Saudi construction projects stymied by expat exodus

Published:  19 Jun at 6 PM
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Saudi Arabia’s controversial government immigration amnesty is having its expected result as thousands of workers leave, affecting a majority of the kingdom’s construction projects.

According to industry experts, as many as 80 per cent of present projects could be seriously delayed as a result of the government decree, believed to be a manifestation of Saudi Arabia’s Saudization scheme. Read al-Aqeeli of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and VC of the Contractors’ Committee believes that the situation will cause a major setback in the sector.

Many workers in the industry have attempted to regularise their positions within the country but, with the amnesty due to end in the next few days, delays in processing the 450,000 applications mean that most will have to leave. Al Aqeeli said that the projects would need to be put on hold for an indefinite period as neither employers nor workers would be willing to take the risk of illegality.

As late as last month, the Saudi government awarded contracts worth millions of dollars for construction projects across the kingdom as well as in Riyadh and Jeddah, and at the end of April 32 contracts were awarded for sanitation and water management projects. It’s well known that Saudi nationals are neither willing to take on such work, nor experienced in construction techniques, and the companies involved are struggling to find solutions to the sudden loss of manpower.
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