RIYADH: The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday announced that businesses in Saudi Arabia are to be given the option to remain open 24 hours a day.
Minister of Commerce and Investment Dr. Majid Al-Qassabi thanked King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the decision, which he said would improve the quality of life in the Kingdom by raising levels of satisfaction among residents and creating new opportunities for the business sector.
He added that it has been shown that 24-hour trading can have a positive effect on the macroeconomy of a country by increasing demand for goods and services, stimulating consumer spending and attracting capital investment. In addition, he said, it can help boost sectors such as leisure, tourism, transport and communications, and it is expected to create new job opportunities.
The decision reflects moves being made by the Kingdom to support the private sector and entrepreneurs by providing the best possible environment in which to operate through the amendment of regulations and legislation, and the continuing process of economic reforms.
Saudi Arabia is also committed to reducing the unemployment rate from 11.6 percent to 7 percent by providing more job opportunities for young people in particular, supporting entrepreneurs, establishing large enterprises, and increasing the role of the private sector and creating partnerships with it.
Talat Zaki Hafiz, secretary-general of the committee on information and banking awareness, believes the decision to allow 24-hour opening is a positive move for the country.
“I think this is a smart move that will benefit the economy and reduce the unemployment rate, which is considered now to be high at 11.6 percent, but also to serve the needs of the public who are living in the country, tourists and people who are visiting for Hajj and Umrah,” he said.
Iyad Ghulam of NCB Capital, an investment banking and asset management firm, also welcomed the announcement.
“We believe it will have a positive impact on the economy by creating employment, increasing disposable income, and boosting small and medium enterprises and the private sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product. For listed companies, we expect restaurants to be the key beneficiaries.
“In line with Vision 2030 targets, we expect the relaxing of regulations governing business hours to have a positive impact on the overall economy by supporting GDP growth, reducing unemployment, potentially increasing consumer spending, and meeting the needs of a larger consumer base.”
Regulations and procedures will be developed and put in place to govern 24-hour opening, and it is expected that a fee will be payable by businesses that wish to take advantage of the opportunity. The decision of whether or not to open all hours will remain with individual business owners.
Khalid Abdulrahman, the owner of a large coffee shop in Riyadh, said that the decision could benefit certain businesses, including his, but a lot will depend on the yet to be revealed details of how the process will operate.
“It might affect us positively to open 24 hours during the weekend only, because most of the Saudi people stay up all night,” he said. “This depends on whether we get to choose the days to open around the clock.”
Ahmed Mushtaq who runs Sohoby, a business-technology provider in Jeddah, said that it could give his employees more flexibility in choosing preferable working hours.
“As all of them are hard workers, some do prefer working during night hours as they can be focused and achieve more,” he said. “With this decision, employees’ working hours will be more flexible, especially for those who wish to work during late hours and spend more time with their families during the day.”
The Cabinet said that its decision takes into account the security and social needs of the community, particularly at night, and also weather requirements, especially those designed to cope with high temperatures during the summer.