Shut down all small grocery stores (Baqalas) from Saudi Arabia – Shoura Council Member

A proposal brought forward by the members of the Shoura Council which proposed all Baqalas or small groceries to be shut down has been welcomed by the experts as a vital and crucial step which will boost Saudization and will also reduce the total remittance sent out from the Kingdom hence helping the economy of the Kingdom. However, the owners of the small groceries have come out to criticize this new move and have labeled it as an attempt to help the larger businesses and establishments. Naif Al Sharif, the head of the Food Products Committee at the JCCI or Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry has stated that this new move will help the large supermarkets and grocery shops to employ more Saudi citizens. This will, in turn, reflect positively upon the efforts of nationalization.[irp]

This new move will also help in the elimination of tasattur or the cover up businesses, especially since the total number of these small grocery shops inside the Kingdom has rapidly grown to 90 percent, with around 75 percent of the employees being Indian Expatriates Al Sharif rejected the claims of the small grocery shop owners that this new move is only aimed towards supporting large supermarkets and companies. He added that anyone has the complete right to open up a grocery store or market which is complete compliance with the safety, product and space requirements.

The head of the Commercial Centers Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mohammed Alawi stated that the sector of food products in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an SAR 170 billion business and hence it accounts for a major portion or chunk of the sector in the Gulf region, which was estimated to be valued at SAR 270 Billion. Farouk Al Khatib, an economist, has stated that this new move will greatly reduce the total amount of remittances which are sent abroad to other countries by the expatriate workers working in the grocery sector and will hence, in turn, strengthen the Economy of Saudi Arabia.

However, the owners of these small grocery stores are strongly and adamantly opposing this new proposal and have argued that the closure of these small grocery stores will directly eliminate their main source of income. Some of the citizens have also argued that these small grocery stores in every neighborhood do offer various and numerous benefits to the citizens, including the easy access to any and all products. The Ministry of Labor has been studying the proposal closely and then will decide to go ahead with the proposal or not if it has been found reasonable.[irp]

In the meanwhile, an agreement has been signed between the Ministry of Labor and the officials in Niger and Djibouti in order to bring in domestic workers from these countries into the Kingdom. This agreement indicates the strong desire of all 3 parties to reduce the ineligible and violating employees who are entering the Kingdom.

Source: Arab News

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