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Thu 22 Mar 2018 08:46 AM

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No plans to review Saudi 'expat fee', says finance minister

Mohammed Al-Jadaan said higher oil prices have no impact on its fiscal policy

No plans to review Saudi 'expat fee', says finance minister
"These have been modelled for an extended period of time. We knew what the impact is going to be."

Despite complaints from the private sector, Saudi Arabia has no plans revise a new "expat fee" that was imposed in January on Saudi businesses that employ foreign workers, according to the kingdom’s finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan.

“There are no plans to revise any of the reforms that we have implemented," he said. "These have been modelled for an extended period of time. We knew what the impact is going to be."

Al-Jadaan dismissed suggestions that the government’s fiscal overhaul - put into motion during the oil price rout - have become less urgent now that crude prices are higher.

Officials have introduced unpopular measures over the past two years including new taxes and hikes to domestic energy prices as they try to bolster non-oil government revenue.

“Fiscal reforms are not oil price connected," Al-Jadaan said. "We implemented energy price reform again at the beginning of this year despite the fact that oil prices have increased, so we are determined and committed to go on."

Senior Saudi officials are touring the US to drum up business and will visit investment banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group, Citigroup and Bank of America.

“There are opportunities being created for a lot of US businesses," Al-Jadaan said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television in Washington, the first stop in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s three-week tour of America.

The Saudi delegation is also expected to visit Boston, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston on a trip scheduled to last through April 7.

Besides business deals, the kingdom is also planning a dollar-denominated bond sale in the next few weeks, Al-Jadaan said, adding that the size of the sale has yet to be determined.

The kingdom has "almost hired" banks for the offering and is considering 5-year, 7-year, 10-year, 12-year and 30-year bonds or longer, he said. The government is looking at other currency options but sticking to dollar-denominated securities for now, he added.

*With Bloomberg