Health ministry launches random drive-through testing
By B Izzak
KUWAIT: MPs yesterday welcomed a decision by the Municipality to stop hiring expatriates and accelerate procedures to dismiss them from jobs, and proposed legislation to replace all foreigners in the government sector by citizens. Minister of State for Municipal Affairs Waleed Al-Jassem ordered in a decision to impose a blanket ban on employing expats in municipal jobs and start procedures immediately to sack all foreign employees.
The decision calls to halt accepting employment applications by expats, cancelling appointments under process and stopping the renewal of contracts of existing employees. To compensate for foreign employees, the minister called for boosting the use of automation and technology, besides appointing more Kuwaitis.
MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari welcomed the decision and said he will submit a draft law calling on all government bodies to replace their foreign employees within one year and open the door for the appointment of Kuwaitis. Kandari said the legislation comes because many decisions and regulations were issued in the past to reduce the appointment of expats in government jobs, but these remained on paper without implementation.
He said that despite those measures, expats still make up 26 percent of government workers and must be replaced with Kuwaitis. The legislation, which must be reviewed and approved by the National Assembly and accepted by the government, gives all government agencies a period of one year to terminate all their foreign employees.
The proposed law calls on government agencies to announce their replacement plans within three months of enacting the law and show the number of jobs available for Kuwaitis. If no Kuwaitis apply for a certain job, government agencies can appoint expats on a temporary basis for one year only, which can be renewed if needed.
The implementation of such an ambitious legislation appears to be extremely difficult because the 100,000 expats in government jobs are either highly-skilled and experienced consultants or low-paid employees in menial jobs. In either case, the possibility of finding a Kuwaiti replacement is very remote. MP Salah Khorshed said he will submit a proposal to ban the appointment of foreign legal consultants in government jobs. MP Safa Al-Hashem welcomed the Municipality decision, saying she will closely monitor implementation.
The new move comes amid tremendous pressures on expatriates employed in the private sector because of the coronavirus-led shutdowns that forced many companies to either fire employees or cut their salaries. A majority of those impacted are expatriates. It is estimated that if the closures continue for a few more months, hundreds of thousands of expats would lose their private sector jobs.
Meanwhile, the ministry of health launched random drive-through testing for the coronavirus, Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah said. The ministry has set up a huge testing center at Jazeera Airways’ Park & Fly facility at the Kuwait International Airport, and people will be selected randomly for the test. They will receive an SMS on their mobiles, setting the date and time of the test. The ministry said people will be selected randomly from all governorates and residential areas. The aim of the tests is to assess the spread of the disease in the country. The center can receive 15 cars at a time.
Sheikh Basel also said that the total curfew imposed on May 10 will be reassessed after 10 days of the start, around May 20.
A large number of cooperative society employees have tested positive for coronavirus in the past few days. More than 30 coops have been affected as the ministry continues its testing drive.