Monday, November 4, 2013

Kuwait: Anti-Foreigner Sentiments Alive and Well As Overcrowding Pushes Expats Out

According to the UK-based The Telegraph, Kuwait’s discrimination against expats is beginning to impact on the lives of foreigners who work and live  in Kuwait, largely due to overcrowding.

Beginning in June 2013, the Kuwaiti government barred foreigners from attending a major public hospital in the morning, leaving it free for locals who have complained about overcrowding.

Banning foreigners in the morning at Jahra Hospital, west of Kuwait City, is a six-month trial in an attempt to to ease congestion for Kuwaiti patients in a country where expats outnumber locals two to one. 

If the pilot is successful, it will be rolled out nationally as a matter of state policy.

Currently, Kuwait provides free medical services to locals, but expats must pay an annual fee along with charges for certain procedures. 

As part of a widespread backlash Kuwait will also scrap subsidies it offers foreigners for public services such as electricity and water, claiming they are “a burden on the state."
COMMENT: Earlier this year the Kuwaiti government said it relied too heavily on expats and wants to reduce their numbers. It plans to cut its 1.8 million expats by 100,000 annually over the next decade, leaving many expats the options of tolerating reduction in services or simply leaving.

Kuwait authorities have also tightened their already strict controls on foreign drivers by withdrawing licenses from students and housewives. 

Under current laws, most foreigners can only drive on public roads if they hold a university degree, earn 400 dinars (£910) a month and have lived in the country for at least two years. Nice, huh?

Students and housewives with children were among those exempted from the conditions, along with certain professions like judges and doctors, although this exemption could very well soon change.

Worse, more than one thousand expats have been deported from the Gulf state within the past two months for minor traffic offenses and have had their vehicles impounded. 

The anti-foreigner stance has seen Kuwait significantly drop down the World Economic Forum’s rankings for friendliness to tourists and visitors. As a result, the Emirate has dropped in its standing to the point that it is now ranked at 137th out of 140 nations.  

Clearly, Kuwait's government is not so nicely telling expats to "go away." Those in the Emirate must comply fully with Kuwaiti law or suffer the consequences. Many expats are now circulating their CVs to other Gulf states as the "welcome mat" seems to have evaporated.