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MPs submit draft law to cut expat numbers

KUWAIT: Five Kuwaiti lawmakers yesterday submitted a draft law calling to cut the number of expatriates in Kuwait in order to reach a demographic balance within five years. The bill – signed by MPs Khalil Abul, Oudah Al-Oudah, Abdulwahab Al-Babtain, Omar Al-Tabtabaei and Ahmad Al-Fadhl – the last three being first-time lawmakers, calls to establish a higher national committee for the demographic structure to be headed by the interior minister.

The proposed committee will take the necessary measures to make Kuwaitis and expatriates equal in number after five years. At present, out of a population of 4.4 million people, Kuwaitis make up just 30 percent, or 1.33 million. MP Abul however said that domestic helpers, currently totaling over 650,000, so-called contract workers who are recruited to work on specific large development projects and children of Kuwaiti women with non-Kuwaiti husbands are exempt from the law.

Also, the draft law stipulates that the size of any single foreign community should not exceed 30 percent of the total foreigners in the country. Based on a rough calculation by Kuwait Times, the number of Kuwaitis after five years is expected to reach 1.6 million, which means that expatriates have to be equal to them at 1.6 million. Adding domestic helpers, contract workers and children of Kuwaiti women, the number of expatriates will be around 2.3 million after five years.

This would mean that if new recruitment is totally suspended, which is impossible, as many as 800,000 expatriates will have to be cut. Applying the 30 percent quota limitation, most of the cut will have to be made from Indians, who exceed 900,000 now, and Egyptians, who are close to 600,000 people.

If the law is approved by the National Assembly, accepted by the government and implemented as it is, it means that Indians and Egyptians cannot exceed 500,000 people, or 30 percent of the expected 1.6 million expats. Such proposals are not new, as a similar bill was submitted in the previous Assembly, but it was never debated or even discussed by the interior and defense committee, as reducing the number of expatriates is not an easy task. Abul said the serious imbalance in the demographic structure poses social, economic, security and political risks to the country and the issue must be resolved.

Meanwhile, the Assembly will hold an emergency debate today on the sports suspension and to explore ways to lift the freeze imposed in October last year by the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and several other international sports federations. The session was demanded by 11 MPs and comes just two days after the government said it will issue new legislations that will conform with international sports charters, and that it will invite IOC and FIFA to participate in the discussion of the law, which will be prepared within six months.

By B Izzak

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