Businesses heave a sigh of relief

Businesses heave a sigh of relief
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Businesses heave a sigh of relief
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Updated 09 April 2013

Businesses heave a sigh of relief

Businesses heave a sigh of relief

Saudis and expatriates alike have welcomed the decision taken by Riyadh Gov. Prince Khaled bin Bandar, to extend the Saudization deadline for businesses by two months.
A similar decision is expected from the governors of other regions to boost businesses, attract investors and contain the rise in the prices of goods and services.
The deadline has been extended until June 9 (Rajab 30, 1434H) in order to assist businesses such as banks, money exchangers, gold and jewelry shops, vegetable markets and public service offices to rectify the status of their workers and employ the required number of Saudis.
Said Al-Shaikh, chief economist at National Commercial Bank, supported the move, saying it would have a positive impact on businesses. However, he pointed out that more time would be required to correct the status of thousands of foreign workers and ensure the new labor regulations are observed. He expected another extension of the deadline in order to provide ample time for businesses as well as authorities to deal with the complex issue.
In his directive that was issued on Wednesday night, Prince Khaled instructed officials to intensify inspection of targeted firms after the grace period, to ensure they employ the adequate number of Saudis.
The new inspections will target 11 sectors, namely banks, holding companies, private schools, real estate offices, public service offices, gold markets, catering, vegetable markets, shops selling household items, Haj and Umrah offices as well as used furniture markets.
Hattab Al-Anazi, spokesman of the Labor Ministry, said he was not aware of the decision taken by the Riyadh governor. “I have seen the report in local newspapers but I cannot confirm or deny it,” he told Arab News. In a previous statement, Al-Anazi had said that no exceptions would be made in case of any institution in the campaign to drive out illegals.
The nationwide campaign has hit businesses and created a kind of fear among expatriates. Many foreigners in some firms have not been attending work and many shops run by expatriates have been closed.
Some Saudi intellectuals have questioned the ministry’s massive campaign against foreigners who hold valid residency permits, saying it has increased charges of maintenance workers, electricians and plumbers.
“Many shops have been closed. This will affect the local market and increase the cost of living for citizens. We are now experiencing a development boom and thousands of Saudis are in the process of building their own houses and they depend mainly on foreigners,” said Farhan Al-Oqail, a columnist in Al-Yaum Arabic daily.
Al-Oqbail emphasized the need to treat foreign workers better, inspired by the teachings of Islam. “We should draft our laws and regulations considering the country’s situation, the volume of work and present development requirements,” he said.
Rafeek Younus, vice president of Saihati Group and managing director of Saudi Engineering Group International, welcomed the decision to extend the Saudization campaign in the Riyadh region. He stressed the need for persuading ordinary Saudis to take up various “menial jobs” that are currently done by expats.
“Many foreigners have come to the Kingdom purchasing visas offered by Saudi sponsors, paying thousands of riyals. They would not have purchased such visas if they knew they would be considered illegals,” he said, and called upon the ministry to support such expats to legalize their stay on humanitarian grounds.
Abubakar Abdurahman, a senior resource person of CIGI, said the raids have created a fear psychosis among the expatriate community and affected businesses. He stressed the need for adopting a gradual Saudization process, which will not adversely affect the national economy. He feared that if foreign workers are not given enough time to rectify, the ensuing situation could damage the Kingdom’s international reputation.
Akbar Batcha, a business executive, emphasized the need for a cleaning operation as more than 50 percent of foreigners do not work for their sponsors. “This is a major issue,” he said, while calling upon the ministry to expedite procedures to transfer their sponsorship. “The enforcement of the law that everyone should work under their sponsors could lead to the closure of many businesses and ultimately Saudi citizens and the national economy will suffer,” he told Arab News.