Do Saudis really want local taxi drivers?
The Labor Ministry’s new plan to intensify Saudization in the limousine sector will not work well, according to industry sources. They said this was mainly due to the reluctance of many Saudi limousine drivers to continue driving in addition to the apathy of a large number of unemployed Saudis toward this vital sector. Many customers, especially Saudis, also try to avoid traveling in taxis driven by Saudis.
All these factors have contributed to a slowdown in business and eventually led to many limousine companies shutting down, according to a report in Alsharq newspaper.
Muhammad Al-Qahtani, chairman of the committee for limousine affairs at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Eastern Province (Asharqiya), said there has been a slowdown in the limousine sector and efforts to upgrade it have not produced any results. He said: “Most Saudi job seekers refuse to work as limousine drivers. “As for those who come forward to take up jobs, they see it as a temporary solution until they find a better job.
“Even the King Abdullah Program, which supports Saudis who want to work as limousine drivers by providing finance from the Saudi Credit and Savings Bank, had a lukewarm response.” Al-Qahtani, who is also an investor in this sector, said nearly 20 percent of limousine companies have been shut down because of a fall in business.
“Limousines continue to remain the main means of public transport due to the inadequate number of buses and trains. “There are a number of factors that hamper our efforts to turn this into a thriving business.” Several Saudis urged the authorities to upgrade the Kingdom’s public transport system, especially the limousine sector.
Some of them stressed the need for introducing a London style meter system. But some others noted that this system would be counterproductive as operation costs would be higher and customers would have to pay increased fares.
Minister of Transport Jabbara Al-Seraisy recently suggested introducing the system, according to Salem Al-Bulaiwi, deputy chairman of the land transport committee at Asharqiya. He said: “During a meeting with the minister in Riyadh, he suggested introducing this meter-priced system in the Eastern Province.
“The plan has been delayed due to our objections to fixing high fares starting from SR 50.” He added it would be very difficult to introduce this system in the Kingdom as it would benefit only the affluent.
Fahd Al-Aboud, chairman of the transport committee at the Shoura Council, said a new scheme to upgrade the limousine system would most probably come into effect this year. He added: “This aims to address most of the problems facing this sector.” His remarks come at a time when many Saudi customers, especially women, said they are wary of cabs, especially those driven by Saudis. They cited a substandard quality of service, poor maintenance and cleanliness of vehicles and driver’s lack of knowledge of the city’s roads. A number of women complained they were harassed.
Rana Muhammad, a Saudi who works as a sales representative, said: “I have to travel around a lot daily as part of my job, so I have to rely on limousines. But the poor service I have often received forced me to think of quitting my job.” Gada Tareq said a limousine driver sexually harassed her and her friend. “When we took a taxi to go home from university, the driver started talking to us obscenely. I then shouted at him, removed my shoe and hit his head.”
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