Saudi Arabia to Nationalize Economy at Expense of Foreign Workers

A Saudi man walks past a pump at a petrol station on December 28, 2015 in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. Saudi Arabia said it plans to review the prices of heavily-subsidised power and fuel as part of new measures introduced in the face of low oil prices.

JAFFA, Israel – Saudi Arabia is planning to “nationalize” its economy due to the country’s mounting deficit, which is the result of plummeting oil prices, structural problems in the economy, and the Saudis’ ongoing involvement in the conflict in Yemen.

Last year, Riyadh registered a $100 billion deficit, spurring the government to pledge a $10 billion loan from international banks.

The government plans to “Saudize” the economy by encouraging employment among the country’s 21 million citizens. Currently, some 10 million migrants work in the kingdom, mainly in the private sector.

Saudi Arabia’s minister of labor, Mufrej Al-Haqbani, announced four stages to the nationalization program, reported Al Arabiya:

First, the ministry will work in coordination with targeted sectors of the economy on a plan for “Saudization.” This also involves training native Saudis with the object of a phased replacement of foreigners working in highly skilled and semi-skilled jobs in the private sector.

Second, the ministry will work with the provincial governorates to support Saudization programs for each province in accordance with the each region’s needs. This will be done with the support of local emirs.

Third, there will be total Saudization of some trades in cooperation with other ministries. This will start with the sale and maintenance sector of mobile phones.

Fourth, the “Balanced Nitaqat” program, which will be launched by the ministry soon, will be combined with the “Guided Localization” program.

The “Balanced Nitaqat” refers to a Saudi initative to limit the number of firms requesting foreign workers.

Foreign workers have penetrated numerous fields, including cellular communication, which is run almost solely by non-Saudis. The hashtag #Saudize_cellular_business has become a big Twitter hit.

“I’ve started working in the field,” one commenter wrote on Twitter, “and I make about 1,400 riyal [US$450]. It’s a lucrative business, believe me – otherwise the foreigners wouldn’t have worked in it.”

“The retailers are foreigners, the distributors are foreign, and they take away our jobs,” another wrote.

“The plan could succeed only if the migrant workers were completely banned from mobile phone stores,” Mohammed wrote. “Otherwise, they’d say that the Saudi owner is sick and they are just filling in for him.”

“Nationalizing the cellular sector would create at least 20,000 jobs for Saudis,” wrote another.

Another user recommended a “wonderful site” showing how to fix phones and sell spare parts.

Another commenter supported the motion, but only if it didn’t include women. “We want Saudization, but not women. We want people to work, but not at the expense of their morals.”

“If the plan goes ahead, it will mean that shops will open only after the evening prayer [at about 6pm] and the shops will close at 8,” Khaled remarked sarcastically.


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