By Amr Salam
JEDDAH — The Saudization of the Kingdom’s telecom sector has not been as successful as expected because authorities did not make the necessary studies before implementing the plan and did not give Saudis proper training to take over the huge market, according to experts.
The presence of expats, who are still illegally involved in mobile phone maintenance and sale, has also affected the Saudization drive.
Saudis have asked the Commerce Ministry and municipality to keep a watch on expat traders who are still wandering around exploiting the absence of monitoring authorities.
The expats offer various mobile handsets at reduced prices.
“Rise in rent is another major issue that has affected Saudi entrepreneurs. Some realtors charge SR150,000 per year,” said Hatim Al-Sulaimani, who has opened a new mobile shop in the market.
“I never expected such a high rent,” Al-Sulaimani told Okaz/Saudi Gazette. “It’s not easy for new Saudi traders to pay this exorbitant rent.”
“Shop owners have to meet many other expenses such as license fees and huge electricity bills,” said Al-Sulaimani.
Abdul Rahman Al-Shamrani said that expatriate traders were still in the market despite the warnings given by the authorities.
“Many expatriates provide mobile phone maintenance service from their homes,” he told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
Al-Shamrani also said that some expats were selling mobile phone devices at prices less than those offered in shops.
Economist Mansour Al-Ghamdi said the Saudization program in the mobile phone market should have been implemented gradually after making necessary studies.
“It was impossible to replace expats with Saudis all of a sudden. We should have allowed Saudis to work with expats for some time to get the necessary experience and overcome difficulties. The program was a failure in terms of training as well as financial and salary support,” he said.