DUBAI- The Saudi central bank said on Tuesday it is extending a deferred payment programme to help small businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis by another period of three months, starting July 1.
The programme - meant to support micro, small, and medium enterprises affected by precautionary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic - was launched in March 2020.
Since then, the value of deferred payments has totalled 167 billion riyals ($44.53 billion), the bank said in a statement.
The economy of the world's biggest oil exporter was hit hard by the twin shock of last year's historic oil price crash and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent official data showed the economy shrank 3% annually in the first quarter, due to a sharp drop in oil output.
But the non-oil economy - at the centre of Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's transformation plan to wean the Saudi economy off oil - grew 2.9% in the first three months of the year as many coronavirus restrictions were eased. ($1 = 3.7499 riyals)
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Alex Richardson) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))