KUWAIT: Official government sources told Al-Anbaa daily that travel restrictions on expats will be lifted soon, as they will be included in the government plan to gradually resume commercial flights at Kuwait International Airport from Aug 1, 2020. In this regard, informed source said having an accredited PCR certificate proving passengers are clear of COVID-19 will be one of the main conditions for passengers on departure. The sources added that the certificate fee will be between KD 10 and 20 and will be determined by ground service officials.
The sources explained that passengers would have to obtain the PCR certificates four days prior to departure, but added they are not required to enter some countries, such as Egypt and Turkey. On the other hand, citizens and expats returning to Kuwait would have to obtain PCR certificates from health centers accredited by Kuwaiti embassies abroad without having to endorse them at Kuwaiti consulates in order to avoid overburdening embassies abroad and avoid crowding observed previously outside Kuwaiti embassies in a number of countries.
Moreover, the sources said a specialized approved health lab will be set up at Kuwait airport under Ministry of Health (MoH) supervision to issue health certificates to departing passengers proving them to be clear of COVID-19. In addition, the sources said the Shlonik app is available for both citizens and expats and that travel will be open for both departing and arriving citizens and expats until further MoH instructions.
Meanwhile, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Director Yousef Al-Fauzan issued a directive allowing the entry of expat MoH staff members and their first-degree relatives even if their residencies had expired, said Al-Qabas. In this regard, official sources stressed that over 1,000 medics (doctors, nurses and lab and radiology technicians) who had been stranded abroad, mainly in India, have already returned through Kuwait airport upon MoH request to allow them back to Kuwait to support medical staff.
KUWAIT: The council of ministers on Thursday decided to lift a lockdown on Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula residential areas more than 100 days of imposing it to combat the spread of the coronavirus. This means that the lockdown will remain on Farwaniya, the last residential area in isolation.
Government spokesman Tareq Al-Mazrem said the lockdown will be lifted on Thursday, July 9 from 5:00 am, adding that the decision was based on recommendations by the health minister.
Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula , home to over half a million mostly expat workers, were the first two residential areas to be locked down in the country after the virus broke out among low-paid expat laborers residing in the two areas.
The decision was taken despite a jump in the number of coronavirus cases reported over the past 24 hours. The health ministry said 919 cases were reported yesterday compared to 745 cases the previous day. Kuwaitis continued to top the list with a big difference.
In the meantime, the national assembly legal and legislative committee Thursday decided that a draft law submitted by five MPs and proposing a quota system for expatriate communities, was found to be in line with the Kuwaiti constitution and laws.
The committee decided to refer the bill to the concerned committee that will study all legislation on expatriates in the country with the aim to cut their numbers. According to the bill, the largest foreign community in Kuwait, the Indians, must not exceed 15 percent of the Kuwaiti population who currently stand at 1.45 million. If approved, the law would require some 800,000 Indians to leave the country, which is an impossible task by all means.
The legal committee also decided to lift the immunity of two lawmakers suspected to be involved in the corruption scandal allegedly run by a Bangladeshi MP currently detained in Kuwait over the allegations.
The two MPs, Saadoun Hammad and Salah Khorshed said they asked the committee to lift their immunity so they could be interrogated by the public prosecution in order to clear their names, denying that they had anything to do with the scandal.
KUWAIT: The interior ministry will submit to the National Assembly within two weeks a draft law proposing changes to the residency law, as the Assembly prepares to complete legislation to facilitate the reduction of expats in the country within a few months, officials said yesterday. Speaking to state-run Kuwait Television, Interior Minister Anas Al-Saleh said the government has a complete draft law proposing to “upgrade the residency law”, which will be sent to the Assembly within the next two weeks.
The draft law calls to benefit from neighboring and advanced countries with the aim to encourage only those expats that are needed to stay in the country, the minister said without elaborating. The statement is a clear reference to the intention to cut expat numbers.
Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem also told Kuwait TV that he and a group of lawmakers will submit to the Assembly a comprehensive draft law calling for a gradual reduction of expats in the country. Ghanem said it is difficult at this stage to impose quotas with specific percentages for different nationalities, in reference to another draft law cleared on Thursday by the legal and legislative committee that assigns specific percentages for various foreign communities.
The speaker said that Kuwait has a real problem in its population structure, in which 70 percent are expats, adding that what is more serious is that 1.3 million of the 3.35 million expats “are either illiterate or can merely read and write”, who is not the people Kuwait really needs. He said 100,000 of these people are workers who are illiterate.
“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 said. The speaker said the draft law they intend to file will propose to impose a cap on the number of expats, whose numbers must decrease gradually by stating that this year expats will be 70 percent, next year 65 percent and so on.
The draft law also proposes to determine the number of expats that can be recruited every year, including their specialization and other details, he said. Ghanem said the Assembly is determined to complete the population structure legislation before the end of this Assembly term. The term ends in October and new elections are scheduled for November.
Meanwhile, MP Khalil Al-Saleh, head of the Assembly’s manpower resources development committee, said the panel will start this week looking into a number of draft laws on the population structure. Ghanem stressed visa trading is “brutal, which amounts to trafficking in persons and must be countered”.
The interior minister said since the start of a campaign targeting visa traders a few months ago, 282 cases involving 417 companies have been referred to the public prosecution for interrogation over visa trading offences. The cases relate to 526 people including 49 Kuwaitis, the minister said.
He said the interior ministry has supplied all information regarding the case of the Bangladeshi MP who is detained in the country over a suspected corruption scandal involving high-profile people like MPs, senior officials and others. “There is no red line” in the fight against visa traders, Saleh said. “All those who took part in this cancerous disease must be held to account … The file of visa traders must vanish and we will eradicate it from Kuwait”.
Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel told the same TV program that around 12,500 expat workers were found to be affected by the visa traders already referred to the public prosecutors. She said that during the coronavirus months, the Public Authority for Manpower received 2,500 labor complaints and the files of 2,207 companies have been suspended.
She said that a leading official at the manpower authority has been suspended for involvement in the Bangladeshi MP case and that three other employees are being interrogated for their suspected involvement.
Attorney General Mohammad Al-Duaij meanwhile said that since the start of the year, the public prosecution has received 59 cases of human trafficking involving 300 suspects. He said trafficking in persons cases in Kuwait are mainly of two types: The first involves employers refusing to pay the salaries of their workers or even reducing those salaries. The second involves people “trading” in domestic helpers like a “commodity”.
Duaij said suspects connected to such cases are normally arrested and detained at the central jail. He said between 2015 and end of 2019, as many as 157 suspects in human trafficking cases were tried and 84 of them were handed harsh sentences ranging between 15 years in jail to life in prison.
KUWAIT: Kuwait Diving Team of the Environmental Voluntary Foundation lifted remains of sunken boats, tires and other dumped materials littering the seabed in Kuwait Bay. Team leader Walid Al-Fadhel said on Saturday that the divers brought to surface a sunken ship, remains of a two-ton yacht, others of a sunken boat weighing three tons from Oshairej shores. They also removed abandoned wooden and plastic materials, fishing nets weighing five tons and monitored fishermen picking crabs and snails in an illegal fashion. He reiterated the appeal upon seagoers and fishermen to abide by rules for safeguarding the Kuwaiti marine environment.
The Kuwaiti divers have not suspended activities at sea to rid the marine environment of harmful objects left behind by negligent persons. Moreover, they have been regularly examining condition of coral reefs in territorial waters despite extraordinary conditions prevailing in the country due to the coronavirus crisis.
The fishermen had in the past lifted various objects harmful to the reefs, such as abandoned heavy anchors and dumped nets. The reefs off the Kuwaiti coast had also suffered from bleaching in the peak of past summers. The foundation along with state authorities have repeatedly urged sea goers and seamen to refrain from littering the sea and dumping objects that hurt coral reefs and other marine creatures. —KUNA
KUWAIT: Lawmakers are pressing the government for a definitive plan to substantially reduce the number of expatriates within one to two years, rapporteur of the National Assembly’s human resources development panel said yesterday. MP Osama Al-Shaheen however said the government has so far refused to commit to such a plan and is seeking a loose “framework” that leaves details and figures to the government.
Expats at present form 70 percent of the population with 3.35 million residents, while Kuwaitis form just 30 percent with 1.45 million, according to official statistics. Shaheen said the prime minister has pointed out that the ideal situation is by reversing the percentage to 70 percent citizens and 30 percent expats, while the government in studies talks about a 60-40 ratio in favor of Kuwaitis.
But the reality is far from the two proposals, said Shaheen, adding that the government opinion on this issue must be united before even debating the required plan. Reducing expats to just 30 percent of the population means making them around 700,000, which is impossible by all counts simply because the number of domestic helpers currently stands at 750,000.
Shaheen said what is important now is “to begin in a real and effective way”, which has not happened until now, adding that the number of illegals who left voluntarily was only 29,000 out of 150,000, “so what can be done with those living legally in the country?” Shaheen said the Assembly panel has given the government ample time to study proposals submitted by lawmakers, adding that MPs are hoping for a resolution to this issue within a year or two at most. But he acknowledged that the problem, which has been accumulating for the past 50 years, requires a longer time to resolve.
Head of the panel MP Khalil Al-Saleh said in press statements yesterday that Kuwait can reduce the number of expats by one million within three months after resuming commercial flights. He said this number includes around 168,000 illegals – 500,000 “roaming workers” who have no fixed jobs, in addition to expats who would be laid off from government jobs.
MP Al-Humaidi Al-Subaei said yesterday that the increasing number of violations against marginal expat workers and trafficking in persons are the main reasons for asking the minister of social affairs to prepare a report on measures taken against violators. He said the request, which was approved by the Assembly, calls on the minister to submit the report within just one month and should include names of those involved.
In a related development, the issue of the Bangladeshi MP detained in Kuwait on human trafficking and money laundering charges appears to be snowballing to include several leading officials and lawmakers. Footage posted on social media yesterday showed the Bangladeshi lawmaker speaking in the Bangladeshi parliament and claiming that he was making some KD 100,000 daily in Kuwait and that he was spending a lot on poor people and charities in his country. Local press said leading figures from the government have been added to his list of accomplices, in addition to at least two current Kuwaiti MPs and an ex-MP.
Meanwhile, the manpower authority yesterday explained in a press release that emergency teams were dispatched to the scene of a protest in Mahboula last week and found over 148 workers demonstrating because they had not received salaries for March, April and May. The employer was summoned, who said his contract with the government had expired on Jan 22 and his contract with the foreign partner had expired on Jan 29.
The employer added that on June 25, he had submitted a portfolio of documents indicating the contract’s expiry and an affidavit from the foreign partner bearing responsibility for the workers’ financial, administrative and legal liabilities and rights. The authority added that on receiving this portfolio from the company, the matter was referred to Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of State for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel on June 26.
Aqeel was asked her to contact the ministers of oil and electricity and water to take proper measures and withhold the company’s cash deposit and any due payments, as well as administratively suspend dealing with the company until the workers’ dues are paid. The authority said despite notifying the workers of the measures taken so far, they have continued their agitation.
KUWAIT CITY: The Council of Ministers will likely adopt to the recommendations by supreme ministerial committee who follow up on day to day reports and statistics on status of infections and its spread of Corona virus on it first stage of evaluation on gradual return to normalcy plan.
Prime Minister His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled has determined that five conditions must be met to overcome it and move to the second stage.
Informed sources stated that due to high number of infections of Kuwaiti citizens in recent days basically for not following health instructions and guidelines may delay the transition to the second stage in full.
• Bader Al-Kharafi: “Now more than ever, the need for a fundamental systemic change is central to the region’s transformation and growth”
• Zain Group included in FTSE4Good Index Series, recognizing company’s ESG standards
•Report focuses on providing Meaningful Connectivity through digitalization, whereby Zain aims to unlock the opportunities of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
KUWAIT: Zain Group, the leading mobile telecom innovator in eight markets across the Middle East and Africa, announces the publication of its ninth annual sustainability report, entitled “The Road to the Future”. Embedding sustainability in every aspect of its business, Zain is dedicated to its digital strategy of consistently working towards developing the mobile telecommunications ecosystem centered on a vision of inclusive development that leads to socio-economic growth.
In this consolidated Group-wide report, the company focuses on the concept of providing Meaningful Connectivity which triggers systemic change, ultimately creating room for development and growth, aiming to address the company’s social, economic and environmental impacts. Noteworthy, is the FTSE Russell’s inclusion of Zain Group in its FTSE4Good Index Series, the world’s leading Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) index, a key indicator to help investors identify companies that meet globally recognized sustainability standards.
‘The Road to the Future” report includes Zain’s key ESG indicators which is primarily based on the company’s sustainability strategy and initiatives, established on six main pillars with its activities driven by the following imperatives: Creating shared value; Promoting social innovation; Inclusivity and leaving no one behind; Addressing Sustainable Development Goals; Tackling climate change; and Youth empowerment.
Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi commented: “Now more than ever, the need for a fundamental systemic change is central to the region’s transformation and growth. In our world, digital and technological advancements offer endless opportunities to not only address negative impacts but create positive ones. Through digitization, our wide range of services, and reach, Zain aims to unlock the possibilities that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer and the publication of this report is testament to our ongoing efforts and resolve.” Kharafi continued, “FTSE Russell’s inclusion of Zain Group in its FTSE4Good Index Series reconfirms our commitment to embedding ESG principles in every operational aspect of the company.”
On her part, Zain Group’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Jennifer Suleiman said, “In an era of rapid change and disruption, having a forward-thinking vision is an essential aspect of our sustainability strategy. At Zain, we welcome the tides of disruption as they often provide us the chance to evolve in a positive manner.” Suleiman added, “It is short-sighted for a company not to consider what the impact of its operations are on the environment and adjust its way of doing business accordingly. The reason we remain so committed to publishing our sustainability reports is to be extremely forthcoming of our own experiences in this area, and to inspire others to follow suit and have real conversations and implement real solutions in the pursuit of truly sustainable programs.”
Action in motion
Internal and external stakeholders alike are at heart of Zain’s sustainability activities. Throughout 2019, some of the significant developments undertaken by Zain and its operations include:
1. Regarding the universally important issue of climate change, Zain became a member of the GSMA Climate Action Task Force with the objective to play a more strategic role in addressing the company’s environmental footprint. By becoming a member of the Carbon Disclosure Project, which provides a reporting framework and guidance to address climate change, Zain also installed 849 outdoor (base station/power) solutions and 91 small shelters across its operations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while deploying 25 solar and hybrid base solutions. These actions symbolize a firm step by Zain in the fight against climate change.
2. Zain continued to solidify its supply chain process through implementing initiatives such as the Supplier Assessment Questionnaire; joining up to the Supplier Code of Conduct; alignment to international best practices through Zain’s ESMP Guidelines; and supporting two audit visits per year on selected suppliers on social and environmental criteria.
3. From an economic perspective, the company has expanded its life-enhancing digital financial services available in Jordan and Iraq under the Zain Cash brand, to now include Saudi Arabia, under the brand name Tamam, an end-to-end digital microlending platform offering micro-loans to vulnerable communities in the Kingdom. 52 percent of men, and 35 percent of women possess a bank account in the Kingdom, though among the unbanked population, 86 percent men and 75 percent of women own a mobile phone. Moreover, Zain Kuwait and Boubyan Bank announced plans for the development of the first digital platform for Islamic banking services, marking the first digital partnership of this nature in the region made between one of the biggest regional telecom entities. This encourages the development of digital banking services helping support startups and emerging enterprises and contribute to the incredible digital innovation taking place across the region.
4. With respect to the people at Zain, who are the heart of the organization, the company further enhanced its Gender Diversity and Inclusion program building its Women Empowerment initiative aiming to develop and increase female leadership. Furthermore, Zain launched its WE ABLE program to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace aiming to become Disability Inclusive by 2022 and became a signatory to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Global Business and Disability Network Charter. Zain firmly believes it is important that the contributions that people with disabilities can make in our workforce and in society in general are given ample opportunity to be recognized.
5. Moreover, Zain’s Youth (ZY) Empowerment Program plays an instrumental role in empowering youth in the region. Initiatives launched under ZY include Generation Z; a year-long graduate program in Kuwait that enhances digital and behavioral skills preparing them for future employment and contributing to society at large; Zainiac, an internal e-platform that aims to encourage intrapreneurship within the organization and thereafter support in the incubation process and developing the business idea, noting the initiative has received over 700 unique ideas; and Reverse Mentoring, aiming to improve diversity and inclusion by reducing gaps between younger and senior employees, whereby youth act as a sounding board for new product launches and initiatives, better understanding one another’s perspectives.
6. Engaging with its teams across the region, Zain organized several forums to align departmental strategies and objectives with the main aim of sharing best practices and scaling the opportunities of Meaningful Connectivity that empower the communities Zain serves. Functions included Regulatory, Digital, Risk Management, Commercial, Legal, Procurement and Technology.
7. From a products and customer perspective, Zain launched 5G networks in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, expanded much needed 4G networks across other key markets and continued to expand its B2B presence expanding its reach by including SoHo (small and home offices) and SMEs segments. Furthermore, the company is moving forward in its plans to set up a centralized ICT and Digital professional services hub that serves Zain’s operations and other business entities across Zain’s footprint and beyond. This hub will provide Cloud and Cybersecurity services, IoT, Big Data and Analytics as well as a wider spectrum of new technologies covering areas related to Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Drone solutions to name a few. It is through these key steps that exemplify the efforts that the connectivity Zain provides takes a life of its own, and embodies the true meaning of Meaningful Connectivity, further accelerating much needed systemic change.
8. The company also scaled its Zain Group API, growing it exponentially in products offered and customer usage in Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and expanding it during the year to Bahrain, Iraq and Oman. The social ambition is to open some of Zain’s assets to emerging developers both regionally and internationally with the aim of creating new opportunities for young entrepreneurs to partner with Zain. This will allow the company to provide their services to our customers therefore expanding their reach ultimately creating shared value for both the company and the entrepreneurs. One relevant example that had multiple benefits, is Zain’s launch of the Zain Kids application offering educational games and videos that can be managed by parents.
9. Safeguarding future generations and mitigating negative impacts of broadband connectivity is an especially important part of Zain’s sustainability agenda, and the company reinforced its commitment to protecting children, publishing a report titled “Child Online Safety: Minimizing the Risk of Violence, Abuse and Exploitation” online under the Broadband Commission Working Group: Child Online Safety.
The above are just a few examples of the many initiatives outlined in the Report. With the MENA region undergoing drastic changes, Zain’s sustainability agenda will continuously evolve so that the company remains of value to all our stakeholders.
The “The Road to the Future” report is aligned with the United Nations Guiding Principles adhering to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards reporting guidelines. In accordance with Zain’s sustainability agenda, the 2019 sustainability report is available only in digital format and can be downloaded for free by visiting: https://zain.com/en/sustainability/sustainability-report/