As Saudis have engaged in a debate over the merit of switching the weekend from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday  as recommended by the Shura (Consultative) Council, a Shura member said that the process could take up to one year to become reality.
On Monday, the Shura voted 83-41 in support of the switch, arguing that aligning the weekend with the other Gulf states  and reducing the number of days off that do not coincide with other countries would have outstanding social and economic benefits for the country and people.
“Following the recommendation by the Shura Council, the civil service ministry conducts a study on the issue in coordination with the relevant parties to assess its advantages and disadvantages,” Shura Member Sadaqa Fadhil said. “The study is expected to take up to six months. It will then be referred to the Shura Council and will take up to one month to be voted. The study suggestions are then submitted to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [the king] who will sign the draft into law if he approves it. The whole process might last one year,” he said, local news site Sabq reported on Tuesday.
The Shura member said that the strong support for the switch call indicated the people’s interest in aligning their weekends with those in the neighbouring countries.
Oman earlier this month became the fifth Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country to make the switch, leaving only Saudi Arabia with the Thursday-Friday weekend. Oman will start the application of the new weekly break in May.
The other GCC members, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, have already made the switch.
According to Sadaqa Fadil, the Shura members who voted against the switch thought that it would not result in special benefits or wanted to keep a tradition that set Saudi Arabia apart from other countries.
Social networks and the blogosphere were flooded with remarks supporting or opposing the switch.
For many, it was synonymous with social benefits that included being able to visit and spend more time with relatives and friends in the other GCC countries. Some bloggers highlighted the benefits of having more common open days with businesses in other countries.
One blogger said that he would devote Friday to prayers in the morning and family in the afternoon while Saturday would be the fun day before a new week of professional commitments.
A business expert said that he expected the electronics market to grow by at least 30 per cent following the application of the new weekend break.
However, some economic analysts said that the financial institutions would not be benefit largely from the switch, claiming that 90 per cent of their business was with the local market.
Some bloggers said that they were not “really concerned” about the switch and wanted the Shura Council to debate “more concrete issues, such as housing and employment”.
Highly optimistic remarks suggested a three-day weekend — Thursday, Friday and Saturday — as a compromise to please all sides.
By Habib Toumi
Join the debate! Are you Saudi and concerned with keeping the Thursday-Friday tradition, or eager to feel more connected to the global community?