Saudi Arabia going the Uganda way

The hamfisted Saudis did it again.

This time, they arrested Indian nationals working in the travel sector and herded them into overcrowded prisons – even charging them for the customary prison haircut. This follows a similar action on the jewellery industry a few weeks ago.

It is perfectly justified for the Saudi government to put in place policies which encourage local citizens find jobs. But it is another thing to impose short deadlines for foreigners to get out, and enforce this with draconian mass police action. Remember, Saudi Arabia is not exactly a shining example when it comes to treating its foreign workers well in the first place.

To expect that the vaccuum created by the expelled foreigners will be instantly filled with young Saudi men who will become professional travel agents and goldsmiths overnight is stupid.Replacing foreigners by fiat will not solve the Kingdom’s unemployment problems because no new jobs are being created. And with the kind of education system that is in place today, and that is so resistant to change, it is difficult to imagine how enough jobs can be created to support the growing population.

What the Saudi government should be doing is ushering in transparency and opening up its economy to greater foreign investment and trade. But it does not look like it is prepared for this.

The alternative is Uganda. After Idi Amin expelled Indians from his country to hand back the economy to Africans, the economy steadily nose-dived. After he was ousted, Idi Amin spent the rest of his life in…Saudi Arabia.

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