Saudi Arabia’s fees on expats’ dependents draw mixed reactions

Expatriate families are seen at the Jeddah Corniche in this photo taken during Eid al-Fitr on June 28, 2017. Many foreign workers have expressed concern that they may not be able to afford the fee for dependents that is now required by the Saudi government. (SPA file photo)
Updated 06 July 2017
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Saudi Arabia’s fees on expats’ dependents draw mixed reactions

RIYADH: Expatriates expressed concern and sadness over the decision to apply new fees on dependents of foreign workers in the Saudi Arabia.
The new policy came into effect on July 1.
The Saudi Cabinet passed a series of decisions last December, aimed to increase state revenues to offset the impact of the fall of oil prices. One of these decisions was to apply new fees on the dependents of foreign workers.
According to the decision, the fee will start at SR100 for each dependent per month and will increase to SR200 from July 2018, then SR300 in 2019 and SR400 in 2020.
The Passport Department said Sunday the fees should be paid in advance before the renewal of the residency permit or the issuance of an exit/re-entry visa for expat workers of all nationalities.
Mohammed Ali, a Sudanese sales employee living in Riyadh with his five-member family, said he was seriously thinking about sending his family back home, as these fees will eat up his salary and savings.
He expressed hope that the Saudi authorities would reconsider these fees in a country “we have loved and worked for.”
Hasan Ismail, another Sudanese national who works as an accountant in a private company, expressed similar concern over his future in the Kingdom. He said the fees would put more pressure on his finances.
“As far as I know, companies are not prepared to bear the fees on behalf of their foreign employees and they may possibly tell employees either to pay their dependents’ fees or leave,” he told Arab News.
With a heavy heart, Fatima Mohammed, a Sudanese housewife and a retired teacher, said she was prepared to pack up and return to her country after 25 happy years in the Kingdom. She said she would be leaving her husband in the Kingdom alone to provide a decent life for the family in Sudan.
Zakir Aazmi, an Indian worker who has lived in the Kingdom with his family for more than two decades, echoed these sentiments. He said that the dependent fee is likely to be a huge financial burden for expatriates living with their families in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, he believes it will not generate the expected revenue as many expatriates will now be forced to return home or send back their dependents — as such, he predicts the policy will have an adverse effect on the local economy, particularly the housing sector.
Furthermore, there will be huge cut in spending, as remittances will increase with families back home, he added.
Ahsan Ali, a Pakistani expatriate, also expressed concern saying: “We have no option but to send family back home, even there are many like me thinking of returning home as the stay here has become a costly affair.
Dr. Majed Abdullah Al-Hedayan, a legal consultant and foreign direct investment (FDI) expert, told Arab News: “The application of fees on expatriate workers and their dependents, whether family members or domestic labor, is normal and applied in many countries of the world and the foreign worker recognizes the fact that the imposition of fees is beneficial in the provision of government services that are provided free of charge to citizens.”
“If we evaluate the fees compared to the value of services and facilities provided here, they will accept it even though it sounds difficult in the beginning,” he added.
Syed Hamid, a senior executive from Sri Lanka working in Riyadh said: “The unpreparedness to deal with the newly introduced levy on the dependents has caused worry which was evident at the airports also for those leaving on vacation.”
However, most expatriates appear to share the view that the benefits of living in the Kingdom outweigh the drawbacks of the new fee.
“We understand it will be a burden for expatriates with large number of dependents,” he added.


Saudi capital to get world’s biggest park in $23bn project

Updated 16 min 56 sec ago
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Saudi capital to get world’s biggest park in $23bn project

  • The project will see 7.5m trees planted and the creation of the world's biggest park
  • There will be 70,000 jobs created across the four major projects

RIYADH: The world’s biggest park will be created in Saudi Arabia as part of a $22.9bn project that promises to create vast open green areas in Riyadh, creating thousands of new jobs, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday

The aim of the project is to “significantly improve the lives of its citizens, transform the city into an attractive destination and make it one of the world’s most livable cities,” the report added.

The four projects - King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh and Riyadh Art – will complement the Saudi Vision 2030’s “Quality of Life” Program and are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to create sustainable cities and communities, while driving urgent action against climate change.

Developed with a government investment of $23 bn, the four projects will offer opportunities worth $15bn for the private sector to invest in residential, commercial, recreational and wellness projects.

As well as creating tens of thousands of new jobs, the project will also help boost efforts to improve the city’s health and wellbeing with a commitment to wellness, health, sports, culture and the arts, underpinned by a commitment to environmental sustainability.

Measuring 13.4 square kilometers, King Salman Park will be the world’s biggest park, with residential areas, hotels, and will also feature a Royal Arts Complex, theaters, museums, cinemas, sports venues, water features, restaurants and an 18-hole Royal Golf Course.

The park will also boast several landmark assets, including the Riyadh Fountains and a Vertical Garden. As an environmentally sustainable urban development, it will offer opportunities for the international community in arts, entertainment and culture.

Image: riyadhgreen.sa

One of the world’s largest urban greening projects, Green Riyadh will increase Riyadh’s green cover with 7.5 million trees.

The massive planting project will help increase the city’s green cover from 1.5 percent of Riyadh’s total area to 9.1 percent – that’s approximately 541 square kilometers, by 2030.

Image: riyadhgreen.sa

Green space availability will increase to 28 square meters per capita from the current 1.7 square meters per capita, compared to the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 9 square meters per capita.

Green Riyadh will help reduce average ambient temperature by 2C, and will use more than 1 million cubic meters of treated sewage effluent daily for irrigation, for the sustainability of water resources in the city.

Image: riyadhgreen.sa

Sports Boulevard  - a health and wellness destination in the heart of the city- will feature a 135 kilometer-long professional cycling track covering the city and the surrounding valleys, the first of its kind in the region.

Adding 3.5 million square meters of new open space across the city, this grand project will also feature a sports pavilion, riding stables and athletics tracks.

Riyadh Art will be the world’s largest government investment in public art and will establish the city as “a gallery without walls” through a world-class interactive public arts program.

With 1,000 artworks curated through 10 separate programs and an annual arts festival, this project will feature large-scale art works with the aim of drawing art lovers and creators from around the world.

The projects are part of Saudi Arbia’s strategy to meet their Vision 2030 goals, they are expected to provide 70,000 new job opportunities.

Construction work is due to start in the second half of 2019.