JEDDAH: Expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia sent SR13.28 billion ($3.54 billion) overseas in remittances in April, a year-on-year increase of 36 percent, according to the latest figures from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).
The total amounts sent overseas by expats has increased year-on-year each month in 2021, with January up 12 percent, February up 4 percent and March up 15 percent.
Total remittances sent by the Kingdom’s expatriates reached SR50.7 billion in the first four months of 2021, compared to SR43.6 billion in the same period last year, a rise of 16.28 percent.
Expat workers make up three quarters of workers in the Kingdom, with most coming from countries such as Syria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.
In 2020, the total amount overseas workers sent out of the Kingdom increased 19 percent to SR149.7 billion. The surge in payments came as the Kingdom’s foreign workers looked to support their families during the coronavirus disease pandemic.
The growth is despite forecasts from the World Bank in April 2020 estimating that remittances to low- and middle-income countries would decline by 19.6 percent in the Middle East and North Africa region, as workers struggled to cope with the impact of the virus.
Last month, a new report by the World Bank also found that Saudi Arabia was the third largest source of remittances globally in 2020, just behind the UAE and the US.
Globally, remittances to low- and middle-income countries fell 1.6 percent to $540 billion, a smaller decline than expected. The figure is forecast to increase to $553 billion this year and to $565 billion in 2022.
SAMA figures also showed that Saudi nationals transferred SR4.94 billion in remittances out of the country in April, a rise of 67 percent from the previous year.
This figure mirrored a general upward trend, with remittances up 9 percent in January and up 26 percent in March, with just February seeing a drop of 4 percent.
However, Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Riyadh-based financial services company Al-Rajhi Capital, said this was not an accurate long-term reflection of the market and 2020 was an anomaly.
“It has grown relative to last year because the trade was limited during this time last year … Traveling had completely stopped,” he pointed out.
“The average remittance this year as compared to the years 2018 or 2019 is still below average,” he said, adding that total Saudi remittance levels are likely to continue to decrease because Saudis have started to spend more locally on entertainment and events.
“For instance, they don’t need to go to Dubai to visit the cinema,” he said.