NEW DELHI: India on Thursday said it was closely following the developments in Kuwait where a parliamentary committee has approved a draft expat quota bill seeking to gradually slash the number of foreign workers in the Gulf country.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said that this matter was discussed between the foreign ministers of India and Kuwait during a recent telephone conversation.
“We share excellent bilateral ties which are deeply rooted in people to people linkages. The Indian community in Kuwait is well-regarded in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf region and their contributions are well recognised. We have shared our expectations that Kuwait’s decision will take into account," Srivastava said.
Some 800,000 Indians could be forced to leave Kuwait if the bill is passed by the parliament there, according to media reports.
So far the Kuwaiti National Assembly's legal and legislative committee has determined that the expat quota bill was constitutional. According to the bill, Indians should not exceed 15 % of Kuwait's population which could force some 800,000 Indians to leave Kuwait given that Indians number 1.45 million in Kuwait, constituting the largest expatriate community in the country. The current population of Kuwait is 4.3 million, with Kuwaitis making up 1.3 million of the population, and expatriates accounting for the rest.
A slump in oil prices and economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic has triggered a spike in anti-expatriate comments with lawmakers and government officials calling for a reduction in the number of foreigners in Kuwait, PTI reported. Last month, Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah proposed reducing the number of expatriates from 70 % to 30 % of the population, the report said. National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem told Kuwait TV that he and a group of lawmakers would submit to the Assembly a comprehensive draft law calling for a gradual reduction of expatriates in the country. "I understand that we recruit doctors and skilled manpower and not unskilled laborers. This is an indication that there is a distortion. Visa traders have contributed in increasing this figure," Ghanem was quoted as saying.
According to the Indian embassy in Kuwait, there are about 28,000 Indians working for the Kuwaiti Government in various jobs like nurses, engineers in national oil companies and a few as scientists. The majority of Indians (523,000) are in private sector jobs. In addition, there are about 116,000 dependents. Out of these, there are about 60,000 Indian students studying in 23 Indian schools in the country. Kuwait is a top source of remittances for India. In 2018, India received nearly $ 4.8 billion from Kuwait as remittances, the PTI report said.