Ever since the government announced its decision to hike visa fees for foreign workers, Minister of Labor Adel Fakieh has been on the defensive trying to explain the motives and goals of his policy. However, Fakieh has recently decided to launch a charm offensive, appearing on television and inviting bloggers and tweeps to dinner parties at five star hotels. Saad Al Dosary was invited to a dinner hosted by the ministry in Jeddah, and he came out convinced because “it’s hard to argue with numbers”:
There are 7 million non-Saudi workers making a living here, while there are 2 millions Saudis looking for a job. The math is simple. Now, having said that, we could say the ministry’s strategy is based on two main pillars: The first, to give Saudis, males and females, a fair chance to compete over available jobs in the market. The second is to fix and reform the dysfunctional labor market. The decision to increase the fees is only one of many decisions and initiatives the ministry is adapting to amend the stale labor market.
A companion of famous Saudi cleric Ayedh al-Qarnee hit a reporter who asked the cleric why he was denied entry to the United States, al-Watan reported today. The newspaper said that its reporter Abdulmohsen al-Faran was pushed to the ground by the cleric’s companion who rudely told the reporter: “Move along. America, what America.” Sheikh al-Qarnee has later called the reporter to apologize, the newspaper said.
Speaking of the budget, housing will no doubt be one of the priorities for the new budget. The Central Department of Statistics and Information (CDSI) says 65 percent of Saudis are not homeowners, according to this report in Saudi Gazette which reads more like an editorial than a news story, listing a set of actions that the Ministry of Housing should take to solve the housing crisis.
Speaking to reporters, Shoura Council Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Amro described it as a historical budget, which covers all important areas including education, health, transport and social development.
He added that a closer look at the new budget would clearly indicate the interest shown in citizen-centric projects which would directly benefit the people.
The house pledged its support for the effective implementation of the budget proposals by coordinating with the relevant governmental organizations to execute the budget plans as envisaged by the king.
Considering the fact that the government has not asked the Shoura Council for their input on the budget before it was announced, their praise of this budget and their commitment to implement it is both impressive and hilarious.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed on the Saudi budget:
Oil-producing countries have greater responsibilities, for they have no excuse when one of their citizens has no job, or when a citizen is sick but cannot get treatment, or when a citizen lacks insurance or does not feel safe in his home. It is the government’s duty to provide citizens with these services. When officials are upset at being criticized, they forget that it is their job to serve the people and the budget is how a government expresses its plans to serve the people.
Jamal Khashoggi on the campaign against Saudi Labor Minister Adel Fakieh:
There are many reasons behind the conservative current’s “hatred” towards Adel Fakieh even if at some point, it is overlapping with some business reasons; they are obsessed with fighting decisions that allow women to work, and they want to limit the work of women in women’s necessities stores. The law has included so far women’s lingerie stores so it would be ratified. Nevertheless, the religious current knows well that “women’s necessities” can include dozens of other stores. This is a strategic alliance with the retail dealers who prefer to hire a foreign “male” who arranges the ladies’ lingerie, in obvious opposition with the conservative nature of Saudi society: for Saudi merchant, the foreign male sales person is less costly than Saudi woman who needs to be employed, and work with a double salary and who would be working for limited hours. The Saudi female worker will need an insurance coverage in accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Labor: all these requirements are additional costs that businessmen prefer to avoid! Economics and accounting rules to increase the profits and minimize losses, is the engine for those businessmen, and not the national morals and the supreme national interest that the Minister of Labor is working on. As for the religious current, the important thing is that this foreign “male” will guarantee that women will not work in public.
The religious tide does not care about Adel Fakieh’s numbers, such as the fact that 85 percent of those registered in the “incentive” program that registers the unemployed are two million Saudi women. This is a clear message to the religious current stating that their festering speech that refuses the women’s work idea and discouraging women has failed. There are 1.7 million Saudi females who wish to work: many of them prefer to work as teachers, while others want to work under the terms of the clergy, i.e. without interacting with the opposite sex. The economy is directing the people and not the heartless preaching. Half of the women are willing to work in the retail sector for example, and that is strongly opposed by religious men: the need for job and income are what motivate women and put pressure on the State that is represented by the Ministry of Labor. These women and 360 thousand of young Saudis, where most of them did not finish the secondary education, constitute 10 percent of the Saudi population.
Global Voices reports the trial of Saudi activists Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamed. Read all the way to the end to find out about the arrest of Sky News Arabia correspondent Abdulmohsen al-Gabbani who was detained when he left the courtroom to film a report for the TV channel.