Expat fees were the main topic of discussion and debate after the announcement of the general budget. It was a heated topic among ministers, which generated many questions at the time.
Expat fees were imposed recently and were aimed at Saudizing jobs and closing the gap between Saudis and expat workers in the private sector.
The expat fee started with SR400 a month in 2018 and will increase each year to reach SR800 by 2020 with a total cost of SR9,600 per year per worker.
The Ministry of Finance expects SR56.4 billion in revenue from these fees for the year 2019, which is an increase of 101 percent compared with last year, which was SR28 billion.
The ministers who appeared on the podium all pointed out that if any financial balance policy did not achieve its target goals, then it would be reviewed. Now I ask, have any of the ministries or commissions concerned with this fee conduced any study on the impact of these fees on our economy and whether they have achieved their target goals? Have they studied the direct advantages and disadvantages of expat fees for the private sector and for our economy in general?
I noticed that when these fees were levied, the unemployment rate did not go down; in fact it increased. Moreover, expat remittances have not declined, but have increased slightly in the past few years. The fear of these fees has caused the private sector to shrink. At this stage we need to activate the private sector so that Saudis can work in the professions that have been Saudized and targeted by expat fees.
If expat workers remain at their jobs, the cost of expat fees will be transferred to the consumer, similar to any other charges that are imposed suddenly. This will cause prices to increase. Any study conducted on expat fees and their implementation will benefit the general public whether in the private or government sector and will achieve national goals.
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