medical tourism, the government hope to set up an independent healthcare system focusing on expatriates under an improved medical insurance scheme specialised for foreign nationals.

Image: Maryam