By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Head of the National Assembly's manpower development committee MP Khalil Al-Saleh yesterday criticized the government for failing to provide its vision on how to reduce the number of expats in the country. Saleh said that the committee had given the government ample time to submit its ideas on the issue, but concerned government authorities failed to provide anything so far.

The lawmaker said the committee as a result has decided to proceed with its legislation and will write a report to the Assembly on ways to reduce the number of expats in Kuwait. The committee has been assigned by the Assembly to study various draft laws submitted by MPs proposing solutions to cut the number of expats, who number 3.35 million and form 70 percent of the population.

Saleh had previously said he believes Kuwait can reduce up to one million expats within three months, mainly by replacing expats in government jobs and deporting some 500,000 low-paid workers. The panel is expected to review a draft law calling to introduce certain percentages for foreign communities in Kuwait, proposing the largest community - Indians - should not exceed 15 percent of Kuwaiti citizens. The bill also proposes that Egyptians, Bangladeshis and Filipinos among others must not each exceed 10 percent of Kuwaitis. This would require deporting around 2.5 million expats.

Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem has said it is not possible to introduce the quota system at present, adding that he and other MPs plan to submit a new draft law aimed at binding the government to gradually reduce the number of expats. Interior Minister Anas Al-Saleh also said that the ministry has completed proposed wide-scale amendments to the residency law to facilitate reducing the number of expats. He said the draft law will be sent to the Assembly within two weeks.

The head of the Assembly panel MP Saleh however said that a government committee formed in 2014 to study the population structure has practically done nothing over the issue, which has escalated after the outbreak of the coronavirus. He said the parliamentary committee will not wait and will send its report to the Assembly based on proposals by lawmakers, adding that the country is heading towards a dark future regarding this issue because the government is not serious.

He also wondered how more than 800,000 expats with only intermediate education (8th grade and lower) have been allowed into the country. Ghanem had said that based on official figures, 1.3 million expats are either illiterate or only know how to read and write.