JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — A pall of gloom has descended on the downtown of Balad in Jeddah which houses most of the garment shops that include children and women wear as deadline for Saudization of these shops nears.
A majority of these shops are being run by Bangladesh expatriates.
Although the shops and kiosks are located on narrow lanes, they are frequented by customers — residents and pilgrims — to buy a variety of children garments and a wide range of abayas.
The post-Haj season sale is a prime time for the traders as pilgrims visit Balad for shopping where women prefer to purchase newly-designed abayas and children garments as gifts for their near and dear ones back home.
Several shops have slashed the prices of abayas and other garments as they seek to clear their inventories.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has given flexibility of having 70 percentage of Saudization in this sector. However, most of the businesses have failed to meet the criteria as the shops are operated by expatriater under Tasattur module.
Officially the deadline is Sept. 11, but frequent inspections as part of routine process were being conducted around the year and many of these shop owners were abruptly shutting down their business to avoid being penalized.
Most of these shop operators are close knit groups hailing from Chittagong area of Bangladesh, which is known for entrepreneur nature at home and also abroad. There are a few from India and Yemen also but their number is much low.
They spontaneously share information about any inspection tour.
However, anticipating the vigorous inspection with zero tolerance from the new Hijri (corresponding to Sept. 11), some of the shop owners declined to renew their rent agreements and few of them have left home permanently. Others are bracing to leave.
“We want to abide by Saudi law and respect it. Therefore we are voluntarily exiting the shops”, said a young Bangladeshi who is in abaya business for over a decade.
His brother has returned to the country and he is also planning to do so in next few months.
It’s not only the Balad, but Bawadi and Jamia are other popular markets where expatriates dominate the sector. Stories in these areas is no different.
Market sources said Riyadh, Dammam and other parts of the Kingdom too are facing the same situation.