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Every cloud has a silver lining
Why we like Kuwait: Expats' views
By Chidi Emmanuel
KUWAIT: Kuwait has a population of about 3.5 million people, of which over 2 million are foreigners. This makes Kuwaiti citizens a minority in their home country. Kuwait - just like any other country has its ups and downs. A lot of things have been said about this oil-rich nation but still, many expatriates see Kuwait as a place to be, irrespective of criticisms. Kuwait has been slammed by human rights organizations over infringement of human rights, religious freedom, bedoon issues among others. Above all these, expats do give Kuwait some credits. Here are their views;
STRONG CURRENCY; GOOD BUSINESS
Having the strongest currency in the world, Kuwait businesses are cashing in the petro-dollar. The government is aggressively trying to diversify its economy away from oil and gas towards more long terms sustainable industries. In a recent World Bank survey, Kuwait ranked 29th for protecting investors. "It has a relatively decent and small market to do business. The government does a great job in protecting businesses here. Also having a huge population within the age bracket of 18 to 40 gives Kuwait an added advantage. So with a vibrant youth and money in their pockets, business is good here," Kamal Kumar, an Indian businessman said. "Kuwait is small and well-organized. It is easier to get a loan (cash or car) in Kuwait than other countries in the region. This is good for business," Mohamed Alrawi, an Egyptian expat said. Mobile phone business is good here. Young Kuwaitis always go for the latest and the best. The market is booming with new technologies," Ahmed Farouk, a Pakistani businessman said as he relaxed comfortably in his mobile phone shop in Hawally.
Kuwait is a tax haven with 0% VAT and 0% income tax. For many westerners, a tax-free Kuwait is a place to be. "It is amazing that they don't pay tax here (Kuwait). Is cool me-eeen! In the States (US) we pay a lot in taxes. Although they don't pay per hour or weekly here, I think it is a nice place," Jude O'Neil, an American expat said. "Even though life is expensive here, the fact that you are not paying any form of tax, makes it easier," James Finn, an Australian expat said. "More so, a lot of organizations in Kuwait prefer employing expatriates with western passports for executive positions, this give us (westerners) some added advantage too," Finn added.
With a Kuwait work permit (residency article 17 and 18), and a salary of about KD 250, a man can sponsor his family in Kuwait. "Although the cost of living is high here, - having your family with you will help you plan and organize yourself well. Even if they are not here permanently, one can easily bring them once in a while," Joe Ferdinand, an Indian expat said. "Kuwait's immigration laws may not be perfect, but I think it is the best in the GCC region. More so, life will be easier to an extent if you and your wife are working in Kuwait," Abo Beki, a South African said, as he buttressed Ferdinand's viewpoint.
Undoubtedly, Kuwait is one of the safest places in the Middle East. "The crime rates are low and the neighboring civil conflict in Iraq did not spill over into Kuwait as many expected. Car-jacking, armed robbery, killing, assassinations, terrorist activities have no room here in Kuwait. Kuwait is very safe at least for now," Uche Innocent, a sociologist said. "Violent crimes, racial and religious attacks against foreigners are rare. We have heard about assassinations taking place in UAE and other nations in the region but not in Kuwait," he added.
SMALL, WELL-ORGANIZED, BEAUTIFUL
Kuwait is a beautiful, small country along the coast of the Arabian Gulf with a bustling metropolis of high-rise office buildings, luxury hotels, wide boulevards and well-tended parks and gardens. "Kuwait has created a family atmosphere with beautiful gardens, resorts and other facilities such as the Entertainment City, the Green Island, Kuwait Towers among others. Although Kuwait is not as spectacular as UAE - it is unique in its own way. I prefer here to Dubai and other Gulf states," Immanuel Akag, a Turkish expat said.
SOME RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Unlike Saudi, the Constitution protects freedom of belief, although other laws and policies restrict the free practice of religion. Islam is the official religion of Kuwait. Freedom of religion is guaranteed to the adherents of other religions, provided that no prejudice may occur against Islam. But in practice, the government enforced these restrictions intermittently according to a US report. The population of Christians is estimated to be more than 450,000 and consists mostly of foreign residents. There are government-recognized Christian communities which includes; the Catholic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the National Evangelical (Protestant) Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church, and the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church. Although there are no Hindu temples in Kuwait, the Hindu community finds a way to worship their gods. "I have been in Kuwait for over 20 years now. I do practice my religion irrespective of the restrictions. I have not heard of any Hindus who have been arrested for practicing his or her religion. In Saudi, some Christians were arrested, tortured and deported for practicing their religion but Kuwait is not like that," Raja, an Indian expat who chose to go by only his first name said.