KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait will disburse some 240.5 million dinars ($780 million) to support Kuwaiti citizens employed in the private sector as part of efforts to soften the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the finance ministry said.
The Public Authority for Manpower will transfer sums to Kuwaiti business owners and private sector employees for six months effective from last month.
Only around 70,000 Kuwaiti citizens work in the private sector, where most employees are foreigners. As companies have laid off large numbers of foreign workers, the government has sought to retain Kuwaitis.
Most Kuwaitis work in the state sector, which has not experienced mass layoffs during the coronavirus crisis. Kuwait, like other oil-dependent Gulf monarchies, has long tried to encourage more of its citizens to accept private sector jobs, and gives such workers extra government benefits.
The finance ministry approved the disbursal this week following a June 1 request from the manpower authority, which said the payments were "to preserve the national employment gains in the private sector and enhance job security for this segment".
Kuwait's finances have been squeezed by the twin shock of the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.
Despite its vast wealth, the country could see its deficit widen to more than 11% of gross domestic product (GDP) this year from a 4.8% surplus last year, the International Monetary Fund has estimated.
A government official said last month Kuwait is considering making an annual 10% transfer of state revenue to its wealth fund conditional on budget surpluses as it seeks to bolster its finances.
The country is unable to tap the international debt markets due to parliamentary opposition to a debt law proposed by the government.
($1 = 0.3079 Kuwaiti dinars)
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy and Ghaida Ghantous; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Peter Graff)