x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Saudi economy suffers from unskilled labour

"There is no doubt that the great economic boom Saudi Arabia witnessed during the 1970s necessitated a large foreign workforce in various fields that was beyond the capacity of the country to provide at that time. Since then, most professions and crafts have been filled, if not exclusively, by non-national manpower despite many serious government attempts to nationalise these jobs," remarked Dr Saif bin Nasser al Marzouqi in the Saudi daily Al Riyadh.

"There is no doubt that the great economic boom Saudi Arabia witnessed during the 1970s necessitated a large foreign workforce in various fields that was beyond the capacity of the country to provide at that time. Since then, most professions and crafts have been filled, if not exclusively, by non-national manpower despite many serious government attempts to nationalise these jobs," remarked Dr Saif bin Nasser al Marzouqi in the Saudi daily Al Riyadh.

These expatriate workers were often not qualified enough to perform their job as required, wrote the writer, citing recent reports by the ministry of labour that indicate that around 80 per cent of foreign workers are unqualified or illiterate. Expatriate workers, who flocked to the Kingdom in the past 30 years, were mostly illiterate, but they learnt and trained themselves in the Saudi job market. Many succeeded in acquiring professional skills and went back home or to more advanced countries to use them.

"During this time, the kingdom received large numbers of workers - Saudi Arabia today hosts nearly seven million expatriates. It contributed to their training but at the expense of Saudi nationals and the economy. The professional training of Saudi nationals and the development of the economy are still undergoing experiments and hence continue to pay the price of that," concluded the writer.

In an opinion piece in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, Sa'ad bin Tafla wrote of the 19th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait by highlighting the " culture of aggression" that continues to hamper inter-Arab as well as Iraqi-Kuwaiti relations. The recent statements by the Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed Al Sabah about the encroachments on the Kuwait-Iraqi borders have impaired all efforts to bring views closer. They also disappointed those aspiring for constructive relations between the two countries, whose parliamentarians are waging a media war against each other.

"It is true that Iraq has, to a large extent, satisfied many of its obligations under international resolutions, yet there are many points of discord that impede the establishment of normal relations between the two neighbours, primarily borders' delineation. Kuwait claims that Iraqis expanded their farms far inside its territory," argued the writer. Iraq itself has many border disputes with other countries, such as Iran and Turkey, and also internally in Kirkuk where Arabs, Kurds and Turkmans constantly clash. The same is true for Mosul, Karbala and Al Anbar. "Iraq is coping with internal and external border issues, and it is nobody's interest to perpetuate such a situation. It should be solved quickly by demarcating the remaining border lines," concluded the writer.

"Britain witnesses a dramatic controversy both in the media and in other public spheres over the Iraq war inquiry and the recent killing of the two British hostages captured by Shiite militias. The incident pushed many to think about the extent to which the British government was wise in its decision not to negotiate with the kidnappers and ensure the safety of its citizens," wrote the London-based newspaper Al Quds in its editorial.

It appears that Britain is against giving any concessions in dealing with abductors. "Yet, such an attitude, wrong and costly as it is, has caused Britain to lose at least seven people in Iraq, and very recently another in Algeria. Many voices, accordingly, rose demanding the government to waive its intransigence and consider the life of the hostages first." Certainly, this issue and many more others, said the editorial, will be addressed in the inquiry ordered by prime minister Gordon Brown. This initiative is expected to look into several documents and interview many senior politicians and army officers, who were key figures during the war in Iraq, primarily former premier Tony Blair. The paper concluded by stressing the fact that the inquiry must put the finger on compelling evidences to condemn Mr Blair and to compensate the Iraqis for the physical and psychological damage they have suffered.

Commenting on the delay in forming new government in Lebanon, Bassam al Dhaw listed in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan three factors he argued as the causes.

First, the political forces are unable to reinforce a genuine national unity. Most of them are "immersed in a sectarian race to obtain more authority and win extra advantages. Most often, they are in quest for an external support to strengthen their influence. As a result, they expressed an ambiguous discourse. When in public, they tend to act as if on free will. Behind the scenes, they reckon with other countries of influence, namely France, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Egypt to seek support."

Second, the foundations of the election law cannot guarantee establishing a strong government because they were held on sectarian basis, which makes it hard to yield a "natural" majority supposed to rule and a minority to exert a sort of check and balance role. Third, no genuine national dialogue has begun on many vital issues like Lebanon's attitude vis-à-vis the Israeli-Arab conflict, peace negotiations, the role of resistance and its relations with the state, and above all on the nation's macroeconomic policies.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae