Saudi Govt Announces Program to Control Rising Prices

Arab News
JEDDAH, Jan 29: Saudi Arabia yesterday announced a 50 percent cut in import tariff and government service charges, and a five percent inflation allowance for government employees for three years as part of a 17-point program to control rising prices and inflation across the country.

According to the plan, which has been approved by the weekly Cabinet meeting chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, allocations for social insurance will be increased by 10 percent and subsidies for essential products will continue. Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani said the measures were taken following recommendations made by the Cabinet’s general committee. Recommendations were made taking into consideration a detailed report on price hike and inflation conducted by a panel from the Supreme Economic Council, the Saudi Press Agency said.

“The state will bear 50 percent of charges relating to passports, travel, vehicle licenses, transfer of vehicle ownership, and for the renewal of residential permits (iqama) of domestic workers for three years,” Madani said, quoting the Cabinet decision.

“An annual inflation allowance of five percent would be added to the salaries of government employees... and (awards made to) pensioners for three years,” the Cabinet said, adding that subsidies for essential commodities would be revised every three years. The Cabinet also emphasized that the government would activate a law to promote fair competition and prevent monopolies. “The trade agency law will be revised to prevent monopoly,” it added.

The Kingdom will also activate the role of the Association of Consumer Protection to monitor the market and enhance public awareness on market developments. “The new law on supply policy will be completed quickly,” the Cabinet said.

Spelling out other measures taken by the Cabinet, Madani said government agencies would intensify the monitoring of prices and combat trade fraud, and that shops must place lists of product prices in a prominent place within stores. The Cabinet measures also addressed the issue of rising house rents by deciding to establish a General Housing Authority next year. The move follows increase in house rents by 30 to 50 percent in some areas.

The meeting also decided to start building low-cost housing units for the poor. The government has already allocated SR10 billion from surplus budgets for this purpose. “Additional financial allocations will be made for such housing projects in the coming years,” Madani said. The real estate mortgage law and related regulations will also be enacted immediately.

The Cabinet also instructed relevant ministries and agencies — such as the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Finance Ministry and the Economy and Planning Ministry — to conduct weekly and monthly surveys to monitor prices in the market.

“The government will continue to review prices of medicines and speed up studies related to health insurance for Saudis,” the Cabinet said. The Kingdom would also facilitate recruitment of skilled workers without affecting Saudization, the Cabinet said.

In other decisions taken yesterday, the Cabinet called on Lebanese groups to abide by the Arab League initiative to end the political crisis in their country. The meeting also urged Palestinian factions to stand united in order to confront Israeli excesses and violations. It called on all influential countries in the region to shoulder their responsibility toward protecting the rights of Palestinians and stop Israeli aggression against them.


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