Taxi sector in need of strategic intervention

Updated 14 November 2012
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Taxi sector in need of strategic intervention

JEDDAH: The taxi and limousine sector in the Kingdom is a long way from employing Saudis to meet Saudization requirements.
Industry experts say more than 70 percent of drivers are expats with Indian and Pakistani drivers dominating.
Saeed Al-Bassami, vice president of the national transportation committee of the Saudi Council of Chambers of Commerce, told Arab News, "A recent study showed Saudis prefer to work independently of taxi companies. Many want their own private limousine service funded by bank loans."
He said, "Nitaqat figures show the Saudization percentage in the sector is 12 percent. However, Saudis avoid working for taxi companies so these companies cannot benefit from the Nitaqat. We cannot develop this sector without a high Saudization percentage. There are more than 10,000 jobs available but we only have 17 Saudis ready to work as drivers."
The Taxi Jeddah project, which proposed all taxi companies operate under a consortium has been rejected due to its low Saudization levels, reported local media.
Abdul Hadi Al-Qahtani, former president of the taxi committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News, "We proposed incorporating 260 taxi companies under one umbrella within five years. The Transport Ministry said in order to approve the project, Saudization must reach 100 percent. We received only six applications from Saudis.”
"There are 20,000 Saudi taxi drivers in the Kingdom. They are facing obstacles as many expats have converted their own private cars into taxis. At the same time, we have a big problem with new taxi drivers who come from outside and don’t know Jeddah street and city districts. There are many Saudi drivers who find themselves in trouble when the customer asks to go to an area the driver doesn’t know very well," added Al-Yami.
There is strong competition between Saudi and expat taxi drivers to obtain customer trust. Saudi drivers say they are working at this, however customers, particularly women, still prefer expats.
Many women avoid hiring Saudi drivers due to the perception that all of them are rude and even harass them. They feel safer with expat drivers.
Musfer Al-Yami, a company owner said, "A few Saudi taxi drivers have created a bad image because they allegedly harass women.”
Fatma Salah El-Deen said, “I never go with a Saudi driver as I have heard stories of women being harassed or kidnapped by Saudi drivers. I went with a Saudi driver once and he harassed me the entire time. He asked inappropriate questions and tried to give me his mobile number.”
Twenty-year-old Pakistani Naima told Arab News: "I make a conscious decision to hire expat drivers because they don't charge high prices like some Saudi drivers. I have noticed young Saudi drivers are arrogant and lazy and don't make any effort to be hired when I ask them to reduce their fare. I sometimes wonder if they are even serious about their job. Expat drivers sometimes try to charge high prices but are ready to negotiate."
Hashem, an Egyptian, said, "I don’t have a problem hiring Saudi drivers. I recently sat with one who complained that expat customers usually ignore his taxi because the majority of young Saudi drivers are very unprofessional, immature and hot-headed."
Expat Sadiq said, "I usually prevent my female family members from hiring Saudi drivers as they cannot speak Arabic very well and I do not want them to be taken advantage of. Expat drivers also take advantage of women sometimes but you can always threaten them. Not so with Saudi drivers."
Many Saudi drivers accuse expat drivers of tarnishing their image because of the strong competition between them. At the same time, expats fear Saudization would leave them jobless.
The Kingdom’s traffic laws stipulate drivers are not allowed to taxi paying customers in private cars.


Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

Updated 19 April 2018
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Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

  • Winners of first Golden Falcon award will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques
  • Film screenings have been revived in KSA as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 

RIYADH: Saudi films have won awards at an international film festival organized by the Netherlands to coincide with the return of cinema to the Kingdom.

The first Golden Falcon Film Festival awards drew Saudi actors, filmmakers and cinema-lovers to the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday.

More than 30 shortlisted Saudi films were shown at the maiden festival on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nine films were nominated, with three each in the best film, best script and best director categories. Overall winners were chosen by an international jury headed by Dutch filmmaker Hans Treffers.

Best movie award went to “Mazban.” The other two films nominated in the category were “Tongue” and “Building 20.”

“The Poetess,” “Matour” and “Atoor” were nominated in the best director category with “Atoor” bagging the award.

“Departures,” “Atoor” and “The Remaining” were nominated in the best script category with “Departures” winning the award.

Besides the Golden Falcon trophy, the winners will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques.

Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are proud to organize the first Golden Falcon Film Festival here to promote filmmaking in the Kingdom and provide a platform for young Saudi filmmakers to show what they have to offer.”

Film screenings — banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s following religious changes in the Kingdom — have been revived as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The return of cinema was heralded with a film screening on Wednesday at a newly built theater at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh. 

Commenting on the lifting of the 35-year ban, Reintjes told Arab News: “That’s Vision 2030 — it is good sign to diversify and develop.

“Although the cinemas in the Kingdom have only been restarted now, Saudi filmmaking has already made a name for itself on the world stage.

“The Saudi film industry will grow very fast. The level of talent is high,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Qass, lead actor from “Departure,” said: “We have been working for this day for years. 

“Saudis with a thirst for cinema were traveling outside the country — now they can enjoy and share the experience in their homeland.” 

Mohammed Khawajah, a Saudi filmmaker and adviser for the film festival, told Arab News: “The idea for this festival came last year when the lifting of the cinema ban was being discussed.

“The Netherlands embassy had this idea about nine months ago; we sat together and planned the whole festival, which was carried out successfully, with hundreds of people enjoying Saudi films.

“We will improve with our next festival, which will have more fun and entertainment,” he said.