Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Nitaqat program and its repercussions

Saudi Arabia has, since the past three months, launched the Nitaqat program. Under this program, it is attempting to remove from its soil those who are from outside the country and staying here without legal permits or proper sponsorship. It is believed that they took this step to overcome the almost 12% unemployment among their own youth. Expatriates from many countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh, Philippines, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and so on are likely to be affected if they do not have legal permit to stay here. The Kingdom has given until 3rd of July to illegal expats to either regularise themselves or leave the country. Ostensibly, the whole exercise has been planned to quell any unforeseen protests by the youth of SA (similar to the protests that were carried out during the Arab spring of 2012 in many Arab countries).

There is hectic activity in all the embassies as they are trying to cope with the exodus of those who wish to leave SA. On the other hand, they are also organising employment fairs (mela) where they bring in employers to select if they wish to sponsor talented workers who would otherwise have to leave the country within the next 10 days or so.

The impact of this movement is likely to be very high on the people who are working here, some of them illegally. For the poor people from the countries mentioned above, SA is like a gold mine, as they can never hope to make that much money elsewhere or in their own home countries.

It is also a moot point as to whether Saudis will be willing to do the menial tasks that Asian expats are best at, such as sweeping, cleaning, driving, etc. Thus, the next two weeks will decide what really transpires. Already, business houses have requested the government to extend the deadline, as they feel that a period of 3 months was not sufficient to re-organise their businesses. Date-palm growers have already complained that their crop will decay on the trees if their workers leave en masse, as this is the harvesting season for the date crop (Ref. Arab News, 20th June 2013, visit this site).

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