Friday, March 30, 2018

Finally - Voices of Reason.... IMF puts the brakes on the plan

To continue the "Squeeze the Expat Till they Leave" theme, taxation of remittances (taxing money to be sent back to your home country) has become another big issue lately. 

So today I saw an article that had a voice of reason in it.  People are starting to wake up to how truly stupid some of these negative policies are - and by saying that, I mean stupid for Kuwait, its economy, its reputation and its people. 

It will - and is - having a boomerang effect.  Look at the real estate market:  tanking.  It seems like Kuwait is struggling with its identity (again?).  On the one hand, there is a desire for inbound tourism and being an international financial hub.  On the other, there is a very distinct desire to leave Kuwait for Kuwaitis.  Both sides have a valid argument (one locked in the stone ages);  but realistically, only one can win out (and I don't see how kicking expats out or making their lives harder will help the country).

Sidebar:  I commented on Facebook (related to the Bidoon issue) recently and someone wrote back, "Don't be a hypocrite.  I've seen your comments and how you talk bad about Kuwaitis."  Completely irrelevant to the Bidoon issue, regardless, but I wanted to note that I love Kuwait and Kuwaiti people (for the most part).  I love Americans and the American people (for the most part).  I think there is good and bad in every society.  What I comment on is politics and/or negative changes (again this is my perspective) taking place in Kuwait.  I'm not here to trash anyone for being from a particular country, of a particular color or sexual orientation or religion or anything else.  Please don't be offended/git yer panties in a bunch.  

Ok, so on to the article.  Kuwait has for YEARS been trying to obtain an international trade agreement with the US [Trade Agreement Act (TAA) compliance through World Trade Organization].  Kuwait Vision 2035 makes reference to steps on how Kuwait plans to accomplish this.  (I don't believe that discriminatory practices against foreign workers in Kuwait is mentioned.  You can check it for yourself.)  "These objectives are sought to be attained by promoting open and liberal trade both of Kuwait and its trading partners, by following the principles and rules of the WTO and by entering into mutually advantageous arrangements directed to the elimination or substantial reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade and to the elimination of discriminatory treatment in international trade relations."

Of note, if any Kuwait company offering products wants to get onto the US Government's procurement system (also known as the General Services Administration - GSA Schedule), they are SOL as Kuwait is not a TAA compliant country.  Ooops.  Why?  Last I heard there was an issue of ensuring enforcement of licensing of software.  I'm sure there are other issues.  Info about Kuwait and WTO HERE.

So with all the yackety-yack about taxing foreign worker remittances from Kuwait (which sounded like a faaaaaabulous way for Kuwait to make some extra dinars); the International Monetary Fund has stepped in and said, "Yo, you guys aren't playing by the rules."

I am SURE that the story below will come as a huge blow to one particular xenophobic MP; a highly educated economist who (one would think) should know better about economics!

And this (finally) is what the article says:

Kuwait cannot impose remittance tax on expats – Ownership rights better than taxation

Arab Times, KUWAIT CITY, March 29: Kuwait cannot impose tax on the remittances of expatriates because it is a member of international financial organizations and has signed agreements for establishing those organizations which require commitment from all members to abide by the relevant regulations that include avoiding restrictions on the current payments, reports Al-Anba daily.

According to Article 8 of the agreement for establishing International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is not allowed for any member country to take discriminating procedures in terms of currency exchange or participation in activities that result in multiplicity of currency prices.

In the explanatory memo, IMF stated that if the difference between the buying price and selling price of currency exceeds two percent, approval of IMF is required.

It is worth mentioning that the relevant parliamentary committee announced the preparation of a proposal to impose four percent tax on the remittances of expatriates.

According to experts, this proposal contradicts the vision of turning Kuwait into an international financial hub.

It will force efficient expatriate workers to leave, especially with the loss of the benefit of working in countries that do not impose such tax and since most of the workers in the GCC countries receive low income.

Researcher Mohammad Ramadan said the tax will bring about more harm than benefits. He highlighted the experience of the United Arab Emirates in creating investment opportunities for expatriates to invest their money, stressing that such a step will be more profitable for the state instead of imposing taxes. Ramadan indicated that imposing such a tax will leave expatriates with no choice but to search for other ways to send their money, even through illegal methods. He added that allowing expatriates to own real estate in Kuwait is a good way of taking advantage of their money.

Meanwhile, experts stressed that Germany has about 19 million immigrant employees, and the average amount remitted annually by them is about $ 5 billion. On the other hand, Kuwait has about three million expatriates but they remit about $15 billion per year.

According to IMF, the maximum revenues expected from imposing this tax are about 0.3 percent of the total national revenues of Kuwait, which is $4 billion. This amount is very less compared to the amount required to bring about the required economic reform.  

(DG:  a mere drop in the bucket.  Imagine how much Kuwait would earn from people who could buy homes, bring their families, and inject money back into the local economy As it stands now, expats are leaving Kuwait in droves as things are getting very uncomfortable.)

And from another story

“Meanwhile, legal advisor at Kuwait Human Rights Society Abdul-Rahman Al-Ghanim indicated that Kuwait is a signatory to international conventions against all forms of discrimination. He wondered how the Parliament could think of imposing taxes on expatriates alone, excluding the citizens. He argued that imposing tax on expatriates’ remittances contravenes the human rights convention in one way or another.

Another expert in legal affairs, Dr Muhammad Al-Ahmad, stressed that the Kuwaiti Constitution does not permit discrimination between humans living on this land.

He cited Article 29 of the Constitution which stipulates: “All people are equal in human dignity and in public rights and duties before the law, without distinction to race, origin, language, or religion.” He also cited Article 24 of the Constitution which states that “social justice shall be the basis of taxes and public imposts.” He affirmed that any legislation which violates the Constitution will never see the light, warning against putting more pressure on the foreign labor force.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"To Protect and Serve" - Cop runs over Filipina in a Hiit-and-Run

Cop runs over Filipina
Arab Times

KUWAIT CITY, March 27:  Police have arrested the hit-and-run motorist who had knocked down a Filipina while crossing a road in Salmiya and escaped from the scene, reports Al-Rai daily.  The victim, who was rushed to the Mubarak Al-Kabir Hospital, is suffering from fractures and severe abrasions. Investigations conducted by the Hawalli securitymen led to identifying and arresting a Kuwaiti policeman who denied the charge, but he was picked by one of the eyewitnesses from a legal lineup.

The policeman has been referred to the authorities for further interrogation.


Interrogation?  He should have been put on non-paid leave and/or jailed.  If it was a Kuwaiti woman, what would have happened to him?  Are the lives of non-Kuwaitis valued as so much less?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Top 25 Kuwait Blogs and Websites Award

I'm not posting as much as I used to, so this might be BS:  Supposedly this blog was awarded one of the Top 25 Kuwait Blogs award by Feedspot.  Cool if it's true (I'm a skeptic).  I didn't pay them or anything.

I would like to thank the Academy...
Thank you all for actually reading this crap.  For your continued friendship and support.  I hope that I'm actually doing something to help someone out there - even if it is just to put a smile on someone's face.

and on that note... I have no idea if this award is bogus or not, but whatever.  Cool little banner thingy, eh?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Emulate the example of HH the Amir in dealing with expatriates

Activists voice displeasure over hate speech targeting expats
‘Emulate the example of HH the Amir in dealing with expatriates’

Arab Times
KUWAIT CITY, March 11: Several Kuwaiti activists have expressed displeasure on the rate of discrimination and hatred against expatriates who entered the country legitimately in search of greener pastures, given that Kuwait is in dire need of expatriate workers.

In this context, former minister of education and higher education Ahmad Al-Mulaifi declared that provocative statements issued against expatriate workers are unacceptable to the people of Kuwait and even more ridiculous at a time when the highest international body — the United Nations, has named His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as the Global Humanitarian Leader.

He stressed the Amir has justified this appellation with the recent decision to pay debts for all Kuwaiti and expatriate prisoners.

In his reaction, Assistant Undersecretary for Transfer of Ownership at the Ministry of Finance Fahad Al- Sha’alah agreed that Kuwait needs to restructure the demographic imbalance by training Kuwaitis for all types of jobs, but expatriate workers deserve respect.

He said expatriates should not be treated with prejudice, and the issue of demographic restructure should be handled professionally without provoking expatriate workers.

Academic staff at Kuwait University Dr Ahmad Al-Munayes observed that discriminative speeches against expatriates are exaggerated to win political favor. He expressed concern that the repercussions of those speeches may be telling on the incoming generations. “My fear is for the implication of careless hate speeches coming from a few of our people without considering the fact that expatriates are partners in developing our country,” he stressed.


“Those making noises and issuing hate speeches while expressing prejudice against expatriate workers are using it to exploit the political terrain as a way of distracting attention of the public from the reality on the ground. Discrimination against expatriate workers is totally unacceptable, especially as the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor knows the visa traders very well.

So, why not criticize those who recruited marginal workers instead,” Secretary General of the Umbrella for Kuwaiti Work Anwar Al-Rushaid submitted. Meanwhile, Head of Kuwait Society for Human Rights Khalid Al- Ajmi said expatriates did not enter Kuwait against the will of citizens, urging the MPs and the government to follow the steps of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah who decided to pay debts owed by citizens and expatriates jailed on financial offenses. Former dean of the Faculty of Commerce and Political Sciences Dr Sadeq Al-Bassam denounced the escalated racist speech targeting expatriates, indicating Kuwait used to depend on expatriates in the medical and educational fields and it’s not part of the Kuwaiti people to deny favors extended to them by others through such damned language.

However, it does not mean the issue of demographic imbalance should be neglected. It should be handled reasonably without hurting anybody. Head of Liberalist Movement Eman Hayat slammed racist expressions against expatriates and praised the noble thoughts of the Amir who made no distinction between a Kuwaiti citizen and an expatriate on his decision to pay the debts of those convicted for financial offenses. She noted the act is a precious lesson to those who discriminate between citizens and expatriates.

For his part, Lawyer Mejbel Al- Shuraikah said those who keep creating disputes among citizens and expatriates are seeking electoral gains by stimulating the feelings of voters. He noted those voices do not hunt anybody who agrees with them looking at the outcome of the grilling of the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor.

Former official of International Labor Organization and union leader Thabet Al-Haroun stressed that many countries stood by Kuwait in hard times and it’s unexpected of Kuwait to treat the citizens of those countries living in Kuwait with such racist rants, indicating such angry outbursts adversely affect the reputation of Kuwait and distort the humanitarian activities of Kuwait.

Former minister of commerce and industry Amani Bouresli is of the view that priority is given to citizens of each country, and that Kuwait is considered among the most welcoming countries for expatriates. She went on to condemn the racist statements against expatriates.


Former minister of education Dr Badr Al-Essa said the Amir’s humanitarian gesture to citizens and expatriates is a real world example of the kindness that places Kuwait in a top position globally in terms of humanitarianism. He stressed that Kuwaiti citizens are not against expatriates.

Head of Kuwait Lawyers Society Sherhan Al-Sherhan also said the country condemns any racist approach against expatriates, noting expatriates from about 116 countries around the world have been welcomed into the country. Former minister of housing affairs Yahya Al-Sumait stated Kuwait is a country that respects everyone regardless of their nationalities, indicating the few discriminating against expatriates do not have the support of the generality of citizens. He described such citizens as extremists, adding the Amiri pardon conveys the best message to those racists.

Also, former minister of oil and Head of Kuwait Society for Human Rights Ali Al-Baghli said the racist tirades of some politicians against expatriates are in no way acceptable. He called on the relevant authorities to punish visa traders, especially those having marginal labors registered on their files.

Pastor of the Anglican Church in Kuwait Emanuel Ghareeb disclosed that Kuwait at present or in the past never discriminated between citizens and expatriates, and nobody has the right to ill-treat expatriates in any way. He stressed that expatriates came to Kuwait in search of decent livelihood, especially as the country allows freedom of religion. He also said HH the Amir is an example of respect and kindness, as he makes no difference between citizens and foreigners.

--- End ---

I think these activists should come together and sue the individuals guilty of issuing hate speeches under the Kuwait Unity Law.