Saudi fresh market off limits to expat shoppers

Published:  14 Oct at 6 PM
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Saudi officials operating in the Jeddah municipality have banned all local traders from selling their produce to expats.

A municipal overseer with responsibility for the city’s Central Vegetable Market has made himself extremely unpopular with both expats and market traders by introducing a ban on selling to foreigners. The official excuse for the ban is that the local authority is pushing for Saudization of the popular market in order to increase the number of local Saudis employed.

Director of Public Markets Nasser al Jarallah has informed all market traders the local authority does not want foreigners buying vegetables in the market. The hardline comment resulted in a tense standoff between the vendors and the director, with traders insisting there is no law preventing them from serving expats living legally in the kingdom.

The row has accelerated over the past few weeks after police raids arrested legal workers as well as customers. Reports suggest the crisis at the market is resulting in huge daily losses for the vendors.

Meanwhile in Kuwait, the government has increased the minimum expat salary requirement for purchasing a house from KD250 to KD450. Expats already living in the emirate and in possession of a residence visa will be exempt form the increase, as will others in professions such as the media, medicine, engineering and the law.

Tiny Dubai’s economy is being severely challenged by the fall in oil prices, with half its massive debt due to be repaid to the IMF by 2020. Schemes to alleviate the financial pressure include a suggestion that dealing with over-reliance on expat workers might solve the problems. The idea is that, should skilled expats be offered citizenship, their upward career mobility would increase their salaries and encourage them to spend larger amounts as well as investing in the emirate. Expatriates with private wealth could also be offered citizenship.
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