Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Just a few days ago, Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Naif chaired the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Jeddah. The meeting took much-needed decisions on several important issues concerning Saudis and expatriates living in the Kingdom. These decisions will surely have short-and long-term impacts on the Saudi society and the overall economy of the country.
The Cabinet looked into matters concerning visa issues in the Kingdom. The decisions taken in this regard will help streamline the visa procedures. The Kingdom is also making all-out efforts to ensure the rights of workers and to enforce traffic regulations so as to check the increasing number of road accidents and fatalities in the country, which is overburdening the health care system.
The Council of Ministers has announced stricter traffic rules and imposed penalties on reckless drivers who violate traffic limits, jump lights and drift their vehicles and put other people’s lives at risk.
The issue of reckless driving in Saudi Arabia and the number of fatalities and injuries on the Saudi highways has become a national problem that costs the Kingdom tens of thousands of lives and billions of riyals in damages. The reckless behavior of motorists has become a nightmare. The health care system has been badly affected with one- third of the intensive care units being occupied by people injured in road accidents particularly freeways. Therefore, heavy fines have been announced to check the situation with possible confiscation of the vehicles and jail terms. These steps will definitely help to reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities.
A new visa fee structure has been announced. Fees for visit visas, exit-reentry, departure (from seaports) and transit visas have been changed. The decision has been taken at a time when the expatriates comprise one-third of the total population of the country. This move will help reduce the number of unskilled expat workers and will help expedite Saudization of many economic sectors.
It is true that the expatriates will continue to be needed for many jobs but every country has an obligation to look after its citizens. And it is not that Saudi Arabia is closing its doors to expats rather it is an action needed to reduce dependence on foreigners.
The Cabinet also looked into ways to protect rights of employees — Saudis and expatriates. During the past few months, many cases of companies delaying wages of their employees have been reported. The delay in payment of wages is not acceptable by any means.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman announced SR100 million to help expedite payments of the salaries and directed all government agencies such as the labor and passport departments and Saudi Airlines to assist the workers by all means.
The decisions to protect workers’ rights show that our leaders always take prompt action once any issue, concerning Saudis or non-Saudis, is brought to their notice. Undoubtedly, many people will express their reservations over some of these measures but they should understand that Saudi Arabia is going through the critical phase of transformation. All these decisions will have a positive impact on the future of this great country.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Long-awaited Changes reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.