By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The government and the National Assembly appear to be nearing to approve a plan that envisages short-, mid- and long-term measures to drastically cut the number of expats in the country, with the government proposing to deport as many as 360,000 workers in the short-term.

Member of the Assembly’s manpower resources development committee MP Osama Al-Shaheen said the government’s plan calls to deport 120,000 illegal workers, 150,000 expats aged over 60 – employees, dependents or those suffering from chronic diseases – in addition to deporting 90,000 marginal and poorly-educated laborers.

The plan also proposes to cut tens of thousands of other expats through replacement, adopting technology and tightening the screws on recruitment, the lawmaker said. Shaheen said government plans show that the Kuwaiti population grew by 55 percent to 1.33 million between 2005 and the end of last year, while expats grew by more than 130 percent to 3.08 million during the same period.

Head of the committee MP Khalil Al-Saleh praised the government’s plan, presented to the panel by Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel. He said the panel asked the minister to submit timelines for implementation, like setting an exact timetable for the next five years showing the size of cuts each year. He said the panel asked the government to submit legislation needed to implement the plan by the end of this week. This will allow the committee to complete its report next week and submit it to the Assembly for voting.

Saleh said the discussion with the minister focused on steps needed to introduce a quota system that creates a balance between communities and takes care of security requirements. He said the government’s plan is more than excellent as it provides many solutions regarding the numbers of expats, nationalities, domestic helpers and trafficking in persons.

The committee is also expected to review seven draft laws presented by MPs, all concerning measures to amend the population structure, currently tilted in favor of expats who make up 70 percent of the population. Shaheen said the government plan shows that one of the main problems for the small number of Kuwaitis in the private sector is the huge difference between benefits in the public and private sectors.

He said the plan shows that the average monthly salary for Kuwaiti males in the government is KD 1,769 and KD 1,265 for females, with 154 average monthly working hours. At the same time, average salaries in the private sector are KD 1,387 for Kuwaiti men and KD 835 for Kuwaiti women, with 187 monthly working hours, far more than the government sector. Shaheen said that the plan also shows that the state budget rose 15.5 percent with each 5 percent increase in the number of expats as a result of spending on health, subsidies and infrastructure.