Saudi Arabia Mulls Western-Style Weekend
Saudi Arabia could change its official weekend to Friday-Saturday, in a move designed to move it closer into lockstep with global financial markets, and boost its economy.
Saudi's Shura Council, which advises the king and government on new laws, recommends the Gulf state ditch its existing Thursday-Friday weekend, as it limits the number of days in the week businesses can work with overseas partners. Similar to the West, Saudi's Thursday-Friday weekend has religious roots, with Friday the Islamic holy day.
"I welcome the possible change with a lot of relief. When one looks at the overlap between Saudi Arabia and the West, there are only three weekdays in common," Firas Mallah, the managing director for the Middle East and North Africa at BMO Global Asset Management in Dubai, said.
John Sfakianakis, the chief investment strategist at MASIC, a Riyadh-based investment company, agreed. "The proposal is a very positive step as it helps improve productivity and connectivity with foreign companies," he told CNBC's "Access: Middle East".
The proposal comes as the Kingdom inches towards becoming a more business-friendly destination for global investors. Saudi Arabia's $727 billion economy is home to the Middle East's largest and most liquid stock market, and authorities are trying to reduce its reliance on oil income, and provide jobs to its young and rapidly growing population.
However, efforts to move the weekend may be hampered by powerful traditionalist clerics who oppose steps to bring the Kingdom more in line with Judeo-Christian traditions. Saudi Arabia is now the only Gulf country to maintain a Thursday-Friday weekend, after Oman said earlier this month that it will move to a Friday-Saturday weekend in May.