The Kingdom is firmly committed to the development of Saudi society by achieving its goals set out in the Vision 2030. Among these aims is to reduce unemployment rates, dependency on foreign goods and foreign exchange remittances.
Saudi Arabia is considered to be a paradise for exporters all around the world as they can export their goods easily by paying an average customs duty of only 5 percent. This is the reason why small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the country have not grown at the pace at which they were supposed to despite the attractive SIDF loans offered by the government, the world’s cheapest energy prices and no taxes.
We have seen tremendous work done in the last few years by the Ministry of Labor in the nationalization of jobs and creating more employment opportunities for citizens but this goal has not been fully achieved and we believe it will not be achieved as long as the Kingdom’s borders are open for foreign goods.
Major focus on how to reduce dependency on foreign workers has been emphasised but focus on how to reduce dependency on imports has been neglected.
Small and medium industries under stress will increase the rate of unemployment in the Kingdom, which leads to increased foreign control in the local market.
Increased prices of local products due to the realization of the Saudization program will lead to a rise in wages of Saudi employees compared to the wages of foreigners. This will further lead to an increase in the cost to Saudi manufacturers and will consequently raise the prices of products produced, causing the small and medium industries in the Kingdom to shut down.
For instance, if Saudi manufacturers want to export their products to China, they must pay 60 percent customs to China. Compared to this, Chinese companies pay only five percent customs to export their products to Saudi Arabia.
We need to create more employment opportunities. We believe that one million jobs can be created by 2030 in the Kingdom’s small and medium industry, which not only needs the nationalization of jobs but also of products. We must work together to help make the dream of “Made in Saudi Arabia” a reality.
• Asif Rafiq Afridi is a CEO in the plastic industry.