Kuwait’s budget crunch, liquidity crises, and labour force nationalisation schemes have resulted in a large-scale termination of foreign workers, and a devastating impact on non-Kuwaiti government employees. According to various media reports, the Kuwaiti government is several months overdue in paying end-of-service benefits to terminated and resigned migrant workers.
Arab Times and Gulf News quote an Al-Qabas report on this issue. “The end-of-service benefits for expatriates, irrespective of whether their services were terminated in implementation of the Kuwaitisation policy or they resigned from the government sector, have turned into a crisis point.
Official sources have however warned against obstructing Kuwaitisation efforts as a means of tackling the increased burden on the exchequer to pay dues.
The Civil Service Commission has requested the Finance ministry to allocate a budget for this purpose, and the ministry has, in turn, asked government agencies to account for indemnities for expat employees in the coming fiscal year's budget. Even though they have to reduce their budgets by 10%, they cannot use budget limitations to hold off on further Kuwaitisation efforts
Kuwait has taken extremely discriminatory measures to deal with its recent economic downturn. Last month, there were reports of a framework presented by the Ministry of Health to the Council of Ministers, to reduce “dispensing of medicines in hospitals, health centres and supporting medical services for expatriates.” The proposal was part of the plan to reduce fiscal spending in the current financial year by at least 10%.
Poor planning that disregards the needs of the labour market has led to callous policies with regard to migrants in the country. And yet, the need and dependency on foreign workers remain strong: Al Qabas reported on the labour shortage in the hospitality and delivery services sectors, and quoted the Head of the Restaurants Association, Fahd Al Arbash, as saying “restaurant owners have been unable to operate properly due to the suspension of the recruitment of foreign workers and scarcity of specialised workers with experience such as cooks, bakers, sweets makers and others.”
Arbash also highlighted that the shortage and lack of specialised staff locally meant wages had doubled – “a cleaner in a restaurant now receives KD300 salary compared to KD150 in the past, while those specialised in the restaurant sector are now paid KD1,000 compared to KD400 in the past.”