By Talal Alharbi
20 February 2016
It is the norm in planning and management that any decision to solve a certain problem should be subject to debate, revision and re-evaluation to either strengthen, amend or cancel in accordance with the established goals. This applies to all aspects of our social, economic, educational end even political life. One of the problems that we are facing and which is difficult to solve is the process of Saudisation.
I, as well as many economists and investors, believe that the Saudisation process should be stopped because instead of solving our problems it will only add to the many negative deviations it has already caused.
Saudisation means that the local labour market should accommodate a certain number of work-seeking young Saudis. It aims at providing young Saudis with an opportunity to work and compete with others. Unfortunately, it has become a utopian concept because it has neither provided the young Saudi men with the opportunity to work nor has it qualified them to lead the march to the future. From an objective perspective, those who were really appointed by the private sector were those who already deserved these jobs because they were qualified for those jobs with or without Saudisation.
Otherwise, the percentage of Saudisation in the private sector is practically negligible or mere statistics on paper meant to complement formal licensing procedures and transferring of sponsorship.
Instead of creating real jobs for the Saudi youth, Saudisation has turned into a process of offering these young men SR1, 000 or SR2, 000 while they are sitting at home, or, as some would claim, while studying. As such, the Saudisation process has become an attempt to win money that has nothing to do with work, experience and continuity.
The problem is not that the Saudisation didn’t achieve the required goals, but it has started to impact other sectors. We are supposed to go ahead in fighting unemployment, but, in fact, we didn’t move a single step further. Consider foreign and national investment companies that are facing problems to expand because they are required to apply the Saudisation system before they could expand or grow. Some of them refuse to be captives to this wrong practice, so they have come to a standstill.
Recently, I met a foreign investor, who is partner with a German company, and we had this conversation:
Why don’t you expand?
Because of the Saudisation.
Why don’t you look for some fictitious young men just for paperwork?
Because our head office is in Dubai and it refuses to indulge in such a practice.
But, couldn’t you find qualified Saudi young men who can serve in your field?
Unfortunately, we couldn't. And when we find one, his conditions are very high and unaffordable. It is unimaginable that a new engineering graduate asks for a salary that’s four times the salary of a resident engineer with more than 20 years of experience. Even if we accept his conditions, his productivity is nil and this has negative impact on the productivity of other staff.
Therefore, the case of a virtual Saudi young man who gets SR1, 000 for doing nothing is similar to an educated young man who gets SR20,000 — both do not work, both are unproductive and both gain no experience. Why not abandon the Saudisation system? Why should we continue to carry this burdensome unproductive system?
I am surprised as how could we continue sticking to conditions of the Saudisation at a time when we talk about opening up the local market for foreign investment and diversifying our income resources. When we insist on Saudisation, it seems as if we are telling potential foreign investors to come only to make the Saudisation drive a success. This is illogical because no investor or any international company will come to help us achieve our goals and not theirs. These companies look for continuity and profit. It is true that we should maintain balance in goals and mutual interests, but we can’t impose Saudisation on these investors.