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Saudi Arabia

Half the Saudi population receiving welfare in new system, says labor minister

A Saudi money changer displays Saudi Riyal banknotes at a currency exchange shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 29, 2016. (REUTERS)
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia paid SR2 billion ($533 million) on Thursday in the first monthly installment of a new welfare system for low and middle-income families that make up approximately half of the Kingdom’s population.
The payments come ahead of the introduction of a 5 percent value-added tax on most goods, like food and services, as well as subsidy cuts that will raise the price of electricity and gasoline next year.
Minister of Labor and Social Development Ali Al-Ghafees told Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that bank transfers were made to approximately 3 million families, reaching around 10.6 million beneficiaries. He said half of those families received the maximum payment of SR938 ($250). The minimum payment is SR300 ($80).
The payouts come two days after the government announced plans for the biggest budget in the Kingdom’s history, with plans to spend at least SR978 billion ($261 billion) this coming fiscal year. The government already introduced a tax on tobacco products, soft drinks and energy drinks this year, as well as a tax on luxury goods.
The government said it expects to pay approximately SR32 billion ($8.5 billion) on the Citizens Account payments in 2018.

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