JEDDAH, Sep 2: Saudi businessmen have renewed their call for changing weekly holidays to Friday and Saturday in order to cut down losses resulting from work time differences between the Kingdom and the rest of the world.
The new call came after Kuwait, also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), introduced the Friday-Saturday weekend yesterday despite objections from conservative lawmakers.
Among the six GCC countries, four — Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates — have now switched over to the new system with only Saudi Arabia and Oman following the traditional Thursday-Friday weekend.
Economists say that the continuation of Thursday-Friday weekend will put Saudi Arabia a month behind other countries, including some GCC states, in a year. “By sticking to the old system Saudi Arabia will continue to suffer heavy economic losses and will be isolated from the rest of the world,” one businessman said.
Adnan Al-Naeem, secretary-general of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the difference in weekends causes heavy losses to businesses in the Kingdom. “In certain countries, they have Friday-Saturday weekends. In some others it is Saturday and Sunday while in some Asian countries it is Sunday and Monday. ... As a result of the continuation of the present weekend, we lose two to four days weekly,” he explained.
Businessman Omar Al-Omar said a number of private companies were now operating on Thursdays either full time or part time in order to reduce differences with the outside world.
The Shoura Council debated the issue last May but the members failed to reach a consensus. Many members, including Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Taiba, rejected the proposal citing religious reasons. “The proposal for changing the weekend is unacceptable in a country that is ruled by the Qur’an and Sunnah and takes them as its constitution,” Taiba said, adding that economic reasons cited for the change were baseless.