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MPs press for remittance tax on expats

KUWAIT CITY, May 12: MPs Khaleel Al-Saleh, Omar Al- Tabtabaei, Faraaj Al-Arbeed, Hmoud Al-Khodair, Ahmed Al-Fadel, Salah Khourshed and Safa Al-Hashem have submitted a request to expedite discussion of the proposal to impose fees on international money transfers of expatriates; hoping it will be included in the agenda for the session scheduled for Tuesday.

Al-Saleh, who initiated the request, explained this bill is not aimed at increasing the financial burdens of expatriates but to introduce a staple fee for international money transfers.

Al-Saleh added he will request for the proposal to be discussed during the session on May 14, insisting that the charges imposed on the remittances of expatriates will help in improving the services and add to state revenues. He denied the concerns about the negative effects of such decisions on the real estate sector, stressing that this policy is implemented in most countries around the world.

On the other hand, it seems there are two parallel lines that do not meet on the implementation of state plans to attract foreign funds. While ministries and government agencies are calling for facilitating the business environment and creating an attractive environment for foreign investment, there are occasional voices calling for higher fees for expatriates.

This trend is seen by economists as an additional tool that slows down the wheel of Kuwait’s transformation into a financial and commercial center in the region.

In this regard, the Al-Rai daily learned from well-informed sources that prominent local economic authorities have recently received unusual inquiries from major foreign investment institutions, all of which relate to what has been described as “the escalation of charges against expatriates for some time, their investments and their families and employees if they decide to enter the local market.

The sources pointed out that the majority of inquiries of foreign institutions have been repeated in recent times, focused on the guarantees that the state can provide, and guaranteeing the foreign investor, his family and his employees’ stability should foreigners decide to invest in Kuwait.

“The most frequently questions asked by investors were about the facilities that could be given to them, the ease of movement of their money, the taxes they could pay the state, the land that could be made available for their projects, national employment ratios, and other determinants of attracting foreign capital.

On the other hand, Al-Hashem pointed out the request is necessary considering that the money transfers of expatriates are estimated at KD 4.2 billion a year, “yet the State does not benefit from them.” The concerned parliamentary committee submitted a report to the National Assembly stating that the bill, once implemented, will greatly contribute to the diversification of State income sources.

The committee said money transfers have reached KD 19 billion in the past five years; so if a staple fee is implemented, the State will earn KD 200 million per year. Furthermore, the government did not attend the special session slated for Sunday to discuss the internal and external threats and the General Pardon Bill. Deputy Speaker Eissa Al-Kandari adjourned the session due to the absence of the government while only 28 MPs were present.

Governmental Press Secretary Tareq Al- Mezrem clarified this is due to the MPs failure to coordinate with the government as per the standard practice regarding special sessions. Al-Mezrem asserted the government is keen on cooperating with its legislative counterpart on matters concerning the nation and its people but it must be fully prepared for the special session; hence, the need for proper coordination.

He said the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee submitted its report on the bill to the Assembly after its meeting with all concerned parties including the judiciary. He added the meeting concluded with majority vote that rejected the report and the bill.

MP Saleh Ashour, one of those present on Sunday, told the media after the session was adjourned that this is an unfortunate turn of events. He stressed that sensitive topics such as internal and external threats, as well as the General Pardon Bill, require proper coordination with the government and the entire Assembly. He added the MPs who requested for the session failed to achieve this as none of the Shiite MPs and the opposition MPs received any form of communication in this regard.

By Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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