An unusual scene greets visitors to the Labour Office headquarters in Riyadh: The individuals serving tea and coffee to the staff and visitors as well as the messengers and the cleaners are all non-Saudis.

One shouldn't panic or feel distressed if one finds oneself gripped by an overwhelming feeling of disbelief and confusion, not knowing whether to be angry or to laugh at such a contradiction.

Almost every day senior Labour Office officials lecture us on the importance of Saudiisation; they invariably stress the national, emotional and economic implications. The very same officials sit happily in their offices in Riyadh being served tea and coffee by non-Saudis.

The scene keeps jumping into my mind each time I listen to a homily about job nationalisation and the need for replacing foreigners with Saudis and linking it all to idealism and patriotism.

As we all know, it is far from uncommon for some to talk at length about Saudiisation while not bothering to Saudise anything themselves.

I was surprised to find that in one government department the person doing the photocopying of sensitive documents is a non-Saudi. If this is the case in a government department, there is surely nothing strange in seeing non-Saudis wandering from one office to another, doing all kinds of work from serving tea and coffee to forwarding messages and cleaning up.

In yet another department, the person typing the official correspondence is a non-Saudi who, despite wearing the national dress and struggling to come to grips with the local dialect, has, nevertheless, failed to conceal his real nationality.

In neither place could any official convince me of the logic that justifies non-Saudis doing those jobs.

All of this said, it still remains that Saudiisation must be handled very carefully. When I write against forcing Saudiisation without considering the economic implications, I am often criticised, with some even questioning my integrity.

The Saudiisation of the travel industry has been suspended since officials are convinced that if applied without weighing the pros and cons, it could lead to more damage than benefits.

What would critics say if the doors of our government offices are wide open to foreigners though they are closed to Saudis?

The Labour Office should save some of the paper it uses writing letters to private companies requesting them to employ Saudis. It would surely be better if those letters were sent to the Labour Office itself as well as to other government departments.

This commentary was originally published in the local Arabic daily Okaz.