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‘Cut in subsidies will force expatriates to quit country’ ‘Strangers in town’

 In this week’s online poll, Arab Times probed people’s opinions about the plans to cut subsidies for expatriates in Kuwait. A majority of voters, about 27%, felt that more than anything else such a move would create a feeling of alienation among expatriates living in the country. “We understand that a country has to first of all concern itself with the welfare and happiness of its own people. However, when overtly discriminatory laws like these are implemented, expatriates are left with a feeling that their contributions to the country have been totally overlooked.” Other respondents said that it would lead to a sense of bitterness and discrimination.

Others rejected this opinion. “Expatriates have never been made to feel that they are part of this country. Kuwait’s policy towards immigrants is very clear; it doesn’t give us any false hopes of naturalization. Therefore, every expatriate living here knows that he will at some point of time leave this country for his home.” “When we know that we can never be part of this nation, it would be petty of us to hope to enjoy the benefits reserved for Kuwaitis. “However, let us not forget that for all these years, expatriates have been enjoying a lot of benefits, and will continue to in the future, even if perks like subsidies are taken off.

Many expatriates enjoy far more benefits than what their own countries provide them.” About 23% of the voters said that a cut in subsidies will force expatriates to leave the country as cost of living would then become exorbitantly high. “We would be unable to manage our lives as even a small rise in petrol cost will have a domino effect on a series of commodities. But there wouldn’t be a commensurate increase in salaries.” Other voters, 16%, were of the opinion that moves such as these that are openly discriminatory, will smear the image of Kuwait among the international community. “Kuwait is already under the radar of human rights groups, and the recent spate of deportations and crackdowns were not inconspicuous. “Add to it subsidy cuts and there is likely to be an outcry by international human rights organizations against such a move.”

Other outcomes of the subsidy cut would be pressure on companies by its expatriate employees for pay hikes. “When subsidies are cut, there is going to be a rise in the cost of living, and employees will feel they are being underpaid. While, many employees are easily dispensable, many are not. And companies will be forced to accept their demands.” Inflation, 13% of the voters felt, will the single biggest issue when subsidies are cut. In a round about way, this will also affect Kuwaitis, because not all commodities come with a subsidy.

Other takes on the issue included increase in transportation costs and a small minority even felt that this will lead to the illicit trade of petrol by citizens. “They get it for subsidy and they will put a small premium to it and resell it to the expatriates.”

By: Valiya S. Sajjad Arab Times Staff

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