Businessmen to seek clerics’ help against levy

December 14, 2012
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Saudi businessmen are considering enlisting the help of leading local religious scholars to help them reverse a labour ministry decision to make them pay levies in case they employ more foreigners than Saudi nationals.

“We need to contact the senior religious scholars to inform them that the minister’s decision is unjust,” Motlaq Al Qaddah, a businessman, told the business community at a meeting to discuss the course of action. “They will assess whether the decision is allowed from a religious point of view,” he said, quoted by local Arabic daily Al Sharq.

Religious leaders in Saudi Arabia have a special status that can strongly influence decisions made even by senior officials.

The minister last month said that Saudi Arabia-based private sector companies that employ more foreigners than Saudis will have to pay SR200 (Dh195.80) a month for each excess non-Saudi.

The measure aims to help provide Saudi nationals with more employment opportunities, Adel Al Faqeeh said.

“There are no taxes imposed on foreigners in Saudi Arabia and they benefit from all the facilities and assistance provided by the state, including electricity and fuel,” the minister said. “The application of the measure cannot be considered a tax. It is an opportunity for private companies to enhance their working environment by employing Saudi nationals. It aims at increasing the chances of Saudis getting hired,” he told the media in Riyadh.

Companies that have equal numbers of Saudis and non-Saudis will be exempted from the new measure.

The generated funds will be channelled to the Human Resources Development Fund to support the employment of Saudis, the minister said.

However, the powerful business community has resisted the decision and has been considering several options to have it cancelled.

One option they discussed at their latest meeting in Riyadh was to intensify contacts with the decision makers to explain “the negative consequences on the economy.”

Some businessmen suggested a careful study of the decision by experts, and the filing of a case in court, the daily said.

Several entrepreneurs said that they were ready to go on strike and freeze all major projects while others said that they would opt not to pay the extra fees and not to renew the permits of their company workers.

However, Fahd Al Hammad, a leading businessman, warned that such decisions would compound the intricate situation and would result in heavy fines for not complying with the law.

 Training programmes

The businessmen at the meeting said that they were “fully ready” to hire competent Saudi nationals and to ease them into positions currently held by foreigners, but asked the labour ministry to provide them.

Saudi Arabia has been pushing for making its nationals more attractive to the private sector by providing them with adequate training and by introducing a series of restrictions on hiring foreigners.

Last year, it introduced a quota system that imposed a minimum number of Saudi employees on private companies.

Non-Saudis dominate the private sector amid reports that they make up around 90 per cent of the labour force.

“Changes in the labour market have to be gradual and it is in everybody’s interests that the private sector does not get seriously affected,” Al Faqeeh said.

The minister said that efforts to employ Saudi nationals have been successful with the hiring of 390,000 Saudis, including 90,000 women, since the launch of the dedicated system “Nitaqat”.

Saudi Arabia is home to around 27 million people, including nine million foreigners, mostly unskilled workers and domestic helpers from Asian countries.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/businessmen-to-seek-clerics-help-against-levy-1.1114555

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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