Saudi expat fees to be reviewed as economy tanks

Published:  10 Dec at 6 PM
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According to leaks, the Saudi government is discussing changes to its expat fee scheme as the charges have hit hard on businesses.

It seems the controversial expat fee policy is now under review as businesses are feeling the financial strain and the expected cut in unemployment isn’t happening. Rising costs and an expat exodus are inflicting financial pain, and businesses are in agreement it’s doing nothing but harming their bottom lines. It’s believed a ministerial committee is considering restructuring or modifying the fees, with a final decision expected by the end of the month. The news came under conditions of anonymity, as the information has not yet been released to the general public.

First introduced two years ago as part of a plan to increase non-oil government revenue, the fees were immediately unpopular with owners of businesses traditionally hiring cheap foreign labour. The expat exodus which followed the introduction of the scheme caused increased problems for firms and failed to dent Saudi’s high unemployment totals. It seems one aim of the review is to balance the kingdom’s economic needs with the private sector’s need to grow through hiring inexpensive labour. In general, the private sector hasn’t reacted favourably to a number of changes brought in by the prince’s Vision 20-30 plan.

Meanwhile, UAE government officials have announced benefits paid to unemployed Emiratis will be axed if they’ve failed to prove they’re not fit for work. Unemployed UAE citizens will be forced to accept one of three employment offers or lose their state-supplied benefits, according to the chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Community Development. Healthy workers will have three jobs arranged for them, with only stay-at-home mothers and those unable to work for medical reasons being exempted. The emirate’s benefits system can be compared with the social security welfare network in place in most Western countries, with lawmakers reassuring those in real need won’t be affected by the new rules.
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