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Expat ownership

Muna Al-Fuzai

Muna Al-Fuzai

The Cabinet has approved expatriates to own properties in Kuwait, including apartments, houses and lands. This decision came as usual without clarification or an official statement on how, when and who are the lucky expats who will be allowed to own properties.

The Cabinet said a few documents are required in order to get the approval of registering property here, like a clean criminal record that clearly states the applicant has never been convicted of a crime here and source of income certificates. So far, these are the basic requirements for expats to own property. It seems easy and accessible.

I see no harm in allowing foreigners to own property anywhere as long as they comply with the laws and regulations to ensure both parties’ rights - the host country and the owners. For example, Kuwaitis own properties in many countries, in the west and east. They are experts in selling and buying properties abroad.

For expats buying properties here, the risks are corruption and regulations that are not transparent enough to ensure all procedures are accurate and effective.

If the expat buyer has been living in the country for some time with clear income and business interactions, then it makes sense to buy properties here, bearing in mind that lands and houses are not cheap at all. But my concern is with a lack of clear monitoring and spread of bribes and wasta, we can be a haven for huge money laundering operations. Anyone can establish a company here with a local partner, send dirty money here and use it to buy lands and houses.

That is why the approval should have gone through certain stages before implementation. This news came as a surprise to Kuwaitis rather than the expats themselves. On social media, this decision was a target of criticism against the government.

Many Kuwaitis, especially newly-married families, are suffering from rent and housing problems because they can’t afford to buy a land or a house. Foreign institutions like regional and international banks and companies should be encouraged to use this decision as an investment instrument to buy lands and build projects that show a long-term partnership between Kuwait and the foreign buyers.

Expats should have at least KD 300,000 to buy a piece of land and a house. If I had this amount, I would rather buy a small farm in southern France or the US instead. At least I can be sure that I will enjoy peace of mind and a safe investment.

By Muna Al-Fuzai

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This article was published on 17/04/2014