Fayez Nureldine / AFP / Getty Images
The rules for running a business in Saudi Arabia change almost daily as the local government tries to overtake the economy, which is heavily dependent on oil revenues
The shopkeepers have been dealing with it in recent months , If you need computer accessories or mobile phone support in Riyadh, you'll want to come to the Mobile Market Center. It's a two-story mall with shops selling all sorts of gadgets.
In a small mobile accessory store, the owner offers a cup of Saudi coffee and some dates. Abu Saud owns three stores in this mall. He was a happy man and business was good until the Saudi government ordered him to replace his foreign workers – usually South Asians, who are trained in mobile phone repair – with Saudi workers, who did not last long in his business.
"For me, I give them a very high salary, but the problem [is] does not like them," he says.
Abu Saud explains that Saudis are used to working in a government office.
"Everyone likes to have a table, he's the boss," he says. "Even if he graduated, he just wanted to be boss, right."
Soon, many other types of retail stores are needed to hire only Saudi workers. It causes a lot of problems for companies, says an accountant. NPR does not use his name to speak freely.
"Over the last year, we've seen many small and medium-sized businesses go out of business because they can not afford it," he says.
The accountant agrees that Saudi Arabia needs to reform its economy, but the changes should be slower and more careful.
"I mean In my office, every day I get new regulations from either the Department of Commerce or the Minister of Finance or the Tax Department," he says. "Everyone changes their own regulations and statutes.
The changes are part of a comprehensive plan to dissuade the Kingdom from its dependency on oil revenues and create jobs, especially for young Saudis, as about three quarters of the population are under 30 years old.
"I find that very inviting, because old Saudi Arabia, to be honest, the system was not viable, the country would collapse," says John Sfakianakis of the Gulf Research Center in Riyadh
Sfakianakis says that the plan, called Vision 2030, is being driven by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
"Today you have a very young crown prince who is ambitious and has to explore the limits, why? Because the demand for oil is changing, technology is changing Arabia must be involved, and Saudi Arabia has no time, "he says.
Oil helped the Saudi royal family for decades to conclude a treaty with the population: for the Saudis would be provided – free health care and education through college, cheap utilities and gasoline, often a government agency and, until recently, no taxes, in turn, they put the absolute rule of the royal family out of the question
But a slump in oil prices since 2014, and a rapider The growing population has stretched the budget of the kingdom, and now Crown Prince Mohammed wants to change the treaty.
"He says we can no longer afford this nanny state that gave everything to people," said Bernard Haykel. "So the terms of the articles of association need to be renegotiated."
The Crown Prince sweetened the deal: easing the theatrical release and the concerts, so that women can drive and go to work. Now you see Saudi women working in shopping centers and hotel receptions, something that was unknown a few months ago.
He also organized the now famous Ritz-Carlton Round.
The lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh is opulent, with marble floors, plush furniture and rich tapestries. In November, the Crown Prince rounded up a few hundred of the richest and most influential people in Saudi Arabia and sent them to the Ritz, where they were detained for three months before surrendering more than $ 100 billion. There were screams that it was an unlawful crackdown on the Crown Prince's royal rivals, and that it could scare off investors. But economist Motasher Almurshed says the move was very popular with regular Saudis.
"This step is being done for the benefit of the Saudi people, for the Saudi economy and for enabling the vision," he says
In other words, if regular Saudis feel the pinch of new reforms in the kingdom, so will the richest.