Merit should come before Saudization
Forcing businesses to employ Saudis who do not have the proper training will have adverse effects on our economy
The recent Riyadh Economic Forum came up with valuable initiatives to address the obstacles that face the Saudization process. The Ministry of Labor continues to be challenged in its efforts to address the unemployment problem and improve the workplace environment. Meanwhile, the high-level committee to oversee the Saudization of jobs in government departments and the public sector, chaired by Labor Minister Adel Fakieh, is currently under heavy criticism by all sections of society including the business, academic and health sectors.
The General Directorate of Passports recently announced that a total of 118,138 illegal expatriates were deported from the start of the security crackdown on Nov. 4 until Dec. 2.
Unfortunately, the Saudization drive continues to harm our academic institutions. Educators and school principals maintain that this strategy goes against King Abdullah’s objective to upgrade educational standards. They argue that more efforts should be made to raise the standards of the employed, and not their numbers. It is unfair to deprive another generation of quality education by imposing unqualified teachers on the educational sector. The continued policy of replacing qualified expatriate educators with unqualified Saudi teachers will further harm the standards of our failing academic institutions. The government has allocated a large budget to the educational system; we need to use the money wisely and employ only qualified teachers, Saudis or otherwise, in order to raise the standard of education which is key to the progress and development of our country.
Unfortunately, the Nitaqat program which classifies companies according to the percentage of Saudis employed has not succeeded in addressing the creation of sufficient new jobs for the unemployed and has not provided the proper environment for them to contribute to nation building. In the meantime, businesses continue to suffer due to the lack of Saudi experts and skilled labor. Forcing the private sector to accommodate large numbers of unskilled employees could jeopardize the quality and success of many businesses across the kingdom.
According to The Saudi Council of Engineers, the national committee for contracting has complained that there are not enough Saudi engineers prepared to work as hard as expats, especially in the engineering profession. The committee has warned that consequently Saudi Arabia will lose existing and potential investors due to the compulsory Saudization of jobs.
There are simply not enough qualified Saudis who can replace the foreign experts and skilled foreign workers. The Saudization of jobs should be implemented at a slower paceSamar Fatany
Meanwhile, Saudi industries could suffer drastically if we maintain poor standards and compromise on international standards of safety in operations and maintenance jobs. Before we deport the much needed services of expatriate experts and technicians, we need to make sure that they are replaced with qualified Saudis who can maintain international safety standards in our country. Competent expatriates should not be replaced with citizens who are not able to provide proper services in operations, emergency tasks, maintenance and technical work, all vital requirements to ensure the proper implementation of international standards in the services rendered to the nation.
Forcing businesses to employ Saudis who do not have the skills or the proper training will have adverse effects on our economy in the long run. The Ministry of Labor must reconsider the continuation of the Saudization strategy and come up with reasonable and effective solutions to serve the nation and the public in a balanced and sustained way.
We owe much to the qualified expatriates who have contributed to the development of our country. We still need the expertise of foreigners in our universities, hospitals and major companies. There are simply not enough qualified Saudis who can replace the foreign experts and skilled foreign workers. The Saudization of jobs should be implemented at a slower pace. We need to pay more attention to educational standards and must implement more effective training programs to develop the qualifications and skills of Saudi citizens.
The criteria of employment should be based on merit and competence, and not on identity and citizenship. We have suffered enough for not being strict in applying these rules in the past, and now we will regress further if we force companies to employ the inefficient, the unqualified and the incompetent.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 14, 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.”