Draft law to go to parliament to increase charges facing expats for some public services
Kuwait’s plans to increase expatriate charges for public services such as electricity and water have moved a step forward, with the government introducing a draft law to parliament.
A number of Kuwaiti legislators argue the Gulf country wastes KD4 billion ($14bn) subsidising essential services for expats. The country spends KD6 billion on such subsidies annually.
The proposal is expected to gain traction in the parliament, with eight independent MPs also calling for the change in March.
They want Kuwaiti nationals to receive the services free and expats to pay full price.
It is not clear what the government draft law proposes.
Announcing the draft law on Wednesday, Minister of Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah said expats subsidies were “a burden on the state”.
Other GCC countries, including the UAE, already limit subsidies for expats while providing for nationals.
Expats make up about two-thirds of Kuwait’s population of 3.8 million people.
The move could increase the average electricity bill for an apartment to as much as KD100 ($350) per month – more than the salary of many expats who work in low paid jobs, such as maids.
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 KD1bn annually in fuel subsidies.
The proposal follows a growing list of ideas from politicians targeting expats.
The Ministry of Social Affairs has announced a plan to cut expat numbers by 100,000 annually over the next decade, while in the past week 213 expats have been deported for traffic offences as minor as running a red light on more than one occassion.
The parliament also is considering increasing expats’ fees for medical services including medical checkups, surgeries and x-rays, it was revealed in March.
While lawmakers also have approved designating specific hours of the day that nationals and expats can seek medical assistance, in what some described as racist.
Under the plan, only Kuwaitis are allowed to attend hospitals and clinics in the morning, while non-nationals are treated only in the evening. Staff also are segregated according to their nationality, while emergencies would be excluded from the plan.