Batha ‘home’ to expat workers in Riyadh

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Updated 24 January 2013
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Batha ‘home’ to expat workers in Riyadh

Batha is a well-known landmark in Riyadh like Balad in Jeddah or Ramaniyah in Alkhobar. To many visitors, Batha’s markets for gold, vegetables and fish, restaurants, computer shops and supermarkets make it simply a commercial or a trading area.
But Batha is more than that. It ’s also home to expatriate workers who find it convenient to live in the area, despite the crowd on weekends and the bumper-to-bumper traffic and noise at peak hours in the morning and evening, said Jun Adriano, who works for a publishing company. He has been living in the area for more than ten years.
The area is popular among the Asian community. Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are concentrated in villas and flats in the northern part of the area. Pakistanis live in accommodations in the central area while Bangladeshis and Indians chose to take up residence in the southern part of Batha.
“Large numbers of OFWs, Indians and Pakistanis are living in Riyadh. They were among the first foreign manpower to come to the capital city to work. For this reason it’s possible that they invited compatriots to share a flat with them and share the cost,” Adriano said.
Living in Batha has many advantages. It is strategically located and residents in the area can just walk to the fish and vegetable markets for food or to the restaurants to eat if they are they don’t have time to cook.
“I have been provided with a company car to service our customers in Riyadh and Central Region. I have decided to live in Batha because our head office is near the area,” said Jay Rabano, who works for a local company and who hails from Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines.
This choice also helps him save on his yearly housing allowance and send the money to his family in the Philippines.
“The rents in Batha are not that cheap. But OFWs can share the cost, with each having a room to himself,” he said.
Floro Brenna is a chief mechanic who lives in Sinayah. He said, “I have many friends living in Batha who also works as mechanics. Tired after work in the afternoon, they just walk to the nearest restaurant to eat.” Sinayah is in Riyadh’s old industrial area and not too far from Batha.
“Staying in Batha is convenient. You can buy what you need at a low price. This is because the numerous shops compete with each other sell at low prices as long as they have margins no matter how small,” said 31-year-old Mohammed Shabir, who is from Kerala, India.
“Being a resident of Batha has many advantages. I just walk from our flat toward Airport Road where I take a bus in going to work. I pay merely SR 2, which means I spend SR 4 on my daily commute,” he said.
“This is a very practical way of living, especially now that the prices of goods and commodities have gone up. I find it expensive to buy and maintain a car. In fact, many of my friends complain that they spend too much on their cars, in particular when they have a second-hand vehicle.
As my family will arrive in the Kingdom to join me in a week’s time, they tell me I should buy a brand-new car on installment because it is easy to acquire one,” he said.
Shabir is not used to the idea of incurring debt. He would rather save the money for his family and invest any savings in Kerala. “In doing so, my family and I will have something to fall back on in the future,” he said.
Shaikh Abdul Haq, a computer engineer in a local firm who hails from Karachi, has been living in Riyadh for the last 30 years.
He had noticed other expats in Batha could live in style. “They were able to save money by being discreet with their earnings. They could buy what they want by being practical.”


Shoura Council: We are the ears of Saudi society

Updated 9 min 47 sec ago
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Shoura Council: We are the ears of Saudi society

  • The Shoura Council that the King is addressing today has a vital role to play in government
  • Female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: When King Salman gives his annual speech that will open the third year of the Shoura Council’s seventh session today, it will set the tone for what lies ahead for the Kingdom, laying the groundwork for the consultative assembly to help to move the country forward.
“The King’s speech in the Shoura Council lays the road map to achieving Vision 2030,” said Lina Almaeena, one of its 30 female members. Women make up of 20 percent of the council, the same percentage of women who now hold seats in the US Congress.
While only midway through its seventh session, the roots of the Shoura Council date back to before Saudi Arabia’s founding. After entering the city of Makkah in 1924, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud entrusted the council with drafting the basic laws for the administration of what was to become the future unified Kingdom.
In 1928, amendments were made as public interest grew. A new law consisting of 24 articles, which included the permanent appointment of a vice-president by the King, was issued to facilitate the council’s work.
In 1953, the council’s jurisdictions were distributed between the Council of Ministers and other government entities, reducing the Shoura Council’s power, although it continued to hold sessions until its mandate was once again broadened this century.
Its current format consists of a Speaker and 150 council members, among them scholars, educators, specialists and prominent members of society with expertise in their respective fields, chosen by the King and serving a four-year term.
The council convenes its sessions in the capital of Riyadh, as well as in other locations in the Kingdom as the King deems appropriate. Known as Majlis Al-Shoura inside the Kingdom, its basic function is to draft and issue laws approved by the King, as the cabinet cannot pass or enforce laws, a power reserved for the King to this day.
The Shoura can be defined as an exchange of opinions, and so another of its functions is to express views on matters of public interest and investigate these issues with people of authority and expertise, hence the 14 specialized committees that cover several aspects of social and governmental entities. From education, to foreign affairs, members assigned to committees review proposed draft laws prior to submitting them to the King, as they are able to exercise power within its jurisdiction and seek expertise from non-Majlis members. All requested documents and data in possession of government ministries and agencies must go through a request process from the Speaker to facilitate the Shoura Council committees’ work.
Female members are a fairly recent phenomenon. In September 2011, the late King Abdullah stated that women would become members of the council. In 2013, two royal decrees reconstituted the council, mandating that women should always hold at least a fifth of its 150 seats and appointed the first group of 30 female Shoura members.
Five years on, female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia. “It’s a golden age for Saudis and, as women, we’ve come a long way,” said Almaeena. “We’re living an era of historical change, and we’re making up for lost time.”
As part of their roles, members of the council have the right to discuss general plans for economic and social development, particularly now with the Vision 2030 blueprint. Annual reports forwarded by ministries and governmental institutes, international treaties and concessions are also within the council members’ remit, to discuss and make suggestions that are deemed appropriate.
“Many positive changes have taken place in the past few years, and the Shoura Council’s role has always put social developments first and foremost,” said Dr. Sami Zaidan, a council member of two terms. “The appointment of women diversified and expanded the discussions and has added value.”
Major achievements were chalked up in this term’s second year. Many of the draft proposals discussed received approval votes. On Nov. 8, a proposal with 39 articles to protect informants from attacks, threats and material harm was approved by the majority of the council. The draft law, suggested by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economy and Planning, would provide whistle-blowers with protection.
In May, the Shoura Council also approved legislation criminalizing sexual harassment in the Kingdom. The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, backed the legislation, which required a royal decree to become law. Under it, perpetrators may face a jail sentence of up to five years and a SR 300,000 fine.
Draft regulations must go through a two-step process. The first, a chairman of a committee reads a draft of a proposal on the floor, and council members vote on referring the proposal to the designated committee. If members agree to the referral, each article is discussed thoroughly, studies are conducted on the aspects of the proposal, and after completing all the necessary checks, it reaches the second stage. The council then discusses the committee’s recommendations and a vote is set for each article proposed in an earlier session by the committee’s chairman.
Other proposals on the discussion table for this session include one that recognizes the importance of voluntary work in the community, in compliance with Vision 2030, which talks about one million volunteers in the Kingdom by 2030. The council has also asked the General Sports Authority to speed up the development of sports cities and to diversify its functions in different parts of the Kingdom to help the organizational level of women’s sports become an independent agency affiliated to the GSA chairman.
The council has also discussed a recommendation for women to hold leadership positions in Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions abroad, from a report by the council’s Foreign Affairs Committee. With approximately 130 women working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the report recommended the necessity of an appointment as an affirmation that Saudi women are able to take over leadership positions as ministers, ambassadors and Saudi representatives in international forums.
Almaeena pointed out that Shoura Council members are the ears of society, playing an important role in relaying the public’s message to the designated committees. “The Shoura Council’s doors are always open, although not many know this,” she said. “The public is always welcome and can attend sessions, scheduling ahead of time. The doors to the council have always been and will always be open to all.”