Taxi sector in need of strategic intervention



Nadim Al-Maheed, Ibrahim Naffee and Afra Naushad

Published — Wednesday 14 November 2012

Last update 14 November 2012 7:24 am

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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.

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