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Shoura urges review of expat labor fee

Members of the Shoura Council are currently planning to convince the Ministry of Labor to reconsider the ministry’s new levy on expatriate workers. The members are of the opinion that the annual fees of SR 2,400 would only lead to a sharp rise in consumer prices and impose an additional burden on citizens.
They also believe that the levy has been implemented at an inappropriate time, especially for small and medium establishments.
“The council’s Management and Human Resources Committee (MHRC) is currently working on finding a way for the ministry officials to reconsider their decision on the expatriate levy,” Al-Madinah daily quoted council member Ibrahim Al-Suleiman as saying yesterday.
Al-Suleiman added that the MHRC has not been convinced of the ministry’s motive or justification to take the decision, especially when it will create a harmful impact on citizens and traders, even if indirectly. The member also demanded the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Consumer Protection Association step up their price checking operations, as the implementation of the new fee is expected to push up prices.
Council member Abdul Wahhab Al-Mujthel said the new fee would help end the unemployment issue, but on the other hand, would only serve to create more problems.
It is illogical that the labor minister is giving the same treatment to both the vast majority of the 6 million law-abiding expatriate workers and the few absconding workers, Al-Mujthel added.
“If a cleaning company has 5,000 expatriate workers, how is it possible for the company owner to find 2,500 Saudis willing to work in this field?” he said, referring to the provision for exemption from the levy by raising the number of Saudi workers in a company to 50 percent of the total work force.
Al-Mujthel also urged the minister to consult with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry before implementing decisions that may have far-reaching consequences on the common man’s daily life.
Another council member, Zain Al-Abidin Bari, voiced the opinion that the Ministry of Labor should have implemented the new tax on the sectors that provide plenty of jobs for Saudis by replacing expatriate workers, instead of imposing the tax on all establishments alike. He added that a selective approach is important in the execution of tough regulations that aim at the speedy Saudization of jobs, especially when it is the pressing need of the country’s economy to stop the huge expatriate remittances, which are estimated at SR 120 billion annually.
Council member Abdul Rahman Al-Anad called the ministry’s decision to impose the levy as untimely especially on the small and medium companies. “If the ministry wants to keep unemployment under control, it should first stop expatriates from doing jobs suitable for Saudis,” Al-Anad said.
He added that the jobs preferred by Saudis are in the administrative and technical fields that require university degrees and if these types of jobs are secured for Saudi university graduates, it would alleviate the rate of unemployment which is the highest among this section of the population.
He pointed out that most Saudis do not like to work for low salaries and therefore it is inappropriate to impose fees on small establishments. Burdening plumbers, electricians, barbers and construction workers with the new levy will create a fertile atmosphere for the rise in service prices for ordinary citizens.
He also ruled out Saudization of essential trades in the near future.
Moreover, he requested the ministry to review its decision once thorough studies are undertaken.

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