Kuwait plans high public service charges for expats

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - Kuwait plans to increase service charges on foreigners, media reports said on Wednesday, triggering the ire of the main labour union which also blasted the government for deporting hundreds of expatriates.

State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah said in comments published on Wednesday that the government has sent a draft law seeking to raise public services charges on expatriates.

"The state spends 6.0 billion dinars (S$25.9 billion) a year on subsidies for services like electricity and water ... two thirds of which go for expatriates," the minister said in remarks carried by Al-Rai newspaper.

He said that all neighbouring energy-rich Gulf states have raised charges on expatriates and the government cannot follow suit because of a 1992 law that bans it from raising charges without legislation.

The minister's remarks come amid government threats to deport large numbers of expatriates and after a senior traffic official said that 213 expatriates had already been sent home for committing "grave" traffic offences.

Last month, Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Thekra al-Rasheedi said the emirate plans to deport around 100,000 expatriates a year for the next 10 years to reduce the number of foreigners by one million.

She did not say what measures would be adopted to put the plan into effect.

Kuwait has 2.6 million expatriates who form 68 per cent of the country's 3.8 million population.

Kuwait's main labour union blasted the oil-rich Gulf state for measures targeting expatriates.

The government is adopting "unilateral and random measures against expatriate workers," Kuwait Labour Union said in a statement marking Labour Day.

Head of the expatriate manpower office at Kuwait Labour Union Abdulrahman al-Ghanem said the measures against expatriates will be a "black page in Kuwait's human rights record." MP Khaled al-Shatti called on the government not to adopt "oppressive measures" against expatriates or "humiliate" them.

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