‘Blaming expatriates over budget deficit … a failed policy, inhumane’

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“WE FEEL a lot of optimism about the new government, headed by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, especially after his field visits to the ministries, and urging their officials to solve people’s problems away from their offices,” columnist Hassan Mustafa Al-Mousawi wrote for Al-Jarida daily.

Hassan Mustafa Al-Mousawi

“While we appreciate the Prime Minister’s good intentions through these visits, they are not enough, and will not solve people’s problems, because they are mainly related to a complex bureaucratic system more than they are related to people, and the way of thinking of some officials indicates that they are more inclined to emotions in formulating policies than scientific rational logic in analyzing things.

“I say this after circulating information about the government’s thinking about raising government service fees on residents more than citizens, under the pretext of addressing the budget deficit and raising non-oil revenues. There are several problems in such decisions that we summarize as follows:

“First: Addressing the budget deficit is not only by increasing revenues, but also by reducing spending. The salary item devours about half of the state’s annual budget, and most of it goes to tens of thousands of disguised unemployed who are not needed in the state apparatus. “Instead of facing this matter with courage, and working to reduce the size of the government and its jobs, we find that the government wants to finance the salaries of this disguised unemployment from productive residents.

“Second: The residents already suffer a lot from living difficulties, and most of them live in areas where living has become unbearable, such as Salmiya and Hawalli, due to overcrowding of buildings without green spaces or sufficient parking spaces because the infrastructure of those areas is not originally qualified for this large number of residents.

“They also suffer discrimination and injustice in the salaries of government jobs compared to their citizen counterparts, especially in the ministries of Education and Health, and now the state wants to increase these differences in income by raising service fees for residents.

“Such lame thinking does not take into account the impact of injustice and lack of justice on the quality of life and the stability of society. In a valuable study developed in a book called

“The Spirit Level,” British academics Kate Beckett and Richard Wilkinson found that in developed countries the amount of progress or deterioration is in several areas, such as education, public health, mental health, crime rate, drug abuse, trust between people, and social mobility, depends on the extent to which justice and equality are achieved in society. Therefore, raising fees on residents will lead to negative impacts on society in general.

“Third: To the knowledge of the officials, the resident already pays a large tax, but instead of going to the state, we find that it goes either to residency dealers or to holders of commercial licenses by means of investment, that is to say hiring the licenses.

“If the state wants to diversify revenues, the first thing is to abolish the notorious sponsorship system, the catastrophic consequences of which we have seen in the country during the corona pandemic.

“It is necessary to move to a system that abolishes the slavery of the resident to the sponsor, guarantees a minimum wage, open commercial licenses without a partnership with a citizen, and the right to own housing, and whoever was born on this land — and lived in it for a certain number of years — must be given permanent residence, because he invested his life in it and somehow became a part of it.

“By this the state is entitled to impose a reasonable tax on the resident in return for all these services. As for the increase in fees for residents in light of these deteriorating conditions, it is a clear injustice. “The government must realize that the key to addressing the budget deficit and diversifying revenues lies in getting rid of the infl ation of government agencies and reducing the number of their employees and directing them to the private sector and self-employment, which is a sustainable solution.

“The attempt to put blame on the residents is a failed policy par excellence, inhumane and lacking in prudence, at a time when the Gulf countries are racing to attract investments and facilitate the residence of foreigners in because they realize that this is an addition to the economy.”

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