Kuwait's rising rents and expat policies: a ticking time bomb?
In this week’s online poll, the Arab Times asked voters what changes they would like to see in 2014. Rising rents seem to be the biggest issue on people’s minds. About 32 % said they would like to see a control on climbing rents. Speaking to the Arab Times, respondents said that in the last five years there has been close to a hundred percent increase in housing rents in most parts of Kuwait. “A two-bedroom flat in the city cost KD 170 (600 USD) five years ago, and now it is KD 300 (1000 USD).” Respondents said that if the rent keeps shooting up at this rate, the government wouldn’t have to work too hard to reduce the population of expatriates in the country. “Expatriates will leave on their own.”
Another issue that received most votes pertains to amnesty. Probably it’s because of the strict rules against residence violators and the large number of expatriates who have been deported in recent months that amnesty looms large on people’s minds. Many who favored amnesty said there’s a strong need for it because of the large number of people suffering in deportation centers. Expatriates are harboring very negative images of deportation centers. “In some cases people have to wait for several weeks before they are deported. We hear stories of people in these centers having to put up with difficult conditions in terms of food and other facilities. Sometimes there’s hardly enough place for people to stretch their legs, and they have to remain crouched for long hours.” Amnesty allows people to leave the country without fines or fingerprinting, which means they can come back to Kuwait and work at a later date. Some voters would like to see more restrictions on visa issuance.
About 10 % of the voters felt so. Making visas easy leads to increased criminality, respondents said. “When you have more people coming into the country, it helps economy on one side, but then it also fosters crime.” However, about 13% contradicted this view and said that there should be an easing of visa procedures. “Visas should be made easy to get. When people are able to bring their families, it creates a psychologically healthy workforce. Family is an essential need for everyone, and separating people from their families leads to a lot of problems in the society, including sexual crimes.” About 8% of the voters wanted a change in the current policing of expatriates to weed out visa violators. “We feel like we are living in a police state, and there is a lot of fear among expatriates.”
“While it is important to contain residence violators, as it’s also a security issue, the popular notion is that expatriates are being targeted on flimsy grounds. The authorities have to do something to change this image and restore confidence in the people.” Some of the other issues that received support include better security for citizens and residents in malls and prohibiting business transactions on Fridays.