The Saudi weekend: Why the religious debate?

Samar Fatany
Samar Fatany
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The government has finally taken a stand against the hardline policies of some religious scholars who were against any efforts to change the weekend days. The royal decree changing the weekend from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday is an important and practical decision that is in the interest of the nation and its economy. The business community has for a long time been calling for the change and when the decree was issued, Saudi businessmen breathed a sigh of relief and asserted that the move will have a positive impact on the business environment and that it will help the kingdom develop a more prosperous economy.

Technically the kingdom had only three common working days with the rest of the world and four days of disconnect from global business opportunities. Productivity was poor and businesses within the Gulf countries suffered because there were only four common working days of the week. There were no clear-cut timings, and there were a lot of wasted opportunities to conduct quality business and to increase productivity. The banking sector, for one, could not fully exercise its potential. Business leaders maintain that the move will help them create global partnerships to foster our business and trade connections with the rest of the world.

The global marketplace is evolving with great speed, and the kingdom cannot afford to lose business opportunities without dire consequences for the nation’s prosperity.

Unfortunately, some hardliners continue to exercise control over the business community and society as a whole

Samar Fatany

One of the challenges that we face in Saudi Arabia today is to adapt and function as a part of the global business community in order to address our present-day needs. The conventional policy of constraint stands in the way of implementing flexible programs to ensure progressive opportunities for the business and work environment. It permits the influence of negative and regressive attitudes to exist depriving many businessmen of better prospects for trade and business ventures.

Saudi economists have noted the need to create better international trade relations and to project the existence of available business opportunities here to the global business community. The government continues to be challenged to revise policies and monitor a more efficient implementation of new laws and regulations to boost better trade relations and foreign investment.

Legislators must act with a greater sense of commitment to serve our economic interests. Unfortunately, some hardliners continue to exercise control over the business community and society as a whole. Legal restrictions and tedious regulations are impediments to progress and development. Local investors hope for new legal procedures and an ease on the restrictions imposed by overly rigid rules and regulations.

Fundamental requirements

The ongoing judicial reforms that recognize international law are fundamental requirements for sustainable economic development in Saudi Arabia. Economists and legal experts recently welcomed the establishment of an independent Economic Tribunal in the Kingdom to deal only with investment and trade issues.

They have hailed the new initiative as a means to address the reluctance of foreign investors to invest in Saudi Arabia. The positive move could improve investor confidence in the Saudi business environment and attract much-needed foreign investment.

Meanwhile, the present court system does not have the efficiency to resolve the numerous commercial and industrial disputes that have endured for years. Many hope that the new rules of arbitration will ensure greater transparency and provide a speedy settlement of all foreign and domestic disputes.

Saudi investors are also wary of other legal challenges facing the business community. They are constantly calling for the elimination or simplification of rules and regulations, such as the visa and sponsorship issues that deter success for their businesses and are incompatible with the needs of today’s business world.

Social activists continue their calls to cut red tape and streamline rules and regulations as well as to eliminate restrictions that violate the legitimate rights and economic liberties of Saudi citizens. Those hardliners who continue to exercise legal control and impede our economic liberty are a threat to continued economic prosperity.

It is about time that we replace rigid rules with progressive policies that address our needs. Eliminating restrictions on the business community and not bowing to the extremists in our midst is a step in the right direction.

Legal experts and the business community remain hopeful for more progressive financial, legal, and labor decisions to boost our economy and to help us keep pace with the rest of the world. Conservative traditionalists should think of occupying a new place in society on the sidelines as opposed to blocking the way for our nation’s progress.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on June 29, 2013.


Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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