The National Assembly

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The National Assembly's human resources panel studying ways to reduce the number of expats in the country said in a study that a sudden reduction of large numbers of expats could have a serious negative impact on the domestic economy. The panel said a swift reduction will diminish the market's purchasing power, severely impact the real estate market, as many apartments will be vacant, impact the labor market, as the private sector strongly depends on foreign workers, and finally hit the private education market.

The committee, currently studying a number of proposals submitted by lawmakers and one filed by the government to substantially cut the number of expats, said the government must be allowed to set a certain ceiling for expats - whether they will be equal to Kuwaitis or just half their numbers - and also recommended that no percentages or quotas should be set now to provide authorities with flexibility to deal with the issue.

The government's proposal envisages cutting as many as 360,000 expats almost immediately, most of them illegals and senior expats above 60 years of age. According to the latest figures, expats number 3.35 million against 1.45 million Kuwaiti citizens. All the population structure proposals exclude as many as 750,000 domestic helpers from any solution.

In addition, the committee's recommendations, which are not final, call for barring expats from certain government jobs and accelerating the replacement of expats in public sector jobs with Kuwaitis.