The rulers of Saudi Arabia are about to approve a plan giving permanent resident status in the country to investors, entrepreneurs, engineers, and even cashiers. According to a measure approved this week by the Shura council, the Islamic institution that advises the country's political leadership, the Saudi Arabian government will present detailed regulations and legislation within three months enabling professional staff, entrepreneurs, and investors to obtain resident status.
As part of the trend in the unfreezing of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the new plan will also allow Israeli Arabs to work in Saudi Arabia. Arab graduates of Israeli universities are esteemed as professionals in the Arab world, and a window for their employment is now being opened in Saudi Arabia, a source of livelihood for citizens of other Arab countries.
In the current state of affairs, anyone who is not a Saudi Arabian citizen is required to renew their residency and employment permit in the country every year and to meet restrictive conditions, including having a Saudi Arabian citizen vouch for them and undertake to provide them with work. The permits are temporary, and the government has the authority to expel foreigners at any time.
Shura Council member Lina Al Maeena told a Saudi Arabian newspaper that the goal of the new venture is to attract professionals and investors to the country to help in the economic changes being promoted by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Bin Salman wants to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil by developing other economic sectors. As part of this plan, holders of the new resident status will be able to hold state-owned property and obtain rights hitherto granted only to Saudi Arabian citizens.
11-12 million foreigners currently live in Saudi Arabia, making up a third of the population there. They are employed in all sectors, including cleaning, services, engineering, planning, and medicine. A year ago, the government took steps to get rid of hundreds of thousands of foreigners residing in the country in order to provide jobs for local citizens, among whom the unemployment rate is over 12%. Al Maeena says that there is no contradiction between the two plans: the new measure is being implemented simultaneously with disposing of foreigners working in some professions, while other professionals, with an emphasis on technology that will develop the economy, are being encouraged to work in Saudi Arabia.
Not everyone is happy about the new plan, which passed the Shura Council by a vote of 77-54. Nationalist groups in Saudi Arabia say that it will encourage immigration from poor Arab countries and further worsen the unemployment problem. Saudi Arabian economist Nasser Saidi told local media that the measure was a step in the right direction, but that the plan should be applied to all of the sectors with a shortage of high-quality labor, and that there were many such sectors.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 21, 2019
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