The world is changing expeditiously; I can feel it, I am sure you can feel and see it too. The rise of terrorist groups, the fall of oil prices, cold wars, civil wars, Trump might be trumped, telescreens on your wrists, Palestine is still and no longer is Palestine, but most importantly and more importantly than we think, people are looking closely at the changes happening within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
As Kuwait has its vital part in the success of one of the world’s richest organizations, the GCC, Kuwait is changing rapidly too. It is changing in so many ways. Change can happen socially, politically, culturally and the fastest way to change all of the above, is through legal reform. The Kuwaiti government and parliament, hand in hand and separately, have and had brought about many legal changes in the past few weeks and months. Therefore, I think it is essential to describe these changes as they have the potential to solve many underlying issues.
I know most of the emails I get (and I thank you kindly for them, and I also apologize sincerely for not responding quickly), are negative. Negative legal situations, issues, troubles, mistakes that NEED legal reform to be solved. Therefore, I am extremely glad to be sharing these changes with you because they affect each and every one of us. I will be stating your most common concerns in hopes that change shall continue to come. I have chosen your questions carefully to highlight those changes more so than to answer questions.
Question: My boss does not treat me right, I know this. He does not give me my passport. My work permit has my salary written as an amount way less than my actual salary, and my sponsor’s company is not my real company. I want to know what my rights are and what I can do?
Fajer: I have written many times about what your rights are and I invite you to go to https://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/category/legal-clinic/ and read about these topics. Also, please do read Kuwait Labor Law for your reference, it is available on www.kuwaitlaborlaw.com.
Fortunately, new reforms are in place by the parliamentary legislative and legal affairs committee (a committee in the Kuwaiti Parliament that approves a law before the parliament members vote on it, essentially making it a law). One of the most important reforms to my readers would be the increase of a fine that is imposed on employers that have employees working for them and are NOT registered under their sponsorship at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.
This is all great, but stricter punishments should be there for those employers that do not clearly state salaries, that keep passports, that do not pay overtime and that do not register their employees!
Question: I have been living in a building for two years and I have recently received a notice from my landlord stating that I have to leave the building within a month. It seems like this is done because the property was transferred to another owner and also the notice has been sent to everyone living in the building, and therefore I do not think there is anything I can do! Please help.
Fajer: Even though I have written multiple times about rent issues, I can assure you I receive a lot more emails than I can mention and believe me you are not the only one.
Kuwait’s rent law clearly states that rent should only be increased once every 5 years, yet some landlords do not respect the law. It has been reported that the ministry has formed a panel to reform the already existing rent prices stating that they do not represent the market. I hope the panel looks into the other issues and concerns of tenants, especially expat tenants, and bring about reform regarding such issues.
Question: Is it true that because of oil prices Kuwait has drafted many economic, commercial and financial reforms? If so, what are they and do they affect us?
Fajer: Yes, many reforms are happening. It is hard for me to say whether these changes are because of oil prices or because of other factors, but there definitely are a lot of changes. Of course they will affect each and every one of us, but maybe not as directly as the laws mentioned above.
It is becoming easier and easier to start a small or medium enterprise (SME); foreign investors are coming in, there no longer should be monopolies, agencies are changing and so on. We are jumping on the Arabian Gulf bandwagon, creating jobs and opportunities.
Although there are a lot of changes going on and this can feel overwhelming at times, and although I do not respond to your emails in a timely manner, and I did not answer many questions today, please do keep emailing me your concerns. I will keep sharing them with concerned officials (in confidentiality and without sharing your names) in hopes that solutions will be provided to our mistakes. In hopes that Kuwait will join its GCC neighbors when it comes to progress, making the region one of the most developed and fastest growing in the world.
Hope to hear from you soon.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed