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US$3.1 billion to help companies with expat fee hikes

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has approved a scheme to reimburse some of the companies who struggled to pay steadily increasing fees for expatriate work permits in 2017 and 2018 and waive the fee hikes for some who weren’t able to pay, the labor minister said.

The government is allocating 11.5 billion riyals (2.40 billion pounds) for reimbursements under the decision.

“This initiative will support private sector companies, help them overcome the obstacles and achieve their goals and encourage them to expand employment of Saudi citizens,” Labour Minister Ahmed bin Suleiman al-Rajhi tweeted on Friday (Feb 8).

Only companies that had a higher or equal number of Saudi employees will be eligible for the reimbursement or waiver of fees, according to the decree.

Companies with a lower number of Saudis compared to expats will benefit from the initiative only after they hire more locals, it said.

The annual fee hikes, rising gradually to 2020, were seen as crucial to Riyadh’s plan to create more jobs and cut a 12.8 per cent unemployment rate.

According to Osama al-Afaliq, head of the Saudi Contractors Association, The decision will have a huge positive impact on Saudi economy and especially the manpower intensive construction sector, which was the worst hit by the collective invoice.