Saudi Arabia suspending cost of living allowance, raising VAT to mitigate economic impact of COVID-19 crisis

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan. (SPA file photo)
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Updated 11 May 2020

Saudi Arabia suspending cost of living allowance, raising VAT to mitigate economic impact of COVID-19 crisis

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is suspending the cost of living allowance and increasing the value-added tax (VAT) as part of measures to address the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.

“Cost of living allowance will be suspended as of June first, and the value added tax will be increased to 15% from 5% as of July first,” SPA said, citing statement of the Ministry of Finance.

Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said the twin measures are part of efforts to shore up state finances, which have been battered by low oil prices and the coronavirus crisis.

Al-Jadaan warned last week that Saudi Arabia would have to take "strict and painful measures" to deal with the twin impact of coronavirus pandemic and falling world oil prices.

“We must reduce budget expenditures sharply,” Al-Jadaan said, adding that some government projects may be slowed down to reduce expenditure.

“Current actions taken to date to cut spending are not enough, and Saudi public finances will need more control and the journey ahead is long," he said.

The pandemic has wrecked the global economy, leaving millions out of work, with the US alone reporting more than 20 million people becoming unemployed in April.

Worldwide, the COVID-19 has infected more than 4.18 million people as of early Monday, with the death toll surging to 283,000 since the coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China last December.

In Saudi Arabia, the number of infections rose to 39,048 as of Sunday, of which 27,345 were active cases and 11,457 have recovered.

The Health Ministry reported 7 new deaths on Sunday, all expatriates, raising the death toll to 246.


Saudi health authorities ready to join trials of COVID-19 vaccines

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health is working with a different Chinese company to evaluate whether the vaccine it is developing is effective. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 September 2020

Saudi health authorities ready to join trials of COVID-19 vaccines

  • Ministry of Health and King Abdullah International Medical Research Center have been working with two Chinese drug companies

JEDDAH: King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC) in Saudi Arabia is preparing to take part in advanced trials of one or two COVID-19 vaccines.

About 40 potential vaccines are being tested on humans, nine of which are at the advanced stage of clinical trials to evaluate their safety and effectiveness in protecting people against a virus that has infected more than 31 million people around the world.

The center confirmed its readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and participate in tests of one or two of the nine vaccines that are in the third phase of clinical trials, during which large-scale testing on humans takes place.

Dr. Naif Al-Harbi, the head of KAIMRC’s drug-development unit, told Al-Ekhbariya TV news channel that it is unprecedented to have nine vaccines in stage three of clinical trials so soon, less than a year, after the emergence of a new virus.

“Approval or disapproval of any drug normally follows the third stage of its clinical trials, which is the last stage,” he added. “Since the pandemic, KAIMRC has been in continuous contact with a number of drug companies in four countries (that are developing vaccines).”

KAIMRC has been working with one Chinese pharmaceutical company in particular to help evaluate and accelerate the development of its vaccine, he said.

“Over the past two months, we have been in contact with Sinovac to scientifically evaluate its product, in term of the tests on animals and a study of the results of stages one and two on humans,” Al-Harbi said.

He added that the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health is working with a different Chinese company to evaluate whether the vaccine it is developing is effective. A number of factors are taken into consideration when reaching a conclusion.

“We examine the drugs and make sure they have caused no side effects when tested on humans, or that they just caused insignificant side effects,” said Al-Harbi. “We also look into the manufacturing company’s profile to ensure it follows the standards of the good manufacturing practices, and that the company’s products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards.”

He added that SFDA is also doing a great job in ensuring that vaccines are safe, to avoid any risks to the health of people in the Kingdom.

In a message posted on Twitter, KAIMRC said that some countries, such as Russia, China and the UAE, have given doctors the green light to use some vaccines on patients before that have been approved, but only in emergency cases and when the results of early clinical studies indicate that the vaccine is safe.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced 27 additional COVID-19-related deaths. The death toll in the country now stands at 4,512.

Meanwhile, 492 new cases have been confirmed in the Kingdom, bringing the total number of people infected by the virus to 330,246. Of those, 14,235 cases remain active and 1,133 patients are in a critical condition.

The Ministry of Health said Makkah recorded the highest number of new cases, with 58, followed by Jeddah with 53, and Madinah with 38.

A further 1,060 people in the Kingdom have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 311,499. A total of 6,093,601 tests for the virus have been carries out in the country, including 43,652 in the past 24 hours.