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.


Hana Abdullah Alomair, Saudi film director

Updated 30 May 2020

Hana Abdullah Alomair, Saudi film director

Hana Abdullah Alomair is the director of Netflix’s first Saudi thriller original series, titled “Whispers,” which is due to begin streaming in 190 countries on June 11. 

A Saudi writer, filmmaker, and movie critic, Alomair won the Silver Palm Tree Award for best script at the Saudi Film Competition in 2008.

She gained a bachelor’s degree in Arabic-English translation from King Saud University in 1992 and four years later a master’s degree in the same field of study from Heriot-Watt University, in Scotland.

Her documentary “Beyond Words” was screened during the Gulf Film Festival in 2019 and was selected for the main competition in this year’s Muscat International Film Festival.

A member of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, she has worked as a head writer in writing workshops for several TV series. She was a jury member at the Saudi Film Festival held by Rotana in 2013. Her second
flick, “The Complaint,” was selected in the main competition of Tessa’s Festival for Asian and African Films in Morocco in 2014 and it won the Golden Palm
Tree Award for best short fiction film in the Saudi Film Competition in 2015.

In 2016, Alomair, together with Hind Al-Fahhad, scooped the prize for best script for the short film “Peddlers” at the King Fahd Center Short Film Competition.

She recently published a book about the Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa, and in 2017 wrote a play called “Qat Oqat.”

Last year, she wrote and directed her latest short film “Swan Song,” which won the Golden Palm Tree Award for best actor in the Saudi Film Festival.