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Expat wanderer

New Driver License Enforcement in Kuwait? – Maj Gen Abdulfattah Al-Ali

When you read this article from the Kuwait Times, you will see that the requirements for obtaining a Kuwait driver’s license are not new, but enforcing the requirements – if it happens – will be new. It will make Kuwait more like Saudi Arabia for expat wives, where women cannot drive their own car to pick up the laundry or drop the kids off at school or go grocery shopping – unless, in the case of Kuwait,  she has a university degree AND has lived in Kuwait for two years AND is employed earning 400KD. No mere expat wife will have a driver’s license under these guidelines.

But these are the same guidelines that were in effect when I arrived in Kuwait. When I was in Kuwait on a house hunting trip before moving there, I asked how this would work, with me not being able to have a license, according to the rules. I was asking Kuwaiti officials. They said that the rules did not apply to me. (This answer still stuns me.)  So where is it written to whom the law applies? The office of the Interior Ministry for Traffic Affairs will have a great deal of leeway making their approvals – will they apply this law equally to all peoples of all nationalities?

No licenses without traffic chief’s nod

KUWAIT: The Interior Ministry’s Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Affairs Maj Gen Abdulfattah Al-Ali issued a decision yesterday to stop the acceptance of applications for driving licenses from non-Kuwaitis (expatriates and bedoons) unless they are approved by his office. The decision number 61/2013 went into effect from July 1, 2013, and allows the undersecretary’s office to inspect every application forwarded by foreigners and stateless residents in order to verify whether they meet the conditions to apply for a driving license. Ali reportedly threatened traffic department officials with retribution if they fail to abide by the new instructions.

According to security sources who spoke to a local daily, the decision came after cases were discovered in which manipulations were found in some departments where licenses were issued to expatriates who do not meet the requirements. A foreign resident in Kuwait must have a university degree, a minimum monthly salary of KD 400 and have been residing in Kuwait for at least two years among other conditions to apply for a driving license.

The sources also argued that the new decision does not take away the authority of traffic departments around Kuwait. “The departments’ main role is to issue licenses to Kuwaitis, while issuing licenses to expatriates is the exception,” they said, adding the decision means transferring the exception to the assistant undersecretary’s office so that traffic department officials can focus on their jobs of serving citizens and putting more traffic police officers on the streets.

“Any decision – even if it’s for the safety and organization of traffic regulations in the country – issued suddenly without informing the public in advance will surely create hostility,” said attorney Labeed Abdal, a Kuwaiti columnist. “I advise the good undersecretary to hold a press conference to explain to the people why such a regulation is needed. In this way you send the message correctly to people who will not be angry or surprised,” he added. Abdal agreed that the decision is directed to ease traffic jams in the country blamed on reckless drivers. “I think the decision is good. Be informed that he (Ali) did not stop it completely – he said he will give a chance, under his ultimate mercy. He did this to avoid license forgery and wasta (influence),” he stressed.

Another Kuwaiti was not very happy about the new decision. “(A driving license) is the right of every human being…why can’t they understand this. This decision is short of saying ‘just terminate all the services of expatriates in Kuwait’. Why are expats here if you cannot provide the facilities they need. I ask the official (Ali) to try at least once to ride in a bus or even wait for a taxi. If he can stay for one minute under the scorching heat of the sun, then OK, cancel the licenses of expats. If not, forget about your decision – it’s inhuman and cannot be accepted,” he fumed.

 I do not agree that a driving license is a right of every human being. I do believe that those under 18 should not be driving on the roads of Kuwait – I don’t mind them learning how to drive out in the desert, but save the testosterone driving for way out there where you can’t endanger the rest of us. I don’t believe people who don’t know the laws should have a license. I think there should be a test that every person can study for and must pass to have a driver’s license, otherwise you are simply saying that every human being has a right to a license to kill! I believe that every driver must be adequately insured to be licensed, and that the police must be impartial when determining fault in an accident. These are the rules that hold those responsible enough to drive the wild roads of Kuwait to be held accountable for their driving.
I applaud the sincerity with which Maj Gen Abdulfattah Al-Ali is striving to make the roads in Kuwait safer for all, and enforcing the law equally against all nationalities, even Kuwaitis. I hope he will remember transparency and accountability as he builds a truly modern and enforceable traffic system in Kuwait.
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July 6, 2013 - Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Law and Order, Satire, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Transparency, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | ,

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