Saudi official warns over bankruptcy in 'three to four years'

State employees work 60 minutes a day, says civil service minister Khaled Al Araj
By Staff writer
Sun 23 Oct 2016 02:42 PM

Two Saudi Arabia’s senior officials have warned that further cuts are needed to the kingdom’s swollen public sector otherwise the country faces bankruptcy in three years.

Khaled Al Araj, the civil service minister, told a TV debate on Saudi TV network MBC that civil servants in the kingdom barely put in one hour a day in the office and have little incentive to work.

The kingdom’s public sector, which employs more than 70 percent of the workforce, is extremely unproductive and its employees have a poor work ethic, the UK’s Times newspaper quoted him as saying.

The system is so badly run, he added, that wages were paid to government employees even if they had left their jobs.

Last month, Saudi Arabia announced it would cut ministers’ salaries by 20 percent and scale back financial perks for state employees in as part of austerity measures to plug the kingdom’s widening budget deficit.

Along with other GCC governments Saudi Arabia is struggling with falling revenues in a climate of low oil prices – its deficit was nearly $100 billion last year.

But Al Araj said further cuts were needed as civil servants’ timekeeping and productivity was so poor. “It directly and negatively affects government institutions,” he was quoted as saying.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy economy minister Muhammad al-Tuwaijri, speaking during the same TV debate, warned that government's finances will 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.”

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