RIYADH: Salaries, allowances and other payments to public servants will now be paid according to the Gregorian calendar in order to be aligned with the country’s fiscal year, according to a recent decision by the Council of Ministers.
On Wednesday the Cabinet agreed to switch from the Hijri calendar for payment of salaries, wages, bonuses and allowances to all civil sector employees.
The decision to switch from the lunar-based Hijri calendar to the solar-based Gregorian calendar was effective Oct. 1 and brought the government sector in line with the payment of wages in the private sector.
The government move evoked a mixed reaction.
Concerns were expressed about the banking network’s ability to cover all cash withdrawals on the first day that salaries are paid. Not only will this be an unprecedented situation in the history of the country, but it will also coincide with the date of deposit of the salaries of private sector employees.
According to the Sabq.org online portal, while concerns have also been raised about the effects on shopping operations on the first day of salary deposits, a financial analyst at Bank Albilad, Turki Fadaak, reassured the public of the reliability and absorptive capacity of the banking system and its ability to deal with the change.
“I do not think that the shift to the Gregorian calendar will have any impact on banking systems and operations,” he said.
He noted that the population of Saudi Arabia is a little over 30 million, a figure that cannot be compared to some developed countries which have populations far beyond that and yet experience no problems.
He said there was a sufficient number of ATMs in the Saudi market and that they would be able to cope with the rush of withdrawals if that happens.
As to whether he believes restricting loan operations to a single day by banks will affect banks’ performance in the 29 days that follow the payment of public and private sector employees, he said: “On the contrary, it will lead to greater efficiency in the use of revenues and standardization.”
Faisal Al-Zahrani, a former public servant who was employed in a ministry, said that this was a new adjustment made by the government in order to rationalize its budgeted expenditures. After the payment of the first month’s salary, payments will automatically be adjusted, he said.
Naif Al-Rasheed, a senior journalist in Riyadh, told Arab News that the new system comes in the context of the government’s rationalization program.
“The move is also seen as a positive gesture to serve the interests of the citizens,” he said.
Reacting to the decision, Mohammed Zeyad, a public relations executive, said the shift to the Gregorian calendar was in response to the decision made by the government earlier this week as part of spending cuts.
He added that some of his friends working in the government sector were concerned that under the new decision, they would lose 11 days of payment.
The Hijri calendar is made up of 12 months of 29 or 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon. The Hijri year has 354 days, 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year which is made up of 12 months of 30 and 31 days, totaling 365 days in a year.