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Legal panel clears bill for 5-year cap on expats’ stay – MP files to grill commerce minister over alleged violations

Abdullah Al-Turaiji

Abdullah Al-Turaiji

KUWAIT: The National Assembly's legal and legislative committee yesterday cleared a draft law calling to impose a five-year cap on the residence of expatriate workers in Kuwait, and that the size of any single community should not exceed 10 percent of the Kuwaiti population, which currently stands at 1.25 million. The panel's action is mere routine work because the committee only examines if any particular bill is in line with the constitution or not. The bill now must go to the interior and defense committee which must discuss the subject of the proposal and see if it is necessary and useful for the country and if it can be implemented or not.

The bill, filed by MP Abdullah Al-Tameemi, calls for making the maximum period of stay for unskilled and semi-skilled expatriates five years. Highly qualified professionals are exempt from the proposal. It also says the size of any community should not exceed 10 percent of Kuwaitis, which means that at current strength, any expat community should not exceed 125,000. This practically means that around 550,000 Indians, 400,000 Egyptians, about 100,000 Bangladeshis and tens of thousands of Filipinos, Pakistanis and Syrians will become illegal residents because they exceed the quota under the proposal. If approved by the interior and defense committee, the bill will go to the Assembly for approval, and then to the government.

Meanwhile, MP Abdullah Al-Turaiji yesterday carried out his threat and filed a request to grill Commerce and Industry Minister Abdulmohsen Al-Mudej over alleged financial and administrative violations and failure to safeguard public funds, in addition to alleged moral violations. Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said he has informed the government of the grilling, which will be listed on the agenda of the Dec 2 session and could be debated the same day unless the minister demands a two-week delay under the constitution.

Under the law, the grilling could lead to a vote of no-confidence, and if it succeeds, will mean an automatic dismissal of the minister. To pass, the vote requires the support of 24 MPs or a simple majority among elected MPs who are not ministers. Out of the 50 elected MPs, three are Cabinet ministers who are not allowed to vote on no-confidence motions. Ghanem however said he believes grillings will not disrupt the functioning of the Assembly or overshadow cooperation between the Assembly and the government. The speaker also said that if the grilling is debated on Dec 2, the Assembly will hold its regular sessions on Dec 3 and 4.

In the grilling request, Turaiji outlined a large number of alleged violations - from squandering public funds to administrative corruption and immoral behavior, in addition to the minister's alleged responsibility for the collapse of the Kuwait Stock Exchange. He claimed the minister cost public funds several millions of dinars in the food rationing program despite being warned by the finance ministry. In addition, the minister allegedly sent a number of assistant undersecretaries on unnecessary overseas missions to benefit them financially despite being warned by the undersecretary.

Turaiji highlighted financial violations cited in the Audit Bureau reports which cost public funds several million dinars, which included violations by investors in the free trade zone. The lawmaker claimed that administration corruption in the ministry has reached an unprecedented level, as the minister defied legal restrictions and allowed a number of senior officials to carry out other businesses although this is strictly banned under the law.

The minister has also made a large number of appointments and transfers at several centers and departments in clear violation of the law and insisted on the decisions despite being cautioned by a ministerial committee, the lawmaker said. Turaiji also charged that the minister punished an employee and his colleagues for refusing to change a health report he made stating that soft drinks made by a local factory were not fit for human consumption.

He said that the minister approved all punitive measures taken against the employee, which includes salary deductions and halting promotions. The lawmaker claimed that the minister allowed a senior official to conduct commercial activities banned under the law. He said the official opened a restaurant in which he sold food unfit for human consumption, and the minister did not take any action against him.

Turaiji charged that the minister committed a large number of serious violations regarding the Kuwait Stock Exchange, which comes under the ministry's supervision, and this resulted in heavy losses for investors and shareholders. The violations included delaying key projects to privatize the Kuwait Stock Exchange, which contributed to its decline and losses, he said. Turaiji also claimed that the minister has covered up a number of immoral practices that included sexual harassment. He said that the minister not only failed to take any action against the culprits but protected them in their posts in the ministry.

By B Izzak

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This article was published on 23/11/2014