Saleh Ibrahim Al-Turaiqi
It is delightful to hear that Japanese automobile company Isuzu’s first plant in Dammam’s Second Industrial City assembled a truck carrying the logo “Made in Saudi Arabia.” This is similar to the case of the American and Japanese branded vehicles coming with the logo “Made in Australia.”
This joy turns to a degree of cheerfulness when you read the plant’s strategy, which says the company will strive to increase productive capacity and export 25,000 trucks per annum by 2017.
Now, let us forget about the legendary Ghazal-1, the first car made in the Kingdom. From the very beginning, it appeared as if it was a failed experiment because most of the countries sign agreements with international companies to open their plants in their own homeland to create more job opportunities in addition to facilitating a further boost to their economy.
In order to complete my delight, I believe the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Higher Education must draft a strategy to ensure that all workers at this factory will be Saudis by 2017. Perhaps the severity of frustrations that lead to despair could then be alleviated.
I talk about frustrations in manufacturing because I lived through the experience of a Saudi citizen (engineer Yousef), a relative of my close friend the late Muhammad Sadiq Diab, in the 1990s.
Yousef mooted the idea of establishing automobile plants 20 years ago when he came back from America where he worked as manager of plant manufacturing computer RAM. If I remember correctly, he had a basic salary of $30,000. He believed, through studies carried out, that it was the best time for Saudi Arabia to manufacture at least what it needed to meet the local demand for vehicles before turning to exports.
Yousef met with a number of businessmen and agents of computer companies to brief them on the study.
He tried to convince them of the idea that if they establish manufacturing units, it would help them earn profits much higher than the 20 percent that they used to receive from foreign automobile companies while these companies take the rest. Apart from creating job opportunities, such projects would prompt others to follow suit and this will lead to springing up of more factories at least to serve customers in the Middle East region, he explained.
However, Yousef did not find anyone listening to him. Frustrated due to the apathy, he returned to America.
Strangely, what some businessmen offered him was a job with a salary not exceeding SR7,000. I do not know what has happened to Yousef since then.
Today, the idea was born again. Will we hear soon about new factories that kill frustrations?
Most importantly, are the concerned institutions able to develop a two-pronged strategy at the same time by establishing an automobile plant with Saudi employees to manufacture vehicles with the logo of “Made in Saudi Arabia by Saudis” to make our tomorrow the most beautiful?