Businesses to benefit from Saudi royal decree extending economic-relief initiatives

King Salman. (SPA)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Businesses to benefit from Saudi royal decree extending economic-relief initiatives

  • Initiatives include postponing the payment of value-added tax, accelerating VAT reimbursement, and partial exemption from expired residency/iqama fees for an additional month

RIYADH: A royal decree issued Thursday that extends government initiatives designed to support businesses, employees and investors will help the private sector cope with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and stimulate the economy, according to experts.

The extension applies to a number of measures introduced early in the pandemic that focus on supporting Saudi workers in the private sector, including the SANAD unemployment insurance scheme, a freeze on penalties and fines, and postponing the collection of some fees.
Thamer Al-Saeed, chief investment officer at Mad’a Investment Co., said the second quarter of this year is likely to be the worst quarter most businesses have experienced. The financial liabilities arising from the effects of the coronavirus crisis have put great pressure on finances, he said, but the decree will allow companies to further delay the settlement of debts until life begins to return to normal.
“The government’s decisions will help private sector enterprises stimulate the business cycle, which will mitigate the financial impact on companies,” said Al-Saeed. “For example, (increasing the time for) settlement of liabilities worth SR100,000 ($27,000) from three months to six months will reduce the monthly burden on the company from SR33,000 to SR16,000. Also, postponing customs fees will help companies save this money.”
Khalid Al-Rammah, the chairman of Quality Knowledge Group Holding, said the royal decree is timely and balanced, given that the private sector is considered a key partner for the public sector.
“These orders will (help) the private sector design its plans in line with the global challenges, because they will remove burdens and pressure of costs and expenses from the private sector, allowing it to deal with other sectors based on actual need and demand,” he said.
The royal orders also make it easier for many companies in the private sector to change their business activities in response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, said Al-Rammah.
He urged companies that want to amend their line of business to seize this opportunity.
Labor consultant Nedhal Radhwan said the pandemic has disrupted global economic and business activity, resulting in economic stagnation around the world.
“Many companies in the Kingdom have lost millions of riyals and many people have lost their jobs,” he said. “The government issued these orders to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing businesses to (continue) their activities, and offering them exemptions to reduce their losses and the unemployment rate.”
The royal decree also states that new Saudi employees will be counted immediately in the Nitaqat system, a program set up to increase the numbers of Saudi nationals working in the private sector. It places private firms into six categories, ranging from platinum to red, depending on the percentage of Saudi employees they are required to hire. Previously, the process took longer, resulting in delays to classification.
In addition, the order removed the threat to suspend the activities of businesses that fail to comply with wages laws. It supports Saudi employees, suspends fines and penalties, and delays the collection of customs fees to help the private sector contribute to the stimulation of the economy and put it back on the path to growth and development.
Other initiatives include postponing the payment of value-added tax, accelerating VAT reimbursement, and partial exemption from expired residency/iqama fees for an additional month, which might be renewed for an additional month if required.


Saudi Arabia honors Pakistani doctor for role in COVID-19 fight

Updated 52 min 42 sec ago

Saudi Arabia honors Pakistani doctor for role in COVID-19 fight

  • Dr. Mumtaz’s efforts not only reduced virus mortality rate at King Salman Hospital but also turned it into the first green medical facility

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani doctor has been recognized by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health for his services as a team leader in the Kingdom’s fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“In recognition of my services as head of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the King Salman Hospital, I was given a leadership award and an appreciation certificate by the Saudi health ministry,” Dr. Shahzad Ahmad Mumtaz told Arab News during a phone interview from Riyadh on Saturday. He was presented with the award during a ceremony to mark Saudi National Day on Sept. 23.

Hailing from Layyah, a small city in southern Punjab, Mumtaz has been working in Saudi Arabia for the last 18 years. Before his appointment at the King Salman Hospital, he worked as a director at the King Saud Medical City. He also served as an ICU head at Al-Noor Specialist Hospital, Makkah, and Jabal Al-Rahmah Hospital, Arafat.

“At the outset of the pandemic, the COVID-19 mortality rate was very high at the King Salman Hospital. That is the reason why I was brought here as the ICU head — to increase the hospital’s capacity to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic,” he said.

Dr. Shahzad Ahmad Mumtaz is sitting in his office at the King Salman Hospital in Riyadh. (Photo courtesy: Dr. Shahzad Ahmad Mumtaz) 

Mumtaz said that he succeeded in bringing down these deaths by 10 percent during the last five months, due to better team management and greater use of modern techniques and technology.

“The mortality rate related to COVID-19 in international ICUs is around 30 percent, since very critical patients are shifted to these units. The ICU at the King Salman Hospital has remained under 10 percent during the last five months,” he said.

“During all this time, I have not taken a single leave and have worked for 18-20 hours a day,” he continued.

“After joining, I immediately expanded the ICU from 14 to 60 beds. We used the helmet technology that is mostly preferred in Spain and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which is recommended by Americans. They both produced impressive results in our hospital during the pandemic,” he said.

Dr. Shahzad Ahmad Mumtaz is doing a morning round with members of his Intensive Care Unit team at the King Salman Hospital in Riyadh on Aug. 18. (Photo courtesy: Dr. Shahzad Ahmad Mumtaz) 

Mumtaz said that the King Salman Hospital was converted into a non-COVID-19, green hospital on Sept. 1.

“We received a lot of appreciation from the Saudi health ministry,” he added.

“It helped in the surgical treatment of general patients, which had to be stopped due to the influx of COVID-19 patients.”

The Kingdom recorded a significant drop in COVID-19 cases and related deaths in the last few days. The total number of recoveries in Saudi Arabia increased to 315,636 after 843 more patients recently recovered from the virus.

Meanwhile, 4,625 people have also succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

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