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Tue 17 May 2016 02:02 PM

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New Saudi minister to set 'affordable' water tariff

New environment minister Abdulrahman Al Fadli draws up new tariff following complaints over high bills

New Saudi minister to set 'affordable' water tariff
(Bloomberg)

Saudi Arabia’s new environment minister is reportedly working to produce a water tariff that will be “acceptable” to citizens aggrieved over rising costs.

Public complaints to the National Water Company are understood to have surged since December when the Ministry of Finance announced it would adjust subsidised prices for petrol, water and electricity.

Many people claimed their water tariffs had doubled in the ensuing months. Then, in March, water and electricity minister Abdullah Al Hussayen was sacked, after he suggested members of the public should “dig a well” if they were unhappy over the rising cost of their water bills.

According to Saudi Gazette, Al Hussayen’s replacement, environment, water and agriculture minister Abdulrahman Al Fadli, has revealed he is working to produce a water tariff “acceptable to all”.

“Concerted efforts will be exerted to upgrade water services to take the vital liquid to everyone everywhere,” Al Fadli was quoted as saying.

The new tariff is to be approved by the Council of Ministers before being formally issued.

He said the present tariff does not cover more than 30 to 35 percent of the actual cost of the water pumped to households.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest average rates of water consumption in the world, according to Reuters, helped by subsidies that have kept the cost to consumers almost zero.

However, the government is under pressure to curb spending while the oil price remains low, and in December announced cuts in utility and gasoline subsidies to balance the books.

John Sfakianakis, Riyadh-based director of economic research at think tank the Gulf Research Center, told The National in April water prices have since climbed as much as 500 percent for Saudi nationals.