Saudi Arabia will penalise non-Saudi drivers working for ride hailing applications Uber and Careem with a fine and possible deportation, according to reports.
Saudi Gazette cited Rumaih Al-Rumaih, head of the Public Transport Authority, as saying the penalties were part of the kingdom’s saudisation of the transport sector.
“The number of non-Saudi taxi drivers in the kingdom has dropped to 30 per cent of the total. The authority aims to saudise the sector by 100 per cent,” he was quoted as saying.
“Any non-Saudi caught running the ride-sharing service will face a fine of SAR5,000 ($1,333) and possible deportation,” he said.
The official’s statements follow comments from Careem co-founder Abdulla Elyas last year, who said ride hailing companies could now only employ Saudis directly but expats could work indirectly through public and private taxi comanies
Uber and Careem were also recently banned from picking up passengers at the kingdom’s airports, similarly to the UAE.
Another official, Saeed Al-Bassami, head of the national transport committee at the Council of Saudi Chambers and the land transport committee at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, said the said services had harmed the interests of taxi drivers in the kingdom.
He said the number of people using regular taxis had dropped by 50 per cent despite taxis fares being cheaper than using the apps, according to Saudi Gazette.
“The Ministry of Transport is working to develop its own apps to streamline the services of taxi drivers and reserve parking space for them in various locations so that they do not obstruct the flow of traffic in cities,” Al-Bassami was quoted as saying.
The kingdom has backed both Uber and Careem with funding. In June the Public Investment Fund announced a $3.5bn investment in Uber and in December Saudi Telecom Company invested $100m for a 10 per cent stake in Careem.