THE “green card” plan disclosed by Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, in an interview with Bloomberg, has been welcomed by many expatriates. The plan will help expatriates ease away from the tight hold of sponsors, many of whom have been exploiting both white and blue-collar workers. Though the modalities of how to attain this “green card” needs to be framed carefully, there are essentials that the future card holders will be required to do or get once obtaining the card. They’ll have to pay zakat and value added tax, and they can own property and undertake commercial, industrial and other related activities.
The plan was welcomed by expatriates especially who have been in the country for three or four decades and whose children were born and bred in the Kingdom. One Indian told me “this is home”. A Filipino engineer living in Riyadh since 1988 said that with the plan more cohesion between expatriates and nationals will evolve.
Over the years, I have been writing on the contribution of expatriates to the Kingdom. I was privileged to be in contact with them due to my stint as editor in chief of both the English language dailies from 1982 to 2014. They (the expatriates) would approach us to voice their grievances, fears, aspirations and quest for justice.
Working in a foreign land, braving heat and cold and at times being subjected to harsh treatment by heartless sponsors their only voice were the English-language media outlets in the Kingdom. Many, after years in the Kingdom, did aspire to gain a residential status in Saudi Arabia. Some did propose similar systems whereby the Saudi government would be the sponsor. Even Arab expatriates would write to us expressing their problems and their requests.
Our editorials reflected our belief that this country is a heaven for all who live and participate in its development irrespective of their caste or creed. This was the philosophy of its founding father King Abdul Aziz.
With great changes happening all over the world and globalization at its highest peak we too should avail of the expertise available. The greatness of America, an already advanced nation, was enhanced by the acceptance and inclusion of Asians who came and added value to the economic and social system. We too can gain from their system. As we try to boost our non-oil sector we would be requiring all available experienced hands.
Yes, Saudization is a goal but we can’t implant bodies in systems that require a high caliber of professionalism. Many tactics have to be improvised in order that a total strategic plan is evolved for competing in a highly competitive and fierce business environment. The “green card” plan is one of them.