KUWAIT: The National Assembly's interior and defense committee yesterday approved a proposal requiring the interior ministry to set up a permanent panel to investigate whether driving licenses of expatriates are in line with the laws and rules. The proposal, which was submitted by MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, said the proposed committee should screen all driving licenses of expatriates at the time of issuance or renewal.

Under Kuwait's traffic law, expatriates living and working in Kuwait must meet a series of conditions to be able to apply for a driving license, including earning a monthly salary of at least KD 600, have completed two years of residence in the country and possess a university degree. There are several exemptions, including students studying at universities in Kuwait, private drivers of families, doctors, judges, engineers and several other senior professionals, in addition to housewives with children, those working as messengers and others.

But those who obtain a driving license based on one of the exemptions must relinquish the license once they lose these conditions. The stringent conditions for obtaining a license has given rise to corruption, with expatriates paying hundreds of dinars in bribes to obtain a license. Due to menacing traffic jams, especially in the morning and evening, several MPs, officials and activists are blaming expats rather than the government for not constructing enough roads.

As a result, several MPs have made proposals to clamp down on expatriates, with some proposing to prevent them from driving, others calling to impose expensive fees on obtaining a driving license or owning a car while others calling for allowing expatriates to own only one vehicle. But the interior and defense committee has rejected those proposals. The new proposal will pave the way for withdrawing a large number of driving licenses obtained in violation of the law.

Meanwhile, MP Omar Al-Tabtabaei yesterday said the government should resign if it cannot operate a company established to recruit domestic helpers from abroad in a bid to cut exorbitant costs. He also called on the interior ministry to monitor private recruitment offices and withdraw the licenses of offices involved in money laundering. The lawmaker said that the employment contract of maids must include a provision that they cannot leave the country without prior permission from the employer, and called for rejecting demands by the Philippines that the maid's passport should remain with the embassy, describing this as extremely dangerous.

By B Izzak