Expat fees

Muna Al Fuzai
Muna Al Fuzai

It’s clear to all that Kuwait is facing an imbalance in the population structure and severe pressure on health and other services. But the solution should not be at the expense of expatriates by increasing all fees. This issue has gone very far now and seems as an act of revenge and not a regulatory decision by the government.

Last year, some members of the National Assembly called for a new fee policy to regulate foreign remittances and protect the national currency, as MP Kamel Al-Awadhi proposed a law imposing a 5 percent fee on the value of transfers, which will likely pour more than KD 200 million into the state coffers annually.

The justification for this request was that this fee on transfers of funds abroad is in return for what the state offers to expatriates with regards to health and education services and other facilities, as well as other services provided by the state, such as petrol, gas and electricity. Some studies have shown that expatriates’ remittances are almost equal to the budget of some state facilities. Currently, the parliament seems to be in the process of approving a package of such decisions as the right of the state.

A new decision was also made to increase the fees for issuance, transfer and renewal of work permits, which will start from June. Based on this decision, work permit fees for the first time will be KD 50 instead of KD 2, transfer fees will KD 50 instead of KD 10, while renewal of the work permit will cost KD 10 instead of KD 2 in the past.

All Gulf states take fees from expats, whether on remittances abroad or residence or even regular visits, and fees are sometimes paid at the airport. The problem here in Kuwait is that throughout the years, we have put in the minds of expats that we are a goldmine from which they can take uncontrollably, until they lost their sense of rights and duties, the same thought which we allowed to citizens as well. It was we who allowed the misconceptions about the fact that the country is open for taking and not giving, and possibly escaping from legal punishment sometimes.

I understand and sympathize with the angry response of expats against fee increases. We citizens created an illusion for them and for ourselves and that is why Kuwaitis don’t approve of the idea of giving as much as taking and the idea of state rights. We must remember that we are the citizens who allowed this demographic imbalance by bringing in a large number of marginal laborers or unskilled and useless people because of courtesies or laziness. We also authorized the deployment of nepotism and corruption. We ignored these kinds of negative practices against our country and after many years, the government comes up with the fee decision – something no one ever did.

Property owners who want to increase rents significantly are not bothered by the anger of the expat, who came to the country believing that he will make a fortune, but found that he can only meet his daily needs. Wealth is not known to many except from the news.

The main problem here is not in the decision to increase fees, but in the ways of addressing the demographic imbalance that must set specific percentages for each category of expatriates, employment and even domestic workers, and should not be passed because of nepotism or pleasantries. As long as this issue is impossible to solve, expats will remain under the radar.

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