MP Khaled Al-Otaibi

KUWAIT: A lawmaker yesterday came up with a solution to resolve traffic congestion, by proposing that expatriates who have a driving license should be asked to pay KD 1,200 annually. MP Khaled Al-Otaibi, an opposition MP, said expatriates who work as private drivers for families should be spared from the fee. The lawmaker, who is serving his first term in the National Assembly, said the measure will help ease traffic jams on roads, which have become a major source of accidents that result in casualties.

Otaibi said the large number of vehicles in the country has aggravated the traffic problem, causing menacing jams at any given time, because the road capacity is very limited to cope with this number. This results in massive delays for motorists, he said. Otaibi said his proposal will reduce the number of vehicles on the roads and will contribute to resolving the traffic crisis.
The lawmaker’s proposal is not the first targeting expatriate motorists, as several such proposals were submitted in the previous term, some of which called to suspend issuing driving licenses to expatriates or issuing them under extremely strict conditions. A Kuwaiti lawyer earlier this year filed a lawsuit demanding to stop issuing new driving licenses to expatriates and suspending existing ones for some time to help resolve the traffic crisis. The lawsuit was supported by a number of lawmakers.

The traffic department already imposes discriminatory rules for expatriates to obtain a driving license. Expatriates who qualify to apply for a driving license must have been residing in the country for two years, must be drawing a monthly salary of at least KD 600 and should have a university degree. There are exemptions to all these conditions for highly-skilled professionals like doctors, judges, engineers, etc.

Since the collapse in oil prices three years ago, Kuwait and some Gulf states have targeted expatriates with financial measures. In Kuwait, the government increased the price of electricity and water by 150 percent from late August. It also increased medical services fees at public hospitals and centers by several-fold in some cases. The government is still considering other charges, mainly on residencies, traffic and other public services, only for expatriates.

A number of lawmakers meanwhile criticized the government for obstructing the functioning of a company established to recruit domestic helpers at reasonable costs after hundreds of private recruitment offices hiked their prices to unprecedented levels. The lawmakers charged that influential people were behind the delays in the startup of the company, which was established in accordance with a law passed last year. MP Osama Al-Shaheen meanwhile said the two laws issued on the matter are contradictory and should be amended.

By B Izzak