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Sat 21 Mar 2020 12:59 AM

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Saudi Arabia unveils new virus prevention steps to deliver $32bn savings

Finance Ministry will exempt the private sector from some government fees and delay other payments under new measures

Saudi Arabia unveils new virus prevention steps to deliver $32bn savings

Saudi Arabia has unveiled a new series of measures to enable companies to redirect SR120 billion ($32 billion) as they struggle to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Finance Ministry said Friday it would exempt the private sector from some government fees and delay other payments, for now saving firms SR70 billion.

The steps also allow businesses to delay value-added tax payments for three months.

The kingdom’s central bank had already unveiled a SR50 billion package to support business, including SR30 billion for banks and financing companies that are deferring loans for small and medium-size enterprises.

The government “has the ability to diversify its sources of financing between public debt and reserves, enabling it to face the current challenges,” the ministry said in a statement.

It would switch spending to sectors that are most effected by the virus and boost money for health services.

The measures also enabled employers to refund the fees of issued work visas that were not used during the ban on entry and exit, enable employers to extend exit and re-entry visas that were not used during the ban on entry and exit without charge.

They will also postpone the collection of customs duties on imports for a period of 30 days against the submission of a bank guarantee, with the possibility to extend the postponement period for the most affected activities as needed.

A committee headed by the Minister of Finance will review the incentives, with the aim of mitigating the exceptional and unprecedented economic situation, in light of the implications of the coronavirus, the impact of the precautionary measures taken by the government and the low oil prices.On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia suspended all private sector work except health and food services for a 15-day period amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development said that workers would be suspended from the main offices of private sector firms for 15 days.

In cases where workers must continue their duties and ensure the availability of supply chains, the number of employees working must not exceed 40 percent of the total at the firm’s headquarters.

* With Bloomberg

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