SAMA pledges financial support for those hit by coronavirus crisis

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has pledged to support people living in the Kingdom who lose their jobs as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 29 March 2020

SAMA pledges financial support for those hit by coronavirus crisis

  • Statement said it was important for banks to commit to supporting their customers

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has pledged to support people living in the Kingdom who lose their jobs as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis – offering financial support for any charges incurred as a result. 

“The measures taken include supervisory measures and their preventive policies to tackle the impact of coronavirus. This aims to support the banks during these difficult times and help them focus on providing their customers with the best banking services to meet their financial needs,” the Authority clarified.

The statement added that it was important for banks to commit to supporting their customers, so that they can withstand the impact of the virus, as well as support the private sector as its cash flow falls.

These means include supporting and financing the private sector through preventive measures that benefit the customer, the bank and the economy, the statement added. 

The SAMA said this would be achieved by adjusting or restructuring existing funds without incurring any additional expenses or fees on banks. 

The aim is to also sustain their activities and adopt and implement the plans of their private sector customers to preserve the employment rates of the affected enterprises. 

Rates will be preserved by providing the enterprises’ financing needs, supporting the individual customers that have lost their jobs in the private sector and exempting all customers, for at least six months, from e-transaction fees, minimum balance fees and from any fees imposed on refinancing operations or on terminating existing agreements.

The reassessment of interest rates and other fees on credit cards for current and new customers will be reviewed in line with the current decrease of interest rates due to the economic situation. The fees on foreign money exchange will be refunded to customers wishing to cancel their transactions. Those who cancel travel-related bookings made on credit cards, Mada debit cards or prepaid cards will also be refunded.

“SAMA is following up on the development of the coronavirus-related impact on various economic sectors including the banking and financial sector. It will provide the required assistance to maintain the safety and stability of the financial sector and enable it to support and finance the activities of other economic sectors,” the Authority stressed, highlighting the importance of banks following up on all the development and challenges and the extent of their impact on the available capital, liquidity and other financial safety indicators.

Saudis head out as lockdown eases

Updated 29 May 2020

Saudis head out as lockdown eases

  • First day of phased reopening sees visitors flock to waterfronts and malls

JEDDAH/RIYADH: As the 24-hour-curfew period ended, residents of Saudi Arabia headed back outside on the first day of the government’s three-phase plan to transition back to normality after the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as people rushed to take advantage of the newly relaxed measures, streets quickly became crowded and several observers noticed that many were failing to observe social-distancing measures.

Prince Abdulrahman bin Mosaad tweeted: “For there to be traffic in the streets is natural after canceling the 24-hour curfew, but what’s abnormal and unbelievable is the amount of people underestimating the necessity of putting on a face mask and a pair of gloves and keeping a two-meter space between people crowding at stores. This is only the first day. Unfortunately, I don’t think Shawwal 29 (June 21) will be the day we go back to normal.”

In a follow-up tweet, Prince Abdulrahman reminded people that the pandemic does not have a cure or a vaccine yet, and wondered whether people would need to lose a loved one before they came to appreciate the severity of the situation.

University lecturer, Abdulfattah Al-Qahtani (@fattah53), agreed, tweeting: “Sadly, not many understand the dangers of the virus, and what they could be doing to their loved ones. It’s very simple; don’t go out unless it’s necessary. If you absolutely have to, follow precautionary measures from wearing a mask to keeping an acceptable distance between you and others.”

Abdulaziz Al-Omar (@11a_alomar) also replied with suggestions. “It’s important to monitor and penalize facilities and shops that do not follow precautionary regulations, as well as fines against those who don’t wear a mask and don’t keep their distance from others,” he tweeted.

The hashtag #JeddahNow was quickly trending on Twitter in response to the number of people leaving their homes unnecessarily.

A number of users suggested that individuals neglecting social distancing and going out in public without a mask and gloves would be “more afraid of a SR10,000 fine than they are of the pandemic.”

However, many thought that people were overreacting to the traffic around the city’s corniche.

Sa’ad Mughram (@saad_mghrm) tweeted: “Don’t blame people for traffic. There are families that have been pressed together for three months in small apartments and reef houses. It’s their right to go out and see the sky on a short car ride.”

He added: “Overcrowding stores needs to be addressed, but things can be dealt with calmly, without overreacting and perfectionism from some.”

Sadly, not many understand the dangers of the virus, and what they could be doing to their loved ones. 

Abdulfattah Al-Qahtani , University lecturer

Some hailed the efforts made by several popular stores around the Kingdom that are enforcing social distancing, such as Madinah’s Starbucks, where a photo circulating on social media showed people lined up with the recommended space between them, demonstrating what was described as “classy behavior.”

Abdullah Al-Humaid, (@abn_humaid) commented: “It’s wonderful to see such awareness displayed in our society. These are people maintaining social distancing while wearing gloves and face masks.”

Meanwhile, many headed onto the streets of Riyadh looking to regain a sense of normality. “Of course, I went out. I took my mom and sister and drove to the nearest mall to run some errands,” 26-year-old Sarah Al-Jasser told Arab News.

However, Al-Jasser said she was unable to enter the shops inside the mall because of long queues. “I was surprised that people were out this early. We were at the mall by 9:30 a.m. and didn’t expect it to be this crowded,” she said.

By 2:30 p.m. most shops and malls were already closed and empty of customers and shopkeepers, abiding by the 3 p.m. curfew.

Rayed Mustafa, 33, told Arab News he believes the situation is still unsafe: “Just because the country is opening up doesn’t mean it’s safe to go out.”  However, that did not stop him from leaving  the house. “I pulled an all-nighter, put on my face mask and gloves and hit the streets at 6:30 a.m. to cruise the city.”

He added that he stayed in his car and was merely hoping to get some fresh air for his mental well-being. “I’ve been confined in a very small apartment for over a month,” he said. “I needed that change of scenery.” 

He said he made sure to abide by the safety and health measures put in place by the Ministry of Health, and refrained from mingling with people.

Mustafa was taken aback by the number of people he saw on the streets. 

“One of the main streets in Riyadh was filled to the brim — some celebrating, others going out for coffee,” he added.

Billboards have been placed around the Kingdom reminding people to comply with the recommended precautions in order to ensure their safety.