Middle East

Saudi king earmarks $2.4 billion to pay private-sector workers

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered up to nine billion riyals ($2.4 billion) to be disbursed to pay part of the wages of private-sector workers to deter companies from laying off staff, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

The latest measure to tackle the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak followed an emergency stimulus package announced last month to shore up the economy.

“Instead of terminating the employment of a Saudi citizen, the employer has the right to ask social insurance to disburse as compensation 60 percent of his salary over a period of three months, with a maximum limit of nine thousand riyals (per employee) and with a total value of up to nine billion riyals,” the SPA reported, citing a royal order.

The stimulus announced last month by Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan included 70 billion riyals to be set aside to help businesses, with measures including exemptions and postponements of some government fees and taxes.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, the central bank, urged lenders to re-evaluate interest rates on credit cards and return foreign exchange transfer fees for travel-related bookings.

Saudi Arabia has recorded 154 new infections since Thursday, bringing the total number to 2,039 and 25 deaths, the health ministry said on Friday.

The kingdom’s total confirmed cases and deaths are the highest among the Gulf Cooperation Council states, which also include Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Alison Williams and Pravin Char

Image: FILE PHOTO: A Saudi man walks past a poster depicting Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo

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