A royal decree was issued yesterday changing the official Saudi weekend to Friday and Saturday, a move that will bring the Kingdom’s working week closer to that of other countries and boost international business relations.
Saudi Arabia, the biggest Arab economy, was the only member of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council to have a Thursday-Friday weekend after Oman shifted to a Friday-Saturday weekend last month.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah issued a decree announcing the historic decision. The decision, according to the decree, was made to “protect public interest and fulfill the Kingdom’s regional and international commitments.”
All ministries, government authorities, financial institutions, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, the Capital Market Authority and the Saudi Stock Market will follow the new weekend from June 29. Schools and universities will follow the changed weekend at the start of the next academic year (2013-14).
The change, however, will not have a major impact on the private sector as the Labor Ministry said Friday is the only holiday for the sector. Those companies offering a two-day weekend may switch over to Friday and Saturday, Hattab Al-Anazi, the ministry’s spokesman said. “The move to provide two-day weekend for the private sector is still under study by the Shoura Council. Once it is finalized, the weekend will be on Fridays and Saturdays,” he added.
The Kingdom, a regional economic powerhouse, wants to maximize benefits from its investments. “The new decision was taken to bring the working days of Saudi government departments and national institutions closer to their foreign counterparts,” the king said.
Although the world’s top oil exporter had discussed looking at the change in its weekend in the future, few people had expected it to make the switch so soon.
The fact the change is happening in June, after schools have closed and while many Saudis are on holiday before Ramadan which starts on July 9, means it will be less jarring, said economists.
Riyadh’s stock exchange, the biggest in the Arab world, is open for five days a week, but until now only three of these coincided with the working week in the world’s major financial centers.