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Saudi Prince for cutting expatriate work force

February 03, 2009 16:35 IST

Gulf and Arab countries, where foreigners mostly from South Asia make up half the work force, should give preference to own citizens over expatriates, a prominent member of the Saudi Royal family has said.

"We should build our national economies to benefit our own people and not the millions of foreign workers," Prince Turki al-Faisal Bin Abdullah said at a conference on human resources in Abu Dhabi, in comments that could be worrisome in Dubai.

Prince Turki, former chief of the Saudi Intelligence Service and former Ambassador to US, said it's not understandable that there should be unemployed people in Gulf or Arab countries, while these nations had millions of foreign workers.

Foreign unskilled and skilled workers mainly from South East Asia and South Asia make up an average of 50 per cent of the work force in the Gulf region.

They go as high as 92 per cent in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman to 60 per cent in Saudi Arabia. Turki warned that allowing foreign workers could threaten the demographic makeup of the region.

"If this influx continues, we may become minorities in our country." The warning sounded by the influential Saudi Prince came in the back drop of two of the richest Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and UAE, getting hit by the global meltdown as oil prices touch their lowest from a peak of $147 a barrel in July 2008.

Most of the Gulf states have recently put a freeze on mega estate projects, which have forced many expatriate workers to leave the countries after losing their job.

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