The fact that a large number of expatriate families have left or are about to leave the Kingdom permanently as a result of the dependent tax has negatively affected some companies that were entirely dependent on them.
Ethnic food stores and candy shops that catered specifically to South Asian communities in the Kingdom are among the hardest hit.
The clientele of these ethnic confectioneries has been more or less entirely the family of expatriates and with a large majority of them returning home permanently, they are witnessing a sharp decline in their clientele.
According to traders, candy sales in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam are estimated at 50%. Sales are expected to fall further in the coming months, they say.
Many stores are cutting back on their activities, putting dozens of jobs at risk. Some chefs known as “halwais” with expertise in traditional crafts have already lost their jobs and returned home, and many more work without an assistant.
Exchanging treats between friends and relatives on all occasions and happy celebrations is a centuries-old custom in South Asia, while sweets are also an indispensable part of cooking.
Most people in South Asia bring candies with them when they visit a relative or a friend and this is a tradition especially among Pakistani expatriates.
Many expatriates from the subcontinent also bought sweets for their children to taste.
Like many expats, unable to afford the huge dependency tax that adds up to tens of thousands of riyals a year for some, send their families home sweets to feel the pinch.
“We were selling an average of 2,000 kilograms of sweets a day in our stores, but in the last few months, sales have dropped to less than half,” said Saqib Rasheed Ghazi of Nirala Sweets, a popular candy store with multiple branches. in Jeddah.
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, he said his clientele consisted entirely of families with children who love treats. Since their number is decreasing, it is candy.
Saqib said that unlike restaurants where singles still make up the main customer segment, customers of confectionery stores were primarily families.
“The departure of families in large numbers starts our business,” said Mohammed Shamshir of Baba Pak Sweets, a leading candy store in Riyadh.
He told the Saudi Gazette on the phone that the sweet deal was the hardest hit when families left Kingdom.
Shamshir said his sales dropped to nearly 40 percent.
He saw a dark future for the company “desi mithai” because this sector is commonly known in community circles.
He also revealed that some of his leaders were fired because of the fall of business.
Echoing the same concerns, Arsalan of Sialkot Sweets in Dammam, said his sales were down to 60 percent in recent months.