Angry civil servants in Saudi Arabia have attacked ministers’ claims that they only work for one hour a day and the country faces bankruptcy unless they become more productive.
Local media reported earlier this week that two of the kingdom’s senior officials – including the civil service minister – had called for further cuts in the public sector otherwise the country faces bankruptcy within three to four years.
Civil service minister Khaled Al Araj told a TV debate on Saudi TV network MBC that civil servants in the kingdom barely put in 60 minutes’ work per day in the office and have little incentive to work. “It directly and negatively affects government institutions,” he was quoted as saying.
During the same TV debate, deputy minister of economy and planning Muhammad Al Tuwaijri warned the government’s finances would come under severe pressure unless austerity measures are enforced.
“If oil prices keep declining and the Saudi government does not take action with economic and austerity measures . . . bankruptcy in the kingdom is inevitable within three to four years.” Al Tuwaijri later admitted that “bankruptcy” was a misjudgment on his part, local media said.
However, the two ministers’ comments have received a backlash from members of the public, including civil servants, angered by the criticism.
According to Saudi Gazette, several hashtags have been activated on Twitter, including #hourwithAlaraj via which Saudis are venting their outrage.
One member of the public tweeted that the statements amounted to a crime against employees.
Another, named as private sector HR assistant Abdullah Sukkar, was quoted as saying: “There is no accurate key performance indicator (KPI) to measure the individual…performance, productivity rates.”
Legal adviser Abdullah Al Ghamdi was quoted as saying: “One-hour workday is an exaggeration and insulting to employees.”
However, Al Ghamdi added that productivity was very low in government departments, according to the newspaper. “This is a fact that no one can deny,” Al Ghamdi reportedly said.
“Instead of bashing the minister for his admittedly inappropriate and untimely comments, why don’t we try to find a solution that benefits the economy?”
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