Saudi construction representatives build case for reprieve on expat workers’ fees

The issue has been transferred to related authorities for review. (AFP)
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Updated 18 December 2019

Saudi construction representatives build case for reprieve on expat workers’ fees

  • Representatives of the sector have reportedly received assurances from the authorities over the fees

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s construction sector is hoping to win an exemption from expatriate workers’ fees following a review that gave the industrial sector a five-year reprieve from the levy.

Representatives of the sector have reportedly received assurances from the authorities over the fees, which are imposed in a bid to “Saudize,” or nationalize, jobs in the Kingdom. 

Zuhair Zahran, an investor in the contracting sector and a member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s construction committee, told Arab News that the sector has received promises from the Ministry of Commerce and Investment that it will review
“expat fees.”

The issue has been transferred to related authorities for review and “we are hoping for a positive outcome,” he said. A review in the industrial sector has led to an exemption for five years. “That is something positive, and we hope to see the same thing applied to the construction sector,” he added. 

“The construction sector is suffering the most,” Zahran said.

“The main goal of imposing expat fees is to Saudize jobs. But it is difficult to Saudize this sector, unlike many other sectors. The construction sector is the only sector that relies on expat workers and it is nearly impossible to Saudize it.” 

Zahran said that the average worker’s salary in the sector ranges from SR1,000 ($270) to SR2,000 per month. “No Saudi youth will accept work for less than SR3,000. There is no way to Saudize professions such as a plumber or carpenter, where up to 90 percent of the workers are expats,” he added.

 He said that the cost of each worker has reached up to SR9,800 per year before their salary, housing and Iqama transfer fees were taken into account. Contractors in the industry also face difficulties because projects are seasonal, Zahran said.

“Each contractor handles a project for one year in a specific city, then has to move to another city when the project is completed. In this case they are forced to relocate the workers. Is there any Saudi worker who likes to travel from one city to another every now and then? That is why it is very difficult to Saudize this sector.”

Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majed Al-Qasabi told a recent gathering in Riyadh that a review on all fees, including expatriate workers’ fees, will be submitted to the relevant authorities.

He said that the ministry’s mission is to facilitate procedures and strengthen investment, and highlighted the role of the chamber of commerce in eliminating obstacles in the business sector. 

Al-Qasabi said that the government will continue to review and improve systems and procedures in order to create more investment opportunities.


Over 100 COVID-19 patients treated with blood plasma in Saudi Arabia

A lab technician freeze packs donated convalescent plasma donated by recovered COVID-19 patients. (AFP)
Updated 04 July 2020

Over 100 COVID-19 patients treated with blood plasma in Saudi Arabia

  • Health Ministry records 2,291 critical COVID-19 cases, deaths toll reaches 1,802

JEDDAH: More than 100 people infected with the coronavirus have been treated through blood plasma samples from patients who have recovered from the virus, the Saudi Ministry of Health said on Friday.

The initiative is part of a study involving several research centers in the Kingdom, with 512 donors from Riyadh, Eastern Province, Jeddah and Madinah. This indicates the Saudi community is highly invested in supporting the treatment.
The ministry said that blood plasma contains antibodies that help the body to heal. When a patient recovers, his plasma is used on an infected person, which can form a defense against the virus, especially as a cure is yet to be discovered.
The blood plasma treatment has been used before in China and other countries, but its efficacy levels have not been tested through documented clinical studies.
Saudi Arabia approved the initiative early in April and a team was assembled from the ministry, National Guard Hospitals, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Armed Forces Hospital, university hospitals, Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, as well as from the private sector.
The ministry confirmed that the research team was working around the clock to expand the initiative’s scope and launch it across the Kingdom by acquiring donors, which is done through Twitter and via email or phone.
To date the official website has had 14,000 visitors, inside and outside the Kingdom, who have showed interest in the study.
Initial tests of the plasma’s antibodies, health history, vital signs and diagnosis are taken before treatment begins.

FASTFACTS

• The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 201,801.

• The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom reached 140,614.

Donors need to pass these tests for their plasma sample to be used on a COVID-19 patient safely. After that the recovering patient’s progress is monitored to further the research and determine its potency.
The donated plasma sample, usually amounting to 400ml to 700ml, is reliant on the donor’s weight and health. The sample is treated in blood banks to reduce microbes and put into two bags, each working as a single treatment dose. Patients are then treated with a single bag each day, and treatment is usually over a maximum of five days.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom recorded 50 new COVID-19-related deaths on Friday, raising the total number to 1,802.
There were 4,193 new cases reported in Saudi Arabia, meaning 201,801 people have now contracted the disease. There are 59,385 active cases; 2,291 of them are in critical condition.
According to the Health Ministry, 431 of the newly recorded cases were in Dammam, while Al-Hofuf recorded 399 and Riyadh recorded 383.
The ministry also announced that 2,945 more patients had recovered from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 140,614.
The ministry urges those who have come into contact with an infected person to immediately isolate themselves and call 937.