KUWAIT: The criminal court yesterday sentenced 30 Kuwaiti women, mainly housewives, to one year with labor and a KD 1,000 fine each for unlawfully claiming national labor support allowance (known locally as dam amala) for two years. The ruling also included repaying all the sums they received. The accused had nominally registered their names as employees in a private sector company without actually working for it. The company owner was also sentenced to one year with labor. The sentence is not final as it can be challenged.

Around 80 percent of Kuwait’s national workforce of 360,000 is employed by the government, which offers higher pay and fewer working hours. Under the national labor support program, the government pays a monthly salary to all Kuwaitis who take up jobs in the private sector. The state spends more than $700 million a year on the scheme.

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Minister of State for Planning and Development Hind Al-Subaih revealed social security violations involving 51,697 citizens who had been unlawfully getting millions in public funds. Subaih stressed strict measures would be taken against violators, starting with the immediate suspension of social aid allowances they had been getting and ending with prosecuting them to reclaim the sums involved, in addition to holding ministry officials involved in facilitating such violations legally accountable.

“A special team investigating social aid detected the violations and is still working on unearthing new cases,” Subaih added, noting that statistics on these violations were “scary” and involved various forms of manipulations of public funds.

Subaih explained that violations involved 5,324 families, including 1,283 Kuwaiti women who claimed to be married to bedoons but their husbands turned out to be Kuwaiti citizens, 1,479 women who claimed to be unmarried, 492 citizens who were already receiving social security, 389 citizens already getting allowances for taking care of disabled people, 360 people working in the public sector, 224 dead people who had been getting KD 117 monthly, 105 who are working in the private sector and others including non-Kuwaitis, senior citizens who turned out to be below 20, divorced women who had got married and business owners. She added that the citizens involved would be summoned for investigations.

Kuwait, which has a generous welfare system, spends hundreds of millions of dinars a year on social aid to low-income families. But since the sharp decline in the price of oil, its main source of income, the state has begun applying austerity measures aimed at cutting spending and raising non-oil income.

By Meshaal Al-Enezi