Saudi Arabia has spent $27bn on citizen welfare program since 2017

Time: 12 August 2021

The welfare program is a national scheme aimed at protecting low-income Saudi households from the direct, indirect and expected impacts of the economic reforms taking place in the Kingdom. (Reuters)

More than SR1.9 billion was paid out in August, its 45th batch, while SR10.5 million in arrears was paid
Expenditure on social benefits rose by 51 percent as the largest rise from H1 2020, reaching SR42 billion for H1 2021
RIYADH: The Kingdom has deposited SR100 billion ($26.6 billion) into the accounts of beneficiaries of its Citizen Account Program since its establishment in 2017, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The welfare program is a national scheme aimed at protecting low-income Saudi households from the direct, indirect and expected impacts of the economic reforms taking place in the Kingdom through monthly cash transfers into their accounts. The program was launched following the structural reforms and removal and reduction of subsidies that accompanied the Saudi Vision 2030 plan.

More than SR1.9 billion was paid out in August, its 45th batch, while SR10.5 million in arrears was paid, SPA said, citing program spokesman Sultan Al-Qahtani.

“The program is essential to the success of the transformation process in the Saudi economy to help mitigate the negative impacts on Saudi citizens, but I don’t think it’s been delivering the needed results,” Razeen Capital CEO Mohamed Alsuwayed told Arab News.

The program’s success was not possible without the king’s intervention on several occasions to provide additional allowances to the public, he said. “Also, the IMF is still emphasizing in its periodic assessments that Saudi should increase its social spending to ease the negative impact of the economic transformation on the citizens.”

Saudi expenditures in the first half of 2021 decreased by 1 percent from the first half of the previous year, according to the quarterly budget report, with total expenditure of SR465 billion in H1 2021 down from SR469 billion in H1 2020.

Expenditure on social benefits rose by 51 percent as the largest rise from H1 2020, reaching SR42 billion for H1 2021. Grants increased by 36 percent in H1 2021.

Subsidy spending for H1 2021 also decreased by 28 percent, followed by other expenditures, with a decrease of 10 percent, and finally in compensation to employees, with a decrease of 1 percent.

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SNAD Al-Zawaj scheme gives young Saudis a head start in married life

Time: 22 December 2020

The authority’s Saudi Youth in Numbers report, published in August, found that Saudi men and women are choosing to put off weddings. (AFP/File)
  • Young couples priced out of marriage can dream of a stable life thanks to the SNAD Mohammed bin Salman program
  • Cash grants and money-management courses enable young couples to settle down without incurring heavy debt

RIYADH: Leaving home, getting married and buying a first property can be daunting and expensive at the best of times, let alone in this age of uncertainty. As a result, many young Saudis are choosing to put off marriage until they have achieved some degree of financial independence.

Fortunately, the government-sponsored SNAD Al-Zawaj (Marriage), an initiative of the SNAD Mohammed bin Salman program, is providing generous grants and money-management courses to help young Saudis tie the knot and get a head start in life as a couple.

“I was newly engaged, in the beginning stages of my life, and any amount, no matter how small, could make a difference at the time,” Mohammed Al-Oniny, who was among the first to apply for the scheme, told Arab News. “This program lifted a weight off of my shoulders. I was overjoyed.”

Since its launch by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Dec. 30, 2018, the program has boosted opportunities for social development and economic sustainability in the Kingdom, where 36.7 percent of the population is aged 15-34 and 30.3 percent are under the age of 15, according to the Saudi General Authority of Statistics (GASTAT).

The authority’s Saudi Youth in Numbers report, published in August, found that Saudi men and women are choosing to put off weddings, citing “high cost of living” as the main factor, followed by “high cost of marriage.”

The coronavirus pandemic has only added to that sentiment, with lockdown pressures and financial woes playing a big role in how young people weigh up financial decisions, save money and prepare for emergencies.

The program has boosted opportunities for social development and economic sustainability in the Kingdom. (AFP)

SNAD Al-Zawaj specifically targets Saudi nationals who are preparing to get married, offering the financial and educational support they need to establish their own households and get on in life.

More than simply handing out money, the program teaches young people how to manage their finances responsibly through a mandatory financial-awareness course. To date, at least 100,000 people have completed the training scheme.

Over that period, SNAD Al-Zawaj has allocated more than SR 520 million ($138.6 million) in funding that has gone to more than 26,000 recipients.

Al-Oniny applied for a grant after spotting an ad on Twitter. “I looked through the requirements to apply and I met all of them, so I signed up and completed the course on financial awareness,” he said.

After sitting an exam and securing a grade above the requisite 60 percent, he was awarded a grant. “I benefited immensely,” he said. “After I passed the course the program sent me SR 20,000 without any request to return the payment in the future.”

PROGRAM PRIORITIZING A STABLE FAMILY AND SOCIAL LIFE

Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plan, Vision 2030, has prioritized the empowerment of the Kingdom’s large youth population. Help has come in the form of boosting employment opportunities for young people, particularly women, and offering support for startups and young entrepreneurs. With the same objectives in mind, but particularly to help citizens achieve their socio-economic goals, SNAD Mohammed bin Salman was established in December 2018.

Based on several social and nonprofit initiatives launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, SNAD envisages sustainable development through social cooperation that ensures a decent life for citizens in line with the teachings of Islam. The most recent initiatives involve support for charitable associations, release of prisoners and development of historical mosques.

Unlike other welfare schemes that simply hand out money, SNAD strives to promote knowledge and awareness to achieve sustainable social development through nonprofit institutions and sectors. Its aim is to develop nonprofit social initiatives for public welfare while addressing the needs of different segments of Saudi society. The first phase, SNAD Al-Zawaj, is designed to motivate young Saudis to get married and have a stable family and social life.

Rather than loading young people with debt just as they are starting out in life, there is no expectation to repay the marriage grant and no limits on how it should be spent. Recipients are simply asked to take the course and pass the exam.

It is also discreet — welcome news for those hesitant about the idea of accepting government assistance.

“The program is confidential,” Al-Oniny said. “No one gave me SR 20,000 and then asked to take my picture to promote the program. This is one of its major advantages. They don’t ask for anything in return.”

The money came at just the right moment for Al-Oniny. “The program is very helpful, and I think it needs to be promoted and spoken about more. It has helped me and it can help so many more people.”

Mohammed Al-Oniny, SNAD Al-Zawaj grant recipient

Al-Oniny has since encouraged his friends to make their own enquiries and has even taken to social media to praise SNAD Al-Zawaj.

“I promoted and explained the program in a YouTube video, and immediately began to receive many questions and comments from people across the Kingdom,” he said.

“I helped them and a lot of people received the SR 20,000 from the program. Many of my friends and people I know have benefited from it.”

The online application process has been streamlined to make it easy to navigate, with video lectures and step-by-step guides.

Although SNAD Al-Zawaj is designed to assist the widest possible demographic, there are limits on who can apply. For instance, the prospective husband and wife must both be Saudi nationals. The man must be between 21 and 40 years of age; the woman between 18 and 40.

Male applicants must have completed a high-school diploma and their salary must not exceed SR 4,000 per month. Furthermore, the agreed upon dowry must not exceed SR 50,000.

Only the male applicant must complete the financial awareness course and pass the exam with at least 60 percent in order to be considered for a grant.

Al-Oniny was particularly impressed by the educational element of SNAD Al-Zawaj, which sets it apart from other welfare programs and appears to embody the self-reliant spirit of a changing Saudi Arabia.

The grants keep the neediest in mind, and thus are prioritized for applicants orphaned as children, people with disabilities, and the families of fallen soldiers.

“It’s different from other social services because it addresses the needs of different groups of society to develop and to flourish, contributing to Vision 2030,” Al-Oniny said, referring to the Kingdom’s economic diversification strategy.

“I am proud to say that the government noticed me — a single person from Yanbu.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to supply more housing units to support needy families in 2021, says finance ministry

Time: 16 December 2020

Above, a new housing project under construction in Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
  • The targets include providing usufruct housing to the most-needy families

The Kingdom’s housing targets for 2021 include continuing to pump more units from off-plan sales to the beneficiaries of Sakani program, the Saudi Ministry of Finance said in the 2021 budget statement.

The targets include providing usufruct housing to the most-needy families, and stimulating factories producing housing units to attract modern and futuristic building technologies in order to raise production capacity, reduce costs and raise quality.

The Ministry of Housing also targets developing mechanisms to regulate the off-plan sale market with the aim of increasing the number of real estate units for the sale and leasing system; protecting the rights of beneficiaries, investors, and developers; and providing support for those who have failed to repay subsidized housing finance installments for those undergoing exceptional, temporary circumstances that are expected to disappear.

This is in addition to continuing to provide financial support for the beneficiaries of the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund to support financing profits at a maximum of SR500,000 ($489,666) for the beneficiary families.

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Housing boost for more than 300,000 Saudi families

Time: 11 December 2020

The Sakani program offers Saudi nationals access to land and residential housing. (SPA)

RIYADH: More than 300,000 Saudi families have so far benefited from the Ministry of Housing’s Sakani program, according to the ministry.
The Sakani program offers Saudi nationals access to land and residential housing across eight regions of the Kingdom through various financing solutions with the aim of enabling families to own their first home, whether through prefabricated units, under-construction builds, or self-construction.
The ministry announced that 11 projects were delivered last month for villas in Shaqra and Al-Uyaynah in Riyadh; the Al-Khorma housing project in Makkah; the Unaizah housing project in Qassim; Alkhobar, Hafr Al-Batin and Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Region; the Rafha housing project in the Northern Border Region; the Hail housing project; the Qurayyat housing project in Al-Jouf; and the Najran housing project.
The ministry also reported that 42 prefabricated housing projects providing around 14,000 residential villas have so far been completed.

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Saudi Arabia supports Yemeni women in reproductive health

Time: 29 August, 2020

Saudi aid center has provided treatment services for more than 58,500 Yemeni women in reproductive health. (SPA)
  • UNFPA seeks to fund maternity facilities and health centers by helping pregnant women ensure a safe delivery, so that their children can be healthy and stable

RIYADH: The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), with the support of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), has provided, since the beginning of 2020, treatment services for more than 58,500 Yemeni women in reproductive health.
UNFPA seeks to fund maternity facilities and health centers by helping pregnant women ensure a safe delivery, so that their children can be healthy and stable.
This initiative is part of the support provided by the Kingdom, represented by KSRelief, to UNFPA with the aim of promoting the health of women and children in Yemen and various countries around the world.

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Citizens and residents’ health and safety top concern: King Salman

24/05/20

  • King Salman addressed Saudi residents and the Muslim world on eve of Eid Al-Fitr
  • He thanked Saudi citizens and residents for their adherence to the instructions for social distancing

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said on Saturday that the health and safety of the Kingdom’s residents and citizens is of top concern.

“The world is facing an unprecedented health pandemic,” the king said in a speech on Eid Al-Fitr to Saudi citizens, residents and Muslims everywhere, offering his good wishes to mark the arrival of the annual celebration amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The speech, delivered by acting Minister of Media Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi on the eve of Eid Al-Fitr after maghrib prayers, came at a time when Saudi Arabia and the world are witnessing an unprecedented health and economic crisis.

King Salman thanked the residents for their commitment during these difficult times. They are celebrating the Muslim holiday at home, many of them unable to enjoy it with their families under the stay-at-home restrictions to curb the spread of the pandemic.

In his speech, King Salman called upon the whole community to understand these special circumstances, where Muslims are prevented from performing Eid prayers and exchanging visits, and he reaffirmed that the safety and health of all is a top priority.

“I greatly appreciate your commitment in spending Eid Al-Fitr in your homes, consciously and responsibly, respecting social distancing procedures and sending Eid congratulations through electronic communications and correspondence. All these measures are for the sake of your safety, as nothing is more important than good health.”

The speech is a major boost for morale, as the King thanked hundreds of thousands of health workers and others from all sectors who are working day and night in response to the pandemic and doing all that they can to provide citizens with the support they need. With the efforts made by Saudi Arabia’s government and the compliance of its residents, great strides have been taken.

Saudi Arabia has made every effort to combat the pandemic and to mitigate its effects. The Kingdom has also provided generous aid to the World Health Organization (WHO) in support of its efforts to confront the pandemic.”

King Salman also addressed in his speech the role Saudi Arabia plays on a global scale and its duty towards humanity when, as chair of the G20, it called an extraordinary summit of G20 members to discuss the health, economic and social impact of the pandemic and to develop an action plan in response to the outbreak.

“The Kingdom will spare no effort to bring good to humanity in this particular pandemic, and in all aspects of life.”

Saudi Arabia announced 2,442 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, the majority of which recorded in Riyadh at 794.

It also announced 2,233 new recoveries and 15 deaths.

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24,770 families benefit from Sakani program in April across KSA

16/05/20

More than 44,000 families benefitted from subsidized mortgage loans for finished housing units. (SPA)
 
  • The program will continue to provide eligible Saudi families with a wider range of options through easier procedures in accordance with their needs
 

RIYADH: The Ministry of Housing’s Sakani program has helped 24,770 families registered on its Real Estate Development Fund list with housing options and finance solutions during April. This includes 7,990 families who live in their own homes.

The total number of families that benefited from the program in different regions of the Kingdom since the start of the year reached 130,502, of which 44,000 have already moved into their houses. Other families preferred the under-construction housing units in major residential areas, residential lands and self-building options.

This comes within Sakani’s on-going efforts in light of the preventive health measures adopted by the authorities to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“24,000 under-construction housing units have been reserved in 2020 and 33,000 residential units have been delivered to beneficiaries across the Kingdom,” Sakani clarified in a statement, noting: “More than 44,000 families benefitted from subsidized mortgage loans for finished housing units, while 29,000 families benefitted from subsidized mortgage loans in the self-building category.”

 

The program is continuing to serve families wishing to own a property through Sakani’s mobile application and website. It also displays the beneficiaries’ national ID numbers on https://sakani-names.housing.sa/, and the electronic platform, which provides detailed information regarding the various housing options.

“The program will continue to provide eligible Saudi families with a wider range of options through easier procedures in accordance with their needs, desires and capabilities. This comes within the ministry’s keenness to accelerate the delivery of housing units to beneficiaries, in line with the housing program, which is one of the programs of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 that aim at raising the proportion of residential ownership to 70 percent,” said Ministry of Housing spokesman Saif bin Salem Al-Suwailem.

“In order to provide suitable housing options, Sakani is still working on 58 residential projects in partnership with real estate developers across the Kingdom. The prices of these units are favorable and range between SR250,000 ($66,545) and SR750,000. The construction process of these units takes into account the quality of the finished product and strictly respects construction stages and due dates,” Al-Suwailem added.

“Most of these projects are found in the suburbs of modern residential areas where different housing units such as villas, apartments and townhouses benefit from the availability of an array of facilities and services.”

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Saudi king orders release of $493 million in ‘Ramadan Aid’ to social security beneficiaries

Time: 11 May, 2020

Saudi King Salman. (SPA file photo)

RIYADH: King Salman has ordered the disbursement of 1.85 billion riyals ($492.6 million) in “Ramadan aid” to social security beneficiaries of Saudi Arabia.

Providers of families will get 1,000 riyals each while family members will get 500 riyals each, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Saudi Arabia has also been distributing Ramadan meals to the needy in various countries.

In Yemen, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has stepped up its humanitarian and relief aid amid the raging coronavirus pandemic.

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Saudi Arabia sends 200 tons of dates to 24 countries

Time: 05 May, 2020

Photo/SPA
  • The dates are the finest selected from different parts of the Kingdom as a gift to the Muslim community

RIYADH: On the directives from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Islamic Affairs Ministry dispatched 200 tons of dates to 24 Muslim countries.
The ministry’s deputy undersecretary, Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Al-Aqil, said it is part of the Kingdom’s efforts to serve Muslims around the world during the month of Ramadan.
He said despite the ongoing pandemic, the Kingdom’s humanitarian projects are still underway to mitigate the suffering of humanity.
Al-Aqil said the interests of Muslims across the world are always the main focus of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom, he said, not only serve Muslims but is always at the forefront of humanitarian projects across the world without any discrimination.
He said the dates are the finest selected from different parts of the Kingdom as a gift to the Muslim community.

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Historic Diriyah lights up in show of gratitude for workers leading coronavirus fight

Time: 08 April, 2020

The We’re All Responsible campaign featured huge 3D images projected onto the walls of Salwa Palace in the historic Al-Turaif district of Diriyah Governorate. (Received from DGDA)
  • Diriyah Gate Development Authority launches campaign with huge 3D images projected on walls of Salwa Palace
  • DGDA called on all government and private sector organizations to join in its campaign by covering their offices with images and messages thanking health and security workers

DIRIYAH: An eye-catching health-awareness campaign launched by the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) pays tribute to the workers on the front line of the battle to contain the coronavirus in the Kingdom. It also thanks the nation’s leaders for the swift action they have taken to lessen its impact.

Unveiled on Tuesday, which was World Health Day, the national “We’re All Responsible” campaign featured huge 3D images projected onto the walls of Salwa Palace in the historic Al-Turaif district of Diriyah Governorate.

One of the images features orange graphics and the message “Thank you to our heroes in health and security.” Another urges people to “Stay home, stay safe.”

A third image shows King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman alongside the message: “With thanks to our empathetic leadership in providing healthcare for everyone with no exceptions.”

DGDA called on all government and private sector organizations to join in its campaign by covering their offices with images and messages thanking health and security workers for their tireless efforts to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the community.

“On World Health Day, we wanted to send a message of gratitude to all the heroically dedicated professionals working tirelessly the world over to keep us safe during this global crisis,” said Jerry Inzerillo, DGDA’s CEO. He also thanked the Saudi leadership for the precautionary measures it has taken to fight the pandemic.

At-Turaif district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located beside Bujairy, which is the area’s cultural hub and a major tourism attraction for visitors to the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It contains many historic relics from the first Saudi state, including the former homes of its rulers.

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