It’s time to Saudize all ‘baqalas’



A local newspaper recently reported that the Ministry of Labor was planning to Saudize small grocery stores or “baqalas” and that the move was expected to create over 20,000 job opportunities.

People have been debating the issue on social media with some in support and others opposed. Spokesman for the Ministry of Labor Khalid Aba Al-Khail said on Twitter that those businesses that can generate job opportunities for Saudis will be Saudized.

In fact, the ministry is planning to Saudize 25 businesses in various sectors, including the tourism sector. The ministry probably wants to Saudize small grocery stores to end the practice of tasattur whereby Saudis permit foreigners to manage businesses in their names in return for a share in the profits. Tasattur is prevalent in the running of such stores.

These stores are found across the Kingdom. The Saudization of these small stores would encourage families to start their own profitable businesses.

The ministry should focus on grocery stores in big cities where the purchasing power is high. The purchasing power in towns and villages is low and not many people visit these stores every day. The ministry will also need full-time inspectors to enforce the Saudization process to ensure that everyone complies with the decision. In this regard, it could work with the Ministry of Commerce and use their inspectors. The ministry should also provide a mobile app that allows citizens to report stores that violate the Saudization decision.

The entire foodstuff and grocery wholesale sector should also be Saudized. When the ministry Saudized the vegetable market in the past, wholesale businesses refused to sell goods to stores run by Saudis and preferred to sell to expatriate workers. This frustrated Saudis and many left the vegetable retail sector.

The ministry has so far Saudized the cell phone retail sector. Saudis now run cell phone stores and repair all types of cell phones. They have proved that they can do this line of work. The ministry needs to Saudize more sectors as the rate of unemployment is rapidly increasing. We need drastic solutions to resolve this issue.