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Saudi gold traders fear ouster by expats

|By Arabian Post Staff| Saudi nationals engaged in gold and jewellery business believe that the new foreign investment law, which allows expatriates to set up fully-owned businesses in the kingdom, would ultimately drive them away from their traditional business.

According to Saudi media reports, they complain that some Arab expatriates have entered the market by obtaining Saudi citizenship, GCC passports and foreign investment license. A

Abdul Ghani Al-Muhanna, chairman of the Precious Metals and Gems Committee at Asharqia Chamber, agreed with Al-Namir that tasattur business has engulfed the gold and jewelry sector.

“As a result of the dominance of foreigners, original traders have lost their name and fame as the expats do everything — legal or illegal — to woo customers,” he said, adding that many customers have complained about cheating by them.

A Saudi Gazette report quoted Abdul Ghani Al-Muhanna, chairman of the Precious Metals and Gems Committee at Asharqia Chamber, saying that expatriates from a particular Arab country were trying to dominate the market, making use of benefits offered by the government to foreign investors and GCC citizens.

“These Arab citizens buy jewelry shops from Saudis in the Eastern Province. They also dominate the market in the Western Region,” he said while urging the government to support Saudi traders and jewelers to safeguard the profession.

Saudi traders say the practice of illegal cover-up, known in local parlance as tasattur business in gold and jewelry sector has reached 50 to 80 percent in the central, western and eastern regions of the kingdom.

Abdul Mohsen Al-Namir, a member of the National Committee for Precious Metals and Gems at the Council of Saudi Chambers, said it was difficult to identify tasattur in gold and jewelry sector as the expats running the business are relatives of Saudi sponsors.

“Traders from a particular Arab country are also dominating the market in the Western Region,” Al-Namir said, adding that this situation has forced many Saudi jewelers leaving the market to look for government jobs or other professions.

He said the foreign investment law has contributed to the expansion of tasattur in the sector. “Foreign investors get license by just paying SR500,000, which is equivalent to 3 kg of gold. This license can be used to open a gold factory or a jewelry shop,” he explained.

Al-Namir voiced Saudi fears about the government’s intention to open all economic sectors to foreign investment by 100 percent, adding that it would enable foreign traders to occupy the remaining part of the gold and jewelry market in the kingdom.