Kuwait mulls scrapping expat subsidies

Kuwaiti lawmakers have called on government to abandon subsidisation of expat water and electricity fees
Kuwait
By Courtney Trenwith
Mon 11 Mar 2013 10:57 AM

A large group of Kuwaiti lawmakers are calling on the government to scrap expats’ subsidies for essential services including electricity and water, claiming the government can no longer afford them, according to Kuwait Times newspaper.

The move would increase the average electricity bill for an apartment to as much as KD100 (US$350) per month – more than the salary of many expats who work in low paid jobs, such as maids.

But eight Independent MPs claim the government is wasting KD6-12 billion each year on providing subsidized services, including fuel, electricity and water, to all Kuwaiti residents.

They want Kuwaiti nationals to receive the services free and expats to pay full price.

Expats make up about two-thirds of the oil-rich country’s 2.8 million people.

Electricity is charged at two fils per kilowatt hour, a tiny proportion of the 38 fils it costs to produce, while power prices have not increased since the mid-1960s, according to Kuwait Times.

The price of fuel also has not increased for 15 years and is one of the lowest in the GCC. The government says it spends more than KD1 billion annually in fuel subsidies.

The proposal follows a growing list of ideas from politicians targeting expats.

The government is considering increasing expats’ fees for medical services including medical checkups, surgeries and x-rays, it was revealed on Sunday.

While last month, lawmakers proposed reducing overcrowding at the country’s medical facilities by designating specific hours of the day that nationals and expats could seek medical assistance, in what some described as racist.

Under the plan, only Kuwaitis would be allowed to attend hospitals and clinics in the morning, while non-nationals would be treated only in the evening. Staff also would be segregated according to their nationality, while emergencies would be excluded from the plan.

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