Royal decrees issued to help Saudis cope with VAT, price rises

Updated 07 January 2018

Royal decrees issued to help Saudis cope with VAT, price rises

JEDDAH: The Saudi government on Saturday introduced measures to help citizens adjust to the new 5-percent value-added tax (VAT) and a hike in fuel and electricity prices.
The royal decrees include a financial support package to help citizens adjust to economic reforms.
The package includes citizens working in the state’s civilian and military sectors, as well as pensioners and students. It covers housing, education, health care and a rise in salaries.
For the next 12 months, Saudi civilian and military workers will see their salaries rise by SR1,000 ($267), while welfare recipients and pensioners will get an extra SR500 monthly for the rest of the year.
For one year, the state will also bear VAT for citizens using private health care and education.
Students in public universities will receive a 10-percent rise in their monthly allowances to help them cope with VAT.
The government supports Saudi students in public universities with a monthly allowance of $200-$300.
Students depend on these allowances for their study commitments, transportation, housing and personal needs.
Soldiers on the Kingdom’s southern border will get a one-time bonus of SR5,000. Also, first-time home buyers will have the VAT paid by the state — not exceeding in value SR850,000 — on the purchase.
The Kingdom is moving to reduce its reliance on oil, which is the biggest source of state revenue.
On the impact of these decrees, social media became a space for virtual celebration through which Saudis expressed their joy at the decision they described as generous.
Last year, the Ministry of Commerce and Investment claimed that the Kingdom’s recent economic reforms have seen the country ranked 10th in a report on the World Bank’s Minority Protection Index.
The World Bank Group report said the Kingdom is among the top 20 reformist countries in the world, and the second among the top high-income countries in the G-20 countries in terms of implementing reforms to improve the business climate.

Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

Updated 19 April 2018

Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

  • Winners of first Golden Falcon award will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques
  • Film screenings have been revived in KSA as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 

RIYADH: Saudi films have won awards at an international film festival organized by the Netherlands to coincide with the return of cinema to the Kingdom.

The first Golden Falcon Film Festival awards drew Saudi actors, filmmakers and cinema-lovers to the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday.

More than 30 shortlisted Saudi films were shown at the maiden festival on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nine films were nominated, with three each in the best film, best script and best director categories. Overall winners were chosen by an international jury headed by Dutch filmmaker Hans Treffers.

Best movie award went to “Mazban.” The other two films nominated in the category were “Tongue” and “Building 20.”

“The Poetess,” “Matour” and “Atoor” were nominated in the best director category with “Atoor” bagging the award.

“Departures,” “Atoor” and “The Remaining” were nominated in the best script category with “Departures” winning the award.

Besides the Golden Falcon trophy, the winners will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques.

Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are proud to organize the first Golden Falcon Film Festival here to promote filmmaking in the Kingdom and provide a platform for young Saudi filmmakers to show what they have to offer.”

Film screenings — banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s following religious changes in the Kingdom — have been revived as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The return of cinema was heralded with a film screening on Wednesday at a newly built theater at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh. 

Commenting on the lifting of the 35-year ban, Reintjes told Arab News: “That’s Vision 2030 — it is good sign to diversify and develop.

“Although the cinemas in the Kingdom have only been restarted now, Saudi filmmaking has already made a name for itself on the world stage.

“The Saudi film industry will grow very fast. The level of talent is high,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Qass, lead actor from “Departure,” said: “We have been working for this day for years. 

“Saudis with a thirst for cinema were traveling outside the country — now they can enjoy and share the experience in their homeland.” 

Mohammed Khawajah, a Saudi filmmaker and adviser for the film festival, told Arab News: “The idea for this festival came last year when the lifting of the cinema ban was being discussed.

“The Netherlands embassy had this idea about nine months ago; we sat together and planned the whole festival, which was carried out successfully, with hundreds of people enjoying Saudi films.

“We will improve with our next festival, which will have more fun and entertainment,” he said.