Manama: A Kuwaiti lawmaker who has been spearheading an aggressive campaign to slash the number of foreigners in the country has called for a one-year halt in issuing driving licences to expatriates.
MP Safa Al Hashem said in her proposal to parliament that the suspension should be renewed regularly until authorities find solutions for traffic congestion and major road works are completed.
Only family drivers should be exempted from the blanket ban, she said.
Driving licences currently held by foreigners should be tied up to their work permits where the profession is stated to ensure there are no forgeries or abuses.
“Such a measure would automatically invalidate the licence if its owner no longer meets the requirements,” she said, quoted by Kuwaiti daily Al Rai on Monday.
No foreigner should be given a Kuwaiti driving licence if he does not have one from his home country that is endorsed by both the foreign ministry and the Kuwaiti embassy.
Under the proposal, foreigners would not be allowed to own vehicles if they do not have a Kuwaiti licence.
Only one car per expat
An expatriate must not have more than one car in Kuwait, the lawmaker added in her proposal.
Under Kuwaiti law, the proposal will be have to be debated and endorsed by parliament and approved by the government to become law.
Al Hashem, the only woman in the 50-member parliament elected on November 26, has been pushing hard for tough measures against foreigners.
Her calls include imposing various taxes on them, including sending money home, and making them pay for their hospital treatment and medicine.
The proposals have been timidly supported by some lawmakers, but strongly opposed by the general public.
Foreigners make up around 70 per cent of Kuwait’s total population, believed to stand at around 4.4 million.
While calls for addressing the demographic imbalance as a security, social and economic threat in the northern Arabian Gulf country have been issued on several levels, Al Hashem has waded into standoffs with several groups for making the foreigners, the most vulnerable segment of the society, assume responsibility for the situation.
However, Al Hashem refuted the criticism, stating that her stance was based on her patriotism and not on xenophobia.
“I have full respect for expatriates in Kuwait, but I have to sound the alarm regarding the demographic imbalance when citizens are outnumbered by foreigners two to one,” she said last month.
“Regardless of how wealthy a country is, the overuse of its services inevitably drains its resources. There are many unskilled and untrained foreigners doing odd jobs in Kuwait.
"I do not see why the expatriates get upset. I do understand that anything that comes free is received with great pleasure. However, there are realities on the ground. I did not call for preventing expatriates from visiting Kuwaiti hospitals or getting medicines. I simply said they should pay for it.”