RIYADH, 29 April 2004 — Minister of Labor Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi has reiterated the government’s determination to crack down on the trade in visas. The minister said that 70 percent of visas issued are sold on the black market.
The minister’s remarks came at a meeting of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Dr. Fahad Al-Sultan, secretary-general of the council, pointed out that 600,000 job visas were issued last year and 120,000 had been issued in the first two months of this year.
Gosaibi said if the issuing of visas continued at that rate, “we will issue 750,000 visas this year — a figure that I shall never accept as long as I am responsible.” He affirmed his determination to cut the number of visas by ten percent. The minister called for all-round cooperation in solving the problem of Saudi unemployment which currently stands at ten percent.
“Creating job opportunities for Saudis is a national duty. The violations that took place in the past were the result of the oil boom which will never return,” he said.
Referring to concerns raised by Saudi businessmen that Saudization may have a negative impact on the private sector, he said: “I see Saudization as a chicken laying opportunities. I don’t want anybody to kill the chicken. I want to feed this chicken and raise it because our young people will never find a job opportunity except through the private sector.”
He explained that he would use “convincing dialogue” to reconcile national interest with the legitimate interests of the business community. Gosaibi said the “Saudi reality” had destroyed three popular myths. The first is that the private sector is the enemy of Saudization. “This is no longer so. It is clear now that Saudi businessmen themselves want to Saudize jobs,” he said. Second, that Saudis will not accept manual work, is also no longer true. The third myth is that Saudis will not accept low salaries.
The minister said that his policy of fighting unemployment was based on a three-pronged approach: Control the influx of expatriates, intensify practical training for Saudis to improve their competing skills in the labor market and set up a dialogue with the private sector to create more jobs for Saudis. The minister added that all should be ready to accept some painful decisions and consequences that will come about as a result.