Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Omanization comes to our neighborhood

MQ grocery

If you live in Madinat Qaboos (MQ) you probably know the small grocery shop in the Oman Oil station next to the British Council. I've been a frequent customer at this shop ever since we moved into the area in 1989. Long ago when the station was still a BP and long before BP begat the BP Express shop, for most people "going to the BP" meant buying from this shop. It is a tiny grocery shop run by Indian brothers which is packed to the ceiling with items. The guys are good, their prices are lower than any other supermarket in town and the service is amazing. Ask for anything which isn't in stock and they'll get it for you. They are open by 6 or 7am and stay open till past midnight.

Last Friday I went in at lunch time to buy a newspaper like I do every week and noticed the entire newspaper and magazine rack was empty. I looked around and some of the shelves were half empty too. What's up? "Didn't you know, we're closing," the eldest brother told me. What? Why? Turns up their landlord has raised the rent by 100 rials. But that's not the real reason. They told me that by October neighborhood grocery stores in Muscat will have to be "Omanized" and they see no reason why they should pay higher rent when they'll have to close down by October.

Yesterday over lunch my mom told me she passed by the shop and they were closing down. The Omani sponsor had come to help them out empty the shelves. She said the man was furious and told her these guys used to give him 500 rials a month for his sponsorship. He was blaming the government for his loss of income.

I feel sad that these guys are leaving after so long in Oman. But then again I guess Omanization cannot be avoided and these guys must have made a good living and have enough set aside back home. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know their names even though I always stop for a few minutes' chat whenever I'm in the shop. These people have known me since I was 16. I've practically known them half my life.

Come October or November when we finally get a new grocery shop in the neighborhood, will the Omani owned and operated shop be open by 7am? Will we still have a cheap option for late night emergency groceries? Will the new guy be open on Fridays? Will he be cheaper than even the hypermarkets like these guys were? Or will I be here lamenting how things were better when the government didn't force expats out of business..


hibbalicious said...

Its sad sometimeswhen this happens, in my neighbourhood in jeddah many of the local businesses closed down because of SAUDIzation, there was this jewelry store run by yemeni and omani people and since i was a child my dad used to take me there every Eid every Birthday and any special occasion and i went there in Ramadhan and i was so upset it was closed down because I remember all the good memories I had when i was young and our family had become friends with the owners. Sad but I imagine in Oman like saudi many young people have problems getting jobs and its bad when all the foreigners come and get the jobs whereas the nationals are just overlooked.

nomadica said... mum will be sad to hear that! we live in MQ and that's her one stop shop for stuff like flour and last minute things. but i guess this is all part of the long term process! omanis will be gaining through employment but it seems like omanis who sponsor grocery stores etc. will be losing out...

DevilishAngel said...

I can totally relate to the sentimental side of this story, yet as my ‘patriotic’ voice starts to speak (and this doesn’t happen very often- so let's cherish this moment while it lasts) I find myself saying that Indians (expats in general- but I said Indians here coz they were mentioned in your story and there is just SO many of them) yeah, so the INDIANS do a HUGE damage to the GDP of any country they reside in, other than their own. Their lower than low personal spending, inclusive of the OR<--:)500/- monthly rent or sponsorship fee, gives you a ratio of “make-save/spend” that creates sever damage to our economy. Here is how:
It’s a common, typical thing what these expatriates do: they make as much money as they can without spending so much in the host country. All this money makes them prosperous (maharaja’s in India), while our economy suffers from excess unemployment rates and below average spending.
As for the list of questions you had in the end, as Omanization, so to speak, takes over, the answer to most of your Qs would be NO, they won’t be operating as many hours as Omani’s would. But think for a moment as to why that’s the case. Again, the expats are here to make as much money in as little time as they can (or as much time as they have), and even if this means working 12 hours a day (or more!) These ppl have the time because, being expats, they don’t have any other social responsibilities as would an Omani. ( An Omani is a citizen, an employee(er), a father, brother, son, uncle, member of this, partner in that…) so there is only so much time a citizen could devote to his/her job. Therefore, comparing expats’ low-wage-high-production performance to a citizen’s overall contribution is unfair, because they are not on the same comparison level.

tau said...

These comments mostly in reaction to devilish's comments:

Expats such as those working at stores have given countries like Oman a headstart (or shall we say a kickstart) and moved these places to a point there the natives can jump in.

Yes expats do save a large chunk of what they earn and spend what is necessary but not in excess - they do not want to become like natives deep in depths of debt (muscati can elaborate...)

As for devilish's comments on expats working many hours let me tell you that many of them (even those who run stores) have families and children to take care with them.Its about finding balance between work and home - not about expat /Omani.
Many expats still play the role of son, uncle, brother but across countries.

As for the expats being replaced there is hope as the Urdu poet Iqbal said:
"Ye duniya nahi mard-e-jafakash ke liye tang"
Translation: The world is large enough for a man who is hard working. If one door closes other oppurtunities will open.

It is good to see some sympathy is muscati's post and others's comments. There is still some humanity left in humans

DevilishAngel said...

Tau- since your response was mostly to my comments, allow me to further explain.
We all appreciate what expats did (and continue to do) for us, I expressed my sentiment as did other bloggers. I don’t particularly agree that they paved the way for the natives to “jump in” per se, but let’s just keep it at that.

In reaction to the saving vs. 'deep dept' comment: look at it this way: If an expat will work, and have most of his/her expenses paid (child’s education, housing, transportation..) then that allows them to save so much money, no? A citizen, on the other hand, may not get all these benefits, allowances or whatever they call them. Isn’t it only natural that the citizen will find himself spending all he’s got? That, and also note into consideration, that 99% of the time (according to my stats) the citizen will be working UNDER an expat. Guess who makes more money?

More about saving vs spending: I was at one of the banks where one of my Omani friends is the IT manager. The finance manager walked in to ask him for something. He was Indian. When he walked out, my friend said that this guy makes OR 1,500 a month, and proudly stated to my friend that he spend RO 15 a month. He spends 0.01% of what he makes. I rest my case.

One more thing, I know and understand that expats have families, (some not all), yet that doesn’t make them an integral part of society. A citizen just has more things to contribute to. There are opportunities everywhere we go, and as u said, just because one door closes it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. I don’t see what humanity has to do with it. It’s a harsh world sweetie, based on the survival of the fittest.


tau said...

Expats like the ones muscati has written about have actually set up the stores years ago - now the natives "inherit" them without much work. This what is meant by kickstart given by expats.

Well for some expats earning more than natives let me quote this from the Quran:
Allah enlarges the provision of whomsover He wishes...

Its actually hard to believe that somebody is only spending 15 OR (or RO15) - might be a foolish boast.

Many expats have lived here for decades - how come you still refuse to accept them as an "integral part" of the society? Do they need to belong to some Al-XXXX "qabeela" to be a part of this society?
Or do they need to spend beyond their means and beg and borrow to prove that they are an "integral part" of this society?

Going by your "different type of gal" logic - the natives have more responsibilites than expats. So after natives take over their productivity should be even lower than it is now.Right?

In my last post the humanity I wrote about was about the sympathy shown by some bloggers towards towards these expats being replaced.

Yes the fittest will survive anywhere, for the natives this might be the only place.

Mansur said...

We have the same thing happening in Saudi as well. My dad is forced to have a certain pecentage of Saudis in his company, and the most painful thing he has to do is fire these people who have been working for 20+ years and is forced to hire in these Saudis who simply cannot hold up the job of the previous employees. This creates tensions between the Saudi employees and the older employees. While it is extremely sad to see expatriates, who have indeed contributed to the development of the country, are forced to leave, often times without any benefits, and then get in Saudis. That can be good, because it aims it solves to the Saudi jobless rates. Where I worked, we had a Saudi guy because the company was forced to have Saudis, and that one Saudi was a good performer. Being in the transition phase where we see expats leaving and locals coming in, we will be going through a bumpy, rocky path! No doubt, there will come a time when even my own parents will be leaving the country!


Sowhat said...

well you are totally right ..

those indians practically own the shop and they wont bother paying more 100 Rial .. but becouse of omanization they will leave .. sam thing happento a shop next o my buildign i was their cutomer for two years when Omanies start to run the shop , things became more expensive , customer service was really bad and the sales man wont feel bad if he is talking in his gsm while you are waiting to pay .. note that we wee only honking and some one will bring my grocerry when it was runing by the indians .. what can i say .. it is omanization ..

dervish said...

There is a children's story in America, about not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Small stores and other businesses in America are also typically run by Indian immigrants. There are reasons why Americans can't successfully compete with them... because Americans aren't willing to make such huge sacrifices of their time for so thin a margin of profit. In short, the Indians do it better.

This is a good thing. The result is well run, conscientious stores that are cheap and give good service. These shops also contribute to the economy in other ways, by buying the goods that they sell, and paying taxes and rents.

Chasing off the Indians will probably result in few jobs, and a whole lot of marginal (or even failing) stores.

Nzingha said...

I can see it both ways, we are an expat family in Saudi (although the MR is born and raised in Jeddah, but that is a rant on citizenship laws) but half of the fmaily is Saudi and some are unemployed.

With the Saudization drive I continue to wonder why doesn't this include more beneficial jobs. Ones with a more productive income that will result in better productivity for the country.

Saudization with fishermen?? Comeon get real.

Cash clerks, stores now have to hire saudis for check out. Their usually younger boys, making such a minor amount of money they need two jobs.

Seems like most of these countries tend to put only a bandaid on a huge problem. And its only going to get bigger as they slowly figure out things aren't working out anyway. After kicking out poor Indian expats who would work for much less, live on much less, and live in conditions most nationals wouldn't think about. They find out that their country men are no better off working for such low pay and are still poor but with a job.

Saudi will force Saudization, but the pay rates are different. Aramco here is recently hiring Saudi female secretaries, no where near the rate of pay nor benefits they gave to the western women they are replacing.

To be honest don't even expect the corner market to even re-open. That is what happened to some stores around here. It isn't that Saudis won't put in the hours (I have saudi family members that work insane hours for crap pay) But it just isn't worth the effort.

illogicist said...

Its always interesting when policy by a govt. that has an intended effect has another effect, because some things were overlooked. I dont mean to sound cold here, but its true.

Samyah said...

I know what you mean Muscati, we have a driver that's been driving my brothers to school since they were very young. They've become attatched to him in an uncle like way and we had to let him go recently; they were heartbroken.

I'm not too in favor of Omanization, I know its needed but Indians are not only more hard working;they're also better mannered!

OceanDream said...

I guess everything has pretty much been said, and I don't really have that much to add. BUT, I don't know if this will make any sense to you all, but, I'll say it anyway. Its not just about Indians working harder or longer work hours. Its the way us Omanis preceive eachother. Lets look at it from a female Omani's point of view. We have been brought up not to speak to Omani boys we don't know, yet, at the same time, we find ourselves quite at ease speaking to all the Indians in all the shops around town. Why? I have no idea. double standards I guess. Will we change our attitudes once Omanis are running all jobs? That remains to be seen.

When I go to the gas station to fill up my car, I tend to give the Indian guy the change (tip), yet, when a Omani guy fills up my car, I feel awkward telling him to keep the change because I'm not sure if he'd accept it or if he would feel iunsulted, etc.

I know its right to have this kind of mentality, but, I know many other girls feel the same way.

iamnasra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
iamnasra said...

I dont not much to add but just a minor thing to say...Its sad to see those who have worked so long in small business to leave the country..We have small grocery shop I recall my sisters when they were little it was kind of their only place they could get chips and juice just near the house they do not need to cross the road and so on...Now seeing this man closing this shop its really sad...Some of them its their home all their life being here for more than 20 yrs...

On another hand I go to the souk in Al Mawleh in one section of the souk you find only Omanies who sale fruits and I’m glad that I do not have to speak in mixed language and also I feel that instead of these youngsters being in trouble at least they have job better than getting into crimes and soon ...As matter of fact we do get situation that houses been robbed and so this is also one of the reasons of not being employed...My mum friend's house was nearly been robbed in Al Hail by young unemployed Omani national. I hope this jobs will help those who have low income..imagine a job with regular income does a lot for those who are really in bad situation financially. It prevents them from begging.

amir said...

Devilish said:
"It’s a harsh world sweetie, based on the survival of the fittest."

In fact, those indians are more fit for that low-pay job, since as you said they are used to not spend a lot.

I guess you have a big problem understanding basic economics. Fittest means: most efficient, aggressive and hard working.
It does not mean: Lazy boy with an artificial advanatge of being an Omani with government protection. Such stuff (Omanization or whatever that is) does hurt the economy indeed.



Tracy & John said...

Omanization is good and well, but what really needs to be looked at is the medium size company investment criteria.

Omanization is tough but what is worse is that investment laws in Oman are so prohibitive that you can't employ Omani's if you want to have a business here anyway because you need OR 150K just to get an investment visa.

That means less employment for Omani's and I think it's high time someone looked at that.



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