13,000 Saudis lose jobs as call cabins go downhill

DAMMAM: Over 13,000 Saudis have lost jobs at telephone cabins whose numbers have dramatically fallen from 4,500 to 700 all over the Kingdom in recent years. Around 16,000 Saudis used to be employed at telephone cabins, which were established following a decision by the Council of Ministers 14 years ago to provide Saudis with work and investment opportunities.

The industry used to generate SR3 billion in revenue annually, a figure that has dramatically dropped to SR400 million, Al-Watan newspaper reported. Ali Al-Ghamdi, a 60-year-old Saudi investor, said he opened a number of telephone cabins and made a lot of money but things did not move on the way he anticipated them to do so. “Since the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) was made in charge of the communications sector, this entire sector went downhill as a result of fierce competition from mobile companies. The CITC has been slack to take a fair stance and ensure business is shared,” he added.

Al-Ghamdi said telephone cabins did not have the power or technology to compete with mobile phone companies. “The ultimate result was that we were not able to cope and we had to shut down cabins and dismiss our Saudi employees,” he said. Sultan Al-Quaie, who also owned a number of cabins, said the downfall of the cabins was caused by the CITC’s failure to ensure mobile phone companies follow fixed rates to make international calls.

“After the establishment of the CITC, the revenue of telephone cabins dropped sharply from SR3 billion a few years ago to only SR400 million in 2009,” he said. Al-Quaie attributed the problem to an absence of a body to look after the interests of telephone cabins, especially at the Kingdom’s chambers of commerce and industry where other sectors are well represented. He said those who are responsible for the dismissal of thousands of Saudis have not been held accountable so far and that meetings with CITC officials have been fruitless.

Muhammad Al-Zahrani, another telephone cabin investor, said the sector was a haven for Saudi youth looking for jobs. “Some students who worked in the cabins were able to make money to complete their education but now thousands are unemployed,” he said.

Al-Watan said it tried to speak to the CITC’s spokesman, Sultan Al-Malik, who asked for time to reply but then said he was not obliged to answer journalists’ questions – Arabnews