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.”
سبق ان فتحت محلين وكان دخلي اليومي ١٤٠٠ ريال والله فيها خير خصوصا للعاطل
لو دخلها قليل ماتداعوا عليها الاجانب
— بــدر (@Bader1824) March 9, 2016
“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.”
لن ينجح القرارالا بمنع الاجنبي
نهائيا من محلات الجوالات
لانه سيجلس ويقول كفيلي بالمستشفى
ويلعبون مره اخرى
— ابو محمد (@Mohmed9Abo) March 9, 2016
“Nationalizing the cellular sector would create at least 20,000 jobs for Saudis,” wrote another.
توطين قطاع الاتصالات يوفر 20 ألف وظيفة للسعوديين. (الاقتصادية)#إلزام_سعودة_محلات_الجوالات
— هاشتاق السعودية (@HashKSA) March 9, 2016
Another user recommended a “wonderful site” showing how to fix phones and sell spare parts.
موقع رائع يشرح بالفيديو طريقة صيانة الجوالات مع بيع قطع غيارها
— Muhammed Shawan (@mohdbosha) March 8, 2016
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.
ع كذا المحلات تفتح بعد المغرب وتقفل ثمان صديق فيه ركب شاشه شاشة ويش بلازما حافظو ع جوالاتكم 😌
— KHALID F (@3k3k3k3) March 8, 2016