Exit Tax For Expats?

Muna Al Fuzai
Muna Al Fuzai

A few days ago MP Abdurrahman Al-Jeeran announced through local media several suggestions that he thinks would benefit the Kuwaiti economy and the country’s future. Most of his views were related to expats in Kuwait. He called for collecting fees from expatriates leaving through Kuwait International Airport, something along the lines of an exit tax. He also argued that the government has the right to inspect expats’ bank accounts and examine incomes and the movement of money through the ‘free access law’ which allows the government to check bank accounts even if the Central Bank of Kuwait’s law protects account confidentiality.

Exit tax for expats I don’t wish to comment on all his views but, as for the exit tax, I would like to say something. I have seen it applied in some very poor countries when a visitor wants to leave, he / she pays a small tax at customs. The reason for this is to support the economy of the poor country. Are we a very poor country? Are we that desperate? I wonder what we really want from the expats in our community? Maybe after a while the exit tax could be applied to all of us and then Kuwait would have another source of income comparable to oil?

The second point, Al-Jeeran called for the government to inspect expat bank accounts. I need to say that the Central Bank of Kuwait’s law protects accounts’ confidentiality because of a constitutional right that doesn’t allow any information about bank accounts to be made public. In Europe, you need a court approval to open and release secret accounts of people. Some reasons that a court may order such is suspicion of money laundering, or support for terrorist organizations. If it becomes possible for any power to check bank accounts as they wish it, would be a mess and public bank confidentiality would be jeopardized because people would lose trust in the banking system. And what’s to stop this from happening eventually to everyone, expats and citizens alike?

Why do we always attack expats?
I believe we in Kuwait are faced with many different problems like any developed country, some we have created and accepted, and some we can’t move out of due to lack of solutions. But why do we lay the blame for everything at the feet of the expats? It may be true that a few expats have benefited from corruption as some Kuwaitis have. But the vast majority are working here to simply earn a living and definitely Kuwait benefits from their talent, skills, labor and overall contributions. At the same time, they daily suffer abuse and mistreatment because of Kuwait’s discriminatory policies, corruption and medieval sponsorship laws.

I agree there are plenty of issues related to expats that need to be addressed. The large numbers of marginal, uneducated labor, the abuse of domestic labor (both in terms of recruitment and treatment) and the continued corruption and wasta of large numbers of unskilled laborer recruitment.

But not all expats should be blamed for the corruption of a few. Nor should we forget that there are expats who have lived there entire lives in Kuwait, supporting and contributing to its development. For them Kuwait is home.

We do have some expats who only moved to Kuwait recently and because of wasta they have won citizenship and make huge fortunes through corruption.

For me, the first category deserve an open residency (free iqama) , the least we can do to thank them for being part of our society and the long stay as well as all their contributions to making Kuwait a strong and developing country.

This country was built with the support of many expats including teachers, engineers and doctors … and even those who pick up the dirt and trash are doing us a service. If their number is too high then reduce it but not by making a comprehensive and collective punishment to all.

To all hard working expats, thank you.

By Muna Al-Fuzai
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