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Do we want to be a nation of shopkeepers?

Khaled Almaeena

The French emperor Napoleon defeated at the battle of Waterloo is said to have described Britain as “a nation of shopkeepers.” His remarks were deemed offensive by the English who after his defeat by the Duke of Wellington replied that “the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”

Eton, the famous English boarding school, at that time trained English boys for careers in the military, civil service and the church.

I recalled these quotes when I read in our media about Saudization. Officials of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development have called for the nationalization of sales jobs in cell phone markets and bakeries. Many of our writers also harp on this issue and include demands that jobs as vegetable vendors and workers in the fish market be reserved for Saudis.

They have not yet demanded that barbershops be Saudized, as well!

The entire focus is on the replacement of shopkeepers. So are we then going to become a nation of shopkeepers?

In the US many of those working in nail salons and laundries are from Southeast Asia. They form an important group and assist society.

IT experts are mainly from India. Over two million foreigners work and produce, adding to the economy. But here, in the Kingdom, people are asking how employing salespeople in these shops will add value to the economy.

Why can’t those who are shouting for Saudization ask for reducing the bureaucratic control that is choking startups?

What is needed is a culture of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Why aren’t Saudi men and women encouraged to start projects that will help stimulate the economy? Why is it that there is no coordination between the various ministries to facilitate the induction of young people into the business world?

Flowery words are uttered by officials but go and ask these young women and men and they will tell you depressing stories about the obstacles put in their way.

I would urge the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the head of small businesses and others to have an open discussion with young and aspiring business people and ask them in what way they can help remove the obstacles facing those who want to start their own business.

I would also ask that the Municipality and the Civil Defense be included!

We have youth who are second to none. They want their country to develop, produce and progress. They do not want their country to be a nation of shopkeepers.

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