Both Central and Kerala governments seem to have been taken aback by the ‘Nitaqat’ programme that has come into operation in Saudi Arabia. If anything, it is a reflection of their “who-cares” attitude. The Kingdom had announced the programme nearly one and a half years ago, giving enough time to all those who were likely to be affected. Under the programme, at least 10 per cent employees of every company should be Saudi citizens. It will now be impossible for expatriates to run companies on the licences given to Saudi nationals.
The worst-affected state is Kerala, from where lakhs of people are employed in the Kingdom. Thousands of them have either been rendered jobless or have been forced to close down their businesses. Banks in Malappuram district in Kerala have already reported a drastic fall in remittances from the Gulf. Since 160 per cent of the state’s revenue comes from such remittances, it can easily be imagined how it will impact the state’s economy. What should be worrying for the Kerala government is that Nitaqak-like programmes are being contemplated by other countries in the Gulf.
Yet, as usual, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has written a letter to the Prime Minister, Union minister Vayalar Ravi has expressed ignorance of how many Indians would be affected and another Union minister E. Ahmed has talked to the Saudi authorities, who have promised him that those who comply with the laws will have nothing to worry. Saudi Arabia cannot be blamed for initiating ‘Nitaqat’, as Saudisation is a genuine objective, particularly when there is growing unemployment. What the Central and state governments should have done was to initiate programmes to provide job opportunities to the returnees. What’s worse, some of the expatriates do not have even passports to return! All this proves that the bubble of Kerala’s Gulf dream has burst.