Kuwait expat quota bill causes unease in India

Some 800,000 Indians could be forced to leave Kuwait if the bill is passed by the parliament

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. A labourer wearing a protective face mask, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), carries materials on a construction site in Ahmadi, Kuwait March 28, 2020.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A labourer wearing a protective face mask, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), carries materials on a construction site in Ahmadi, Kuwait March 28, 2020.

REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

NEW DELHI — Kuwait’s parliamentary committee’s recent approval of a draft expatriate quota bill seeking to gradually slash the number of foreign workers in the country has caused a great deal of unease in India, prompting the Indian government to take note of it.

In response to the development, Indian foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday that New Delhi was closely following the developments in Kuwait.

The spokesman also said that this matter was discussed during recent telephone talks between the foreign ministers of India and Kuwait.

“We share excellent bilateral ties which are deeply rooted in people to people linkages. The Indian community in Kuwait is well-regarded in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf region and their contributions are well recognized. We have shared our expectations that Kuwait’s decision will take into account," the spokesman said.

However, Kuwait Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem has played down the move, saying it is difficult at this stage to impose quotas with specific percentages for different nationalities.

Al-Ghanem, along with other lawmakers, is pitching for comprehensive legislation to reduce the number of expatriates in the country gradually.

The quota bill calls for reducing the number of foreigners — Indians not exceeding 15 percent of the total number of Kuwaitis, while the number of Egyptians, Filipinos and Sri Lankans each not to exceed 10 percent of the Kuwaitis while the quota of the Bangladeshis, Nepalese, Pakistanis and Vietnamese is fixed at 3 percent.

Some 800,000 Indians could be forced to leave Kuwait if the bill is passed by the parliament as the Indian community constitutes the largest expatriate community in Kuwait, totaling 1.45 million.

The current population of Kuwait is 4.3 million, with Kuwaitis making up 1.3 million of the population, and expatriates accounting for 3 million.

As the economy in Kuwait is reeling from a slump in oil prices and the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been growing calls for a reduction in the number of foreign workers in the country.

Last month, Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah proposed reducing the number of expatriates from 70 percent to 30 percent of the population.

 

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