Bangladeshi expatriates facing uncertainty in Saudi abaya shops

Prothom Alo English Desk | Update:

Shops selling abayas in Balad. — SG photoA pall of gloom has descended on the downtown of Balad in Jeddah which houses most of the garment shops that include children and women wear as deadline for Saudisation of these shops nears, reports Saudi Gazette.

A majority of these shops are being run by Bangladesh expatriates, according to the report titled "Black days ahead for Bangla expatriates in abaya shops" published on Thursday.

Although the shops and kiosks are located on narrow lanes, they are found to be frequented by customers — residents and pilgrims — to buy a variety of children garments and a wide range of abayas.

The post-Haj season sale is a prime time for the traders as pilgrims visit Balad for shopping where women prefer to purchase newly-designed abayas and children garments as gifts for their near and dear ones back home, said the report.

Several shops have reportedly slashed the prices of abayas and other garments as they seek to clear their inventories.

The SG report said the labor and social development ministry has given flexibility of having 70 percentage of Saudisation in this sector.

However, most of the businesses have failed to meet the criteria as the shops are operated by expatriates under Tasattur module, according to the report.

Officially the deadline is 11 September, but frequent inspections as part of routine process were being conducted around the year and many of these shop owners were abruptly shutting down their business to avoid being penalised, added the report.

It mentioend that most of these shop operators are close knit groups hailing from Chittagong area of Bangladesh. There are a few from India and Yemen also but their number is much low, said the report.

However, anticipating the vigorous inspection with zero tolerance from the new Hijri (corresponding to 11 September), some of the shop owners declined to renew their rent agreements and few of them have left home permanentlym said the report. Others are bracing to leave.

“We want to abide by Saudi law and respect it. Therefore we are voluntarily exiting the shops”, a young Bangladeshi who is in abaya business for over a decade. was quoted to have said.

His brother is said to have returned to the country and he is also planning to do so in next few months.

It’s not only the Balad, but Bawadi and Jamia are other popular markets where expatriates dominate the sector, said the SG report. Stories in these areas is no different.

Quoting market sources the newspaper said Riyadh, Dammam and other parts of the Kingdom too are facing the same situation.

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