If there is something which expatriates working in Saudi Arabia would never miss, it is the perennial entertainment provided by the frequent declaration of rules one day only to be overturned / diluted the very next day. This has been happening so often that people have now become so used to it !
Remember the absolutely atrocious and impracticable rule a few years back when no expats were allowed to run grocery shops / fish markets and vegetables of not more than 4 kg per person was supposed to be issued in these shops to customers? All this to prevent expats from "grabbing" the jobs of Saudis and not to run illegal grocery businesses themselves. Within 24 hours, the 4 kg rule was withdrawn. And when Saudis protested that they could not handle themselves the loading / unloading of goods, the rule was diluted within 3 days saying that expats could stay in these shops to "help" Saudis. Afterall, it was below their dignity to lift grocery bags wasn't it? When this was also not enough, the rule was even further diluted saying that big supermarkets could have their own grocery division. Never mind if they were run by expats!
Such comical turnarounds happen with such regularity that this place never stops to amaze. Here is the latest one. Just two days back, there was a new rule which said that any firm in the kingdom which had expatriates more than Saudis would be fined SR2400 a year for each excess expat. What a great way to increase local employment and also to make money! Some wise guy must have been patting himself on his back on this brilliant idea. But not so fast. Predictably, there were protests all over - not by expats but by Saudis themselves (see this link). Such was the backlash that the Ministry of Labor diluted the rule saying that small businesses employing less than 30 persons would be exempted from this rule, even if the number of Saudis in these firms was less than that of expats. I wonder whether each time such a rule is brought about, people would wait for a few days to see whether the rule has been retracted or diluted enough! I get a gut feeling that this rule would still be diluted further saying it applies only to new businesses or whatever. In fact, poorly-paid expats must thank their stars for this retraction, as it would have led to more employers not paying their dues citing this as an excuse.
Every country in the world has a right to employ its own citizens. But this has to be done in a systematic way. More importantly, there has to be a sea change in the attitude of people, most importantly being dignity of labor. Obviously the kingdom does not have enough white-collared managerial jobs in air conditioned offices, where people could enjoy life without lifting a finger, for every single Saudi. The culture that it is okay for people to work as janitors, sweepers, mechanics, electricians, carpenters, etc., as long as money earned was legitimate, has to be drilled into the psyche of a population which has been bred on oil money. So, rather than squeeze the last few halalas from expatriates in Saudi Arabia, the focus should be on developing local skills.