More panic for Indians as Saudi Arabia plans to shut down small grocery stores

Small grocery shops or ‘baqala’s in Saudi Arabia face closure as authorities are pondering over limiting retail permits to bigger shops that would be able to employ more Saudi men and women.

The recommendations have been made by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council to the Ministries of Labor and Municipal and Rural Affairs, Saudi-based Arab News has reported.

Shoura Council member Mohammed Al-Kheneizi was quoted saying there is no benefit in having more than one corner shop in a neighbourhood, adding that shops are small, that feminization would not apply and are dependent on employing expats whose present numbers are around one million.

He said the policy of the government now is to decrease the number of expats and enhance Saudization in all sectors.

Al-Kheneizi stressed the Labor Ministry had accepted the recommendation and is looking further into it before bringing it into law.

Many private grocery permits were in the name of women as the real owners are employees who can’t work according to the law so the permits are issued in their wives’ names.

He added larger retail shops were better because they had standards to protect what is displayed, to provide better services to consumers and greater employment opportunities.

Yet another blow for Indian expatriates

The move would be yet another blow for a large number of Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia, as most of such small grocery stores are being run by Indians.

The number of Indians who work in such stores are estimated to be several thousands, and this could mean majority of them would have to return back to India.

In a similar move aimed at employing more Saudi men and women, the Kingdom had recently banned expatriates from working in mobile phone sales and repair shops.

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