Saudi Arabia revised speed limits on some expressways starting from Monday, February 19, according to reports from Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The updated speed limit will be 140kph for small vehicles, 100kph for buses and 80kph for trucks on Riyadh-Taif Road westwards, Riyadh-Taif Road eastwards, Riyadh-Qassim Road northwards, Qassim-Riyadh Road southwards, Makkah-Madinah Road northwards, Madinah-Makkah Road southwards, Madinah-Jeddah Road southwards and Jeddah-Madinah Road northwards.
Col. Sami Bin Muhammad Al-Shuwairikh, Director of Public Relations in Public Security, stressed the importance of abiding by the speed limits and alerted motorists to strictly follow the instructions on sign boards and not exceed speed limits.
In accordance with Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s (SAMA) decision to implement the National Address System, banks in Saudi Arabia has now made it mandatory for customers to furnish their address at the banks.
Customers have been receiving messages from various banks reminding them to update their profile in the online bank account page or at https://address.gov.sa/en/ . It has been made mandatory for all types of residences.
Saudi Arabia is the first among the Arab countries to implement the National Address System. Also known as Unwan Al-Watani, the system aims at providing a unified and comprehensive address data storage system through Geographic Information System (GIS).
It consists of six basic information, namely, building number, street name, neighborhood, city, postal code or zip code and additional phone number. In addition, mobile numbers used by customers for Absher services should also be linked with the National Address System.
Once implemented, the system would enable fast delivery of services with effective transparency, expand economic opportunities in the digital world, improve navigation capabilities to send emergency services in the wake of a disaster and help security forces reach crime scenes faster.
In a move to upgrade the Kingdom’s health sector, Saudi Arabia will be granting visas free of charge to foreign scientists and health specialists, stated media reports.
Ahmed Al Aamiri, Secretary General of the Saudi Health Council praised the cabinet’s decision and added that the decision to allow free visas to foreign scientists was approved as part of several health initiatives suggested by the council to promote the health sector.
The new visa policy is expected to attract foreign scientists to be part of research programmes in the Kingdom and contribute to major health reforms in the Kingdom’s medical sector. However, visas will only be provided to those who have proven their competency in their respective fields and have a successful track record.
The Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) suggested eight amendments to the expat levy policy to uplift the private sector, during a meeting of CSC heads with Ali Al-Ghafis, Minister of Labor and Social Development.
Al-Ghafis granted permission to form a joint CSC and ministry committee to study the best policies to support the Kingdom’s private sector.
The suggestions made by CSC include a request to extend the deadline for expat levy from 2020 to 2025 and to exempt micro, small and medium businesses from expat levy during the first few years.
Abdullah Adeem, head of Hail Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for a study to evaluate the performance of businesses and implement Saudization accordingly rather than applying nationalization uniformly for various job sectors that may damage businesses in few sectors.
Thamer Al-Farshouti, head of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Entrepreneurship Committee reminded that if the current policies are not updated soon, 25-30% of private enterprises are at a risk of shutting down soon. He suggested monthly payment of levy instead of annual payment.
Majed Al-Ruwaili, of Al-Jouf Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the cumulative tax bill which the ministry plans to implement will adversely affect small and medium private sector establishments.
About 12 million foreigners arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2017 for work, visit, pilgrimage, and business said Abdulrahman Al-Yousef, Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs and Director General of Visa Administration.
Of the 12 million visas issued by the Saudi government, 1.5 million were tourist visas and 50,000 were business visas. Business visas are valid for two years and permit multiple visits, he added.
Meanwhile, the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat) analysis of the third quarter of 2017 indicated that 94,390 foreign employees opted to leave the Kingdom in Q3 of 2017, largely due to Saudization in several job sectors and an exceptional increase in living cost. The number of expats working in the Kingdom’s public and private sector was around 10.79 million in Q2 which reduced to 10.6 million in Q3.
At the same time, the number of visas issued during the third quarter of 2017 totaled 509,180 with 22.3 percent visas issued in the public sector and 39.9 percent in the private sector. Around 37.8 percent visas were issued to recruit domestic employees, the report added.
The Ministry of Commerce and Investment assured on Thursday that Saudi women can start their own business without the permission of a male guardian.
The legal procedures to set up a business will be the same for both Saudi men and women. Women will no longer face any additional formalities at the government agencies like the requirement to submit consent of a guardian before setting up their own business.
Moreover, women no longer need to visit a lawyer to document the founding of the company. The procedures can be done electronically through the Abshir system.
The #No_Need campaign, launched by Taysir, is gaining publicity and aims to streamline the formalities to set up a new business for Saudi women.
Abdul Rahman Al-Hussein, the official spokesperson of the ministry, tweeted using the hashtag #No_Need in Arabic, “No need for a guardian’s permission. Saudi women are free to start their own business freely”.
Nojood Al-Qassim, head of the Department of Personal Status, Family Legacies and Women’s and Children’s Rights, believes that this decision to empower women is in line with the directives of Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims to activate the role of women in society and to give them full rights and the rights guaranteed by the shariah.
The domestic liquidity of Saudi banks has improved and hit a record high SR 457 billion by the end of 2017, despite restrained growth and challenging business conditions in Saudi Arabia, according to Sectoral Comment issued by Moody’s Investors Service on February 1.
The domestic liquid assets of banks in Saudi Arabia saw a growth of 11 percent in 2017 which equaled to 20 percent of bank assets. Moreover, the ratio of reserves to total deposits reached 14.8 percent, it’s highest since 2012.
The contraction of 1 percent in bank loans and 43 percent increase in the bank holdings of domestic government bonds led to a positive trend despite a sluggish 0.1 percent deposit growth.
The Saudi bank’s diminished deposit growth, standing at around 1 percent since 2015, was led by a decline in government balances amid a fiscal deficit due to lower oil prices and a reduction in deposits from the private sector because of government spending cuts, payment delays and weakening economic growth. These developments tightened the banking system liquidity.
However, by late 2016, credit growth decelerated as the government cleared the majority of overdue payments to contractors and this led to slight improvement in liquidity of banks.
Funding squeeze further eased in 2017, when the government increased its recourse to international debt issuance to finance its deficit, supporting a 12 percent increase in public sector deposit inflows to the banking system, versus a 10 percent decline in 2016, which mitigated the 3 percent contraction in deposit volumes from the private sector in 2017.
During 2017, bank loans contracted 1 percent, mainly due to government’s fiscal consolidation measures, which adversely affected economic growth, credit demand, and banks’ lending appetite. Loans for building and construction sector, which are heavily dependent on public spending, declined by around 15 percent. However, the loan-to-deposit ratio remained stable at 86 percent, after increasing to 87 percent in 2016 from 79 percent in 2014.
In 2017, banks had the opportunity to transfer their excess liquidity to high-quality government investments through successive sovereign debt issuance, notably Sukuk issuance. As a result, government bonds made up 56 percent of Saudi bank’s domestic liquid assets which was only 27 percent in 2015.
Moody’s believes that banks in Saudi Arabia will benefit from the SR 72 billion economic stimulus programme announced by the government to support private sector and that the Saudi economy will recover over the next 12-18 months. With improved liquidity, Moody’s also expects banks in Saudi Arabia to improve lending by around 4 percent in 2018.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) once again reminded employers of domestic workers to issue prepaid salary cards for their workers as soon as they enter the Kingdom. The ministry also called on employers who already have domestic workers under their sponsorship in the Kingdom to issue salary cards within 6 months.
With the introduction of prepaid payroll card, the ministry’s wage protection system intends to protect the rights of all parties involved in the contract – both employers and domestic workers – and electronically document employment contracts for these workers, said Khalid Aba AL-Khail, the ministry’s official spokesman.
The program will ensure that wages are transferred to the worker’s bank account and hence increase job security, improve work atmosphere and promote principles of human rights for domestic workers.
Employers can issue prepaid payroll card by registering for the service at a bank, followed by creating an electronic recruitment contract specifying the worker’s monthly salary at Musaned online portal (www.musaned.com.sa). Once the details are filled up, employers should save the contract on the website before taking a print out.
The ministry urged recruitment offices and companies to raise awareness about the same to their clients and domestic workers, and any violations can be reported by calling the customer care center at 19911.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) updated Labor Law regulations to protect employee rights in the Kingdom. The decision, approved by Minister of Labor and Social Development, Ali Al-Ghafees, has been formulated in view of the current changes and developments in the labor market.
According to the revised table, employers violating the Labor Law provision with regards to employee vacation will be subject to a penalty of SR 10,000.
Employers breaching the revised Article 38 of Labor Law by hiring foreign employees to work in a profession other than the one specified in their work permit will be fined SR 10,000.
Failure to open a file of the company or update data regarding the company at the Labor Office will result in a fine of SR 10,000.
Employers do not have the right to keep the employee’s passport, iqama and medical insurance without his consent and doing so will result in a fine of SR 2000.
A fine of SR 10,000 will be imposed on employers if his company do not have organizational regulations or do not conform to them.
Employers must submit the Wage Protection file to the Labor Office every month and failure to do so will result in a penalty of SR 10,000.
Employers who fail to meet health and occupational safety requirements of its staff will be fined SR 15,000.
Any penalty issued by the government must be settled within a month after its issuance, and failure to do so will result in doubling of the fine. Moreover, fine will also be doubled if the violation is repeated.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) has implemented the 13th phase of the Wage Protection System (WPS) on establishments whose workers range between 30 and 39 starting from 1st of February 2018.
Under this phase, 14,000 establishments will have to upload wage files of 477,402 workers according to the ministry’s statistics.
MLSD spokesman Khaled Abalkhail clarified that the ministry emphasized its keenness to implement the protection on all private firms to ensure wages are paid on time, define wage scales for all occupations and reduce labor issues between employers and workers. He added the ministry will not lose momentum to enforce the system on every firm as timetables are set forth.
According to the sanctions and penalties mentioned in the labor law, if the establishment fails to pay workers’ wages on time, it will be fined SR 3,000 which can be increased by the number of workers, Abalkhail said as well.
Abalkhail added if the employer fails to upload wage files on the system within two months from the date of enforcement, he would be banned from the ministry’s services, except for issuance or renewal of work permits.
If the establishment is late to upload them for three months, it will be denied access to all the ministry’s services, and the workers can transfer their service to other establishments without their former employer’s approval and despite their valid work permits, the spokesman said further.
Recently, the ministry unveiled the WPS as part of the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020. It aims to create a safe and suitable work environment in the private sector as it will increase transparency, protect the contractual relationships among involved parties and raise the compliance of small and medium-sized enterprises to the system.
The employers can visit the ministry’s website and review upcoming phases of implementing the WPS. They can also register with the program in advance as the demo registration will not result in imposing any sanctions on them.
The coming obligatory dates to submit the wages files to the MLSD, as below:
|Obligatory Dates||# Workers|
|Will be determined later||1-10|