KUWAIT CITY, Jan 5: Minister of Health Dr Jamal Al- Harbi has corroborated the news report that was published recently regarding the ministry’s intention to increase charges of the medical services offered to expatriates, reports Arab Times daily.
He revealed that the increased charges will come into effect mid-February. The minister insisted that the charges of medical services and laboratory tests for expatriates will be cheaper by at least 20 percent compared to the same services in the private health sector.
In a press statement, Dr Al-Harbi said, “A meeting was held last week with the Council of Undersecretaries of the ministry. The recommendations of that meeting have been endorsed based on the ministry’s review of the charges of medical services and laboratory tests provided by the government to the expatriates”.
He indicated that it was agreed at the end of the review that the charges of X-Ray and laboratory services must be increased but ensuring they are at least 20 percent cheaper than the prices of the same services offered in the private health sector, adding, “For services that are unavailable in the private sector such as Nuclear X-Ray, 50 percent of the cost of these services have to be borne by the patients”.
He explained, “In Kuwait, the charges of medical services offered by the government have not been reviewed for a long time. This ended up becoming a burden on the national budget due to high costs of the medical apparatuses and medicines. Therefore, the ministry decided to review the charges of the services offered to expatriates”. Dr Al-Harbi indicated that a study on expatriates who earn low income will be carried out following the application of the decision to increase the charges.
Based on the results of this study, a suitable mechanism will be adopted to ensure low income earners are in a position to afford the charges. He stressed that the increased charges will not be applied on Bedoun residents as the decision is currently intended to be implemented only on expatriates who constitute twothirds of the country’s population.
Regarding the low-income earners, the minister reiterated that their situation will be taken into consideration. A proposal to increase the charges of services provided to expatriates by 20 to 100 percent is currently being studied by the relevant governmental bodies, reports Annahar daily quoting informed sources. They denied reports about the government’s intention to collect income tax from expatriates, indicating that the increase in charges of state services offered to expatriates is aimed at reducing the financial burden borne by the country to support national manpower.
In other words, the increased charges of the services provided to expatriates will be directed to finance part of the national manpower support. The sources said, “In the 50s, some of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council used to impose income tax on its citizens and expatriates. That decision was later withdrawn as it was not required at that time. Since it is something that no one would want to see happening, increasing the charges of services to acceptable rates seems to be a better solution”. The sources explained that majority of the GCC countries have adopted ways to increase their revenues without reaching into the pockets of citizens and expatriates for a long time.
These ways include applying taxes on the profits earned by foreign companies that operate within its borders. The tax system in the GCC countries is characterized by several factors – limited taxes on individuals, unification of customs charges, low tax rates on tourism, entertainment, rents and even consumption. Kuwait is heading towards imposing various taxes on local and foreign companies to boost its general revenues especially after the oil prices dropped. The government is striving to amend the prices of its services in order to balance the actual cost of these services and its returns.