People working for affected businesses also benefited from the initiatives. (AFP)
- SAMA announced a SR50 billion package to support the private sector on March 14.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia spent more than SR214 billion ($57 billion) on 142 initiatives to tackle the impact of the coronavirus in the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Initial measures undertaken by the government to provide a buffer were followed up by a royal decree this month to extend the support to the public and private sectors and to investors.
They included the suspension of some labor-related fines, wage protection measures and the postponement of the collection of customs duties on imports.
More than 650,000 people directly benefited from the package of measures aimed at individuals, according to the Ministry of Finance’s Communications and Financial Knowledge Center.
Businesses also received help in the form of extra time to file tax and zakat returns, while families on low incomes were given support in sectors that were hard hit such as ride-hailing transport services. About SR9 billion was allocated to more than 1.2 million citizens working for businesses affected by the pandemic.
In its Policy Responses to COVID-19 Tracker, the International Monetary Fund notes that Saudi Arabia has been hit by two shocks — “the spread of COVID-19 and the sharp decline in oil prices. Government policy is responding to both these developments.”
The Kingdom also implemented a number of fiscal measures with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) reducing its policy rates twice in March. SAMA announced a SR50 billion package to support the private sector on March 14, aimed particularly at SME’s by boosting banking sector liquidity.
The regulator instructed banks to delay repayment of loans for all Saudi employees by three months without extra fees and to provide finance to customers who lost their jobs.