Kuwait’s National Assembly has rejected a proposal to scrap petrol subsidies for expatriates in what is being hailed in the country as a landmark decision.
The proposal was put forward by a group of eight independent MPs who claim the government is wasting KWD6bn-KWD12bn (US$20.9bn-US$49.9bn) each year on providing subsidized services, including fuel, electricity and water, to all Kuwaiti residents.
They called for Kuwaiti nationals to receive the services free and expats to pay full price.
The MPs said raising the price of fuel and vehicle registration fees for expatriates would help reduce traffic problems.
But in a vote on Tuesday, all but the eight Independent MPs rejected the idea.
Leading Shi'ite MP Adnan Abdulsamad said the recommendation and related debate implied that expatriates were the only cause of traffic jams in the country.
“This is incorrect. Expatriates are a part of the problem and not the whole problem,” he was quoted as saying in Kuwait Times.
“We blame expatriates for many problems. Kuwaitis also have too many cars and we are also a part of the problem.
“We have overburdened expatriates with school fees, residence fees and health insurance fees. This way, expatriates will be forced to send their families back to their countries and Kuwait will become a land of bachelors.”
Kuwait has declared it will reduce the number of expatriates working in the country by 1m by 2023. Expats make up about two-thirds of the oil-rich nation’s population of about 3m.
The National Assembly also is considering several other proposals targeting expats, including barring them from seeking medical attention in the morning unless in an emergency.