• Cabinet has decided to freeze number of expatriates in country
  • Previous plans to limit number of imported workers have failed to be implemented
  • In 2013, expatriates made up 68.1 per cent of Kuwait’s total population

Kuwait’s cabinet has decided to freeze the number of expatriates living in the country, raising concerns that labour-intensive capital projects could be delayed by restrictions on importing workers.

Under the decision, the number of foreign workers entering Kuwait will not be permitted to exceed the number of foreign workers leaving the country, according to local newspaper Kuwait Times, which quoted anonymous government sources.

The latest scheme comes in the wake of several other announced plans that were designed to reduce the flow of foreign workers into the country, but were never implemented.

These include a plan announced in March 2013 to reduce the number of expatriates in the country by 100,000 every year until 2023. The plan was announced by Thekra al-Rasheedi, Kuwait’s social affairs and labour minister at the time, but was not enforced. In March 2013, the country released figures revealing that expatriates made up 68.1 per cent of the total population.

If the new decision to limit imported workers is enforced it could cause significant problems for large projects, including the construction of the $14bn Al-Zour New Refinery Project (NRP).

In January, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) told MEED that the country needed to bring in an extra 100,000 extra labourers after contract awards hit a record level in 2014. A total of $25.4bn in deals was awarded in 2014, up from $9.2bn in 2013. In addition to the new refinery scheme and the Clean Fuels Project (CFP) in the energy sector, Kuwait has billions of dollars-worth of utilities, roads and other infrastructure schemes planned.

Disputes over the proportion of foreign workers in Kuwait has already affected major projects. Since October, the Saudi Arabian unit of US oil company Chevron has been forced to reduce production at the Wafra field in the Divided Zone, which is shared by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian Chevron has blamed the reduction in production on the refusal of Kuwaiti authorities to renew visas for its foreign workers.

Stay informed with the latest in the Middle East
Download the MEED app today, available on Apple and Android devices