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Saudi Arabia ends restrictions on women traveling: Royal Decree

The decree is written in a gender-neutral manner, and does not state any restrictions specific to women. 

  • The amendments are “designed to elevate the status of Saudi women within our society, including granting them the right to apply for passports and travel independently”
  • The decree is written in a gender-neutral manner, and does not state any restrictions specific to women

JEDDAH: Saudi women no longer require a permission from a “male guardian” to travel or obtain a passport, a decree signed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz indicates. 

According to the document — seen and verified by Arab News — the decree, issued three days ago, clearly stresses the right of every Saudi citizen to obtain a passport, and limits the need for a guardian’s approval to minors only. 

The decree is written in a gender-neutral manner, and does not state any restrictions specific to women.

Since the launch of Saudi Vision 2030, the Saudi authorities have addressed all flaws in the system that prevented women from living their lives securely and free from unnecessary hassles.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US said she was “elated” to confirm the new changes to the country’s labor and civil law. 

Princess Reema bint Bandar said the amendments are “designed to elevate the status of Saudi women within our society, including granting them the right to apply for passports and travel independently.”

These developments have been a long time coming. From the inclusion of women in the consultative council to issuing driving licenses to women, our leadership has proved its unequivocal commitment to gender equality. 

“These new regulations are history in the making. They call for the equal engagement of women and men in our society. It is a holistic approach to gender equality that will unquestionably create real change for Saudi women,” she added.

“Women have always played an integral role in our country’s development, and they will continue to do so moving forward on equal footing with their male counterparts,” said the diplomat in a series of tweets early Friday. 

The issue was under discussion in the Shoura Council for quite some time. Dr. Eqbal Darandari, a member of the Shoura Council, had spoken about the necessity of revoking the requirement of a guardian’s permission for Saudi women to travel.

The Shoura Council member strongly felt this step was in the right direction as it tallied with the decree to allow women to drive. The two — in her opinion — were interminably connected.

“I am for justice, and there’s a lot of injustice against some women due to misconstrued traditions and practices, and limited religious outlooks, putting women in harm’s way as a result.”

A number of international media outlets reported earlier this year that the decision to remove all restrictions on women traveling was being discussed at the highest levels of government and was due to be implemented before the end of this year.




Saudi Arabia Full member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Plenary Meeting, which was concluded on Friday, 21 June 2019, in Orlando, USA, granted the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia full Membership of the group. The Kingdom is the first Arab country to obtain the membership.

The FATF agreed to grant the Kingdom observer status in the Group in June 2015 in recognition of the significant role played by the Kingdom in the region in the field of combating money laundering and financing of terrorism and proliferation.

In order to be a full member in FATF, the Kingdom concluded the mutual evaluation process, one of the main requirements for obtaining full membership, which was conducted by the FATF during 2017-2018 in participation with the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFAT). The findings of the assessment process have revealed the high level of compliance and effectiveness of the control measures of the AML/CFT.


Ref: https://www.moi.gov.sa


Saudi King Salman appoints 6 new Supreme Court judges

ARAB NEWS March 04, 2019 -  JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman confirmed six new judges for the Kingdom’s supreme court, the Supreme Judicial Council, on Monday.

The appointees are Saeed bin Brek Al-Qarni, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Jarallah, Ibrahim bin Ali Al-Daleh, Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al-Hussein, Farhan bin Yahya Al-Fifi and Nasser bin Hamad Al-Wahaibi.

Dr. Walid Al-Samaani, minister of justice and president of the council, underlined his support for the appointments, wishing them luck for the future, and in doing their duty on the bench.

The new members expressed their sincere thanks and gratitude for the trust placed in them by King Salman, stressing their determination to work hard to uphold justice in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s judiciary enjoys full autonomy to deal with all cases, Al-Samaani said in a recent statement.


Saudi information minister hands 7th license for local company to operate cinema

March 05, 2019 - Arabnews - JEDDAH: Saudi information minister Turki Al-Shabanah handed the seventh license for operating cinemas to the local company "Next Generation", which will be known by the name “Muvi” and will be the first Saudi trademark.

The step was carried out in the presence Chairman of the General Authority for Audiovisual Media Badr bin Hussein Al-Zahrani.

“The authority will be providing all facilities to local companies seeking to open cinemas, as it has re-engineered the procedures and reduced requirements for licensing,” the minister said.

On his part, Al-Zahrani has stressed that efforts are being made to continue to develop all types of activities related to the audiovisual sector, including cinema, to ensure the providing of quality services to national companies and investors in line with the Vision 2030 which is aimed at diversifying the national economy and increasing employment opportunities for Saudi citizens.

The “Next Generation” company is part of Fawaz Al-Hakeer Group and is seeking to open its first cinema in collaboration with foreign operator “The Light” at Arab Mall in Jeddah.

It aims to open six cinema theaters that include 50 screens in Riyadh, Jeddah, and the Eastern Region during 2019.


Saudi non-oil private sector business growth at highest since December 2017

ARAB NEWS March 05, 2019 -  ‘The main driver for the improvement in February was a stronger rise in new orders, despite the second consecutive decline in new export orders’
Saudi Arabia’s headline PMI rose modestly to 56.6 in February from 56.2 in January
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector business rose to its highest level in 14 months due to a domestically-driven rise in new orders, the latest Purchasing Managers’ Index report from Emirates NBD show.
“The main driver for the improvement in February was a stronger rise in new orders, despite the second consecutive decline in new export orders. This suggests that it is domestic demand driving order growth. The output index rose slightly last month as well,” Khatija Haque, the head of Mena research at Emirates NBD, said in the report released on Tuesday Saudi Arabia’s headline PMI rose modestly to 56.6 in February from 56.2 in January, the highest reading since December 2017. A reading above 50 indicates that the non-oil economy is on expansionary mode, while a reading below 50 suggests a contraction.

“Businesses increased their stock of pre-production inventories at the fastest rate since September, likely reflecting both the rise in new orders as well as optimism for future order growth – more than half of firms surveyed expect their output to be higher in a year’s time,” the report said.

However, Haque said the February PMI reading was still below the series average of 57.6, which indicated that non-oil growth in the kingdom was still weaker than the long-run average.
This weakness could be relatable to the hesitance of private sector employers take in additional workers, with fewer than 1 percent of firms that were surveyed reporting an increase in hiring activities.
The employment index was the lowest in nearly five years in February, at 50.2.
“Some firms indicated that cost control efforts were behind the reluctance to hire, despite rising new orders. Indeed, there was very little evidence of wage growth in the private sector last month, with the staff costs component declining to 50.2,” the PMI report noted.

“Overall input costs eased for the second month in a row, providing some relief for firms’ margins as selling prices were broadly stable. Firms continued to report strong competitive pressures, eroding their pricing power,” it added.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s PMI fell to 53.4 in February from 56.3 in January, the lowest reading since October 2016, due to a slower growth in new orders last month as well as the steepest decline in private sector employment in the survey history.

The employment index fell to 47.5 in February, as nearly 9 percent of UAE businesses reported lower headcounts relative to January and just 1.5 percent who said staff count were raised.
“Some firms reported operating with the minimum level of staffing in a bid to keep costs down. Staff costs were broadly unchanged last month, again reflecting a relatively soft job market,” the UAE PMI report said.
For Egypt, the non-oil private sector fell to a 17-month low of 48.2 in February, from 48.5 the previous month.
“The index has remained stubbornly in sub-50.0, contractionary territory for six months now, and while we continue to expect an improvement in conditions over the course of 2019, Egyptian firms clearly remain under pressure,” the Emirates NBD PMI report said.

“Output also fell at the fastest rate since September 2017, with survey respondents attributing this to cash flow issues and poor weather conditions – Egypt has been troubled by sandstorms which have disrupted transport.”


Banks to monitor transactions

2019-03-04 By Adnan Al-Shabrawi - Okaz/Saudi Gazette - JEDDAH — Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has issued directives to all banks to report any account with transactions disproportionate to its holder’s income, Okaz has learned from sources.

In a circular to all Saudi banks, Deputy Governor of SAMA for Monitoring Fahd Al-Shithri mentioned that several arrangements are in place to combat expatriates’ illegal control of commercial activities.

All banks and money exchange companies are mandated to report to the General Administration for Financial Investigation at the Presidency of State Security any suspected financial transaction as per the rules for combating money laundering and terror funding issued by SAMA.

Speaking to Okaz, lawyer Hakam Al-Hakami said the directives come within the steps being taken by the pertinent authorities to monitor any money laundering or suspicious operations in financial accounts.

He urged account holders to ensure the source before carrying out any financial transactions.


Unified recruitment e-contract in the offing

2019-03-04 Okaz/Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has prepared a unified recruitment e-contract on an updated Musaned portal to ensure the rights of all the parties.

The updated version of the e-program for domestic workers, Musaned, with better interactive facilities was launched by Deputy Minister for Labor at the Ministry of Labor and Social Development Dr. Abdullah Abu Thinain.

The updated version of the portal has an interactive search engine. It gives the user the option to search for the most suitable offer and conclude contracts with companies of his choice. The updated Musaned portal enables beneficiaries to display recruitment services provided by recruitment offices and companies in the Kingdom.

It also enables users to conclude contracts with recruitment companies irrespective of the city where they are located.


Legal reforms enhance Saudi Arabia’s ranking in contract enforcement

Saudi Arabia has advanced 24 positions to become 59th in the world in terms of contract enforcement thanks to reforms implemented by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) over the past two years.

The enforcing contracts sub-index is part of the World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2019 Report.

Among the reforms is the ministry›s publication of commercial rulings, with over 6,260 rulings made available so far on its online portal.

A series of recent procedures have also contributed to the swiftness and quality of commercial rulings. This includes implementing regulations of Civil Procedure Law, setting the adjudication date of a commercial case within 20 days from its date of registration, and limiting the number of possible adjournments to only three.

A commercial case can now be filed electronically through the ministry›s portal, the ministry pointed out. The data is then verified by the court staff and recorded within a single day and the defendant is notified electronically on his or her Absher-registered mobile number, it added.

The ministry has also enabled electronic filing of the first defense briefs, as well as applications for appeal against commercial court rulings. — SG 2019-02-26


Labor court secures rights of 250 Saudi employees

The reconciliation circuit in the Labor Court in Dammam has helped a company to reach a settlement with 250 Saudi employees, including 95 women, who were not paid their monthly salaries, vacation allowances and end-of-service emoluments, Al-Watan newspaper reported on Monday.

The court ruled that the company, which was not named, should pay its employees, who are all Saudis, an amount of SR8.2 million in settlement of their unpaid salaries.

The employees had filed complaints at the labor offices in Dammam and Al-Khobar demanding that the company pay them their delayed salaries ranging from SR3,000 to SR10,000, in addition to vacation allowances and their end-of-service emoluments.

The court subpoenaed the employer, who reached an amicable settlement with the employees under which the company will pay the delayed salaries by issuing executable receipts.

Minister of Justice Walid Al-Samaani, in circular, had directed all departments of the ministry to consider the reconciliation minutes documented by the departments of cordial reconciliation an executable receipts, which should be immediately paid.

The labor courts, which have been established about two months ago in nine cities, will impose fines against companies and establishments that delay the payment of employees’ salaries.

The fines will be double the amount that should be paid to the employees. These amounts will be deposited in the Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf) to support the employment of more Saudis in the private sectors.

The ministry expects the threat of fines to greatly reduce the instances of employers delaying payments of salaries to their employees.

The ministry, on the other hand, revealed that the preliminary courts in the Kingdom have considered as many as 52,949 public rights cases in the past six months.

It said Riyadh, which had 13,293 cases registered, has topped all other regions in the number of the lawsuits concerning public rights.

Badr Al-Shatri, a lawyer, explained that the public right is the right of the state, which will be presented in court by the Public Prosecution. SG 2019-02-25


Key sectors lead efforts to achieve Saudi Vision 2030

Leading government authorities such as Saudi Customs and Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani), as well as major companies such as Bahri and Saudi Aramco Marine Department, which play a key role in the implementation of the latest development initiatives across Saudi Arabia, will share significant insights on how strategies under the Saudi Vision 2030 intend to deliver the desired transformation in the country during the Saudi Maritime Congress to be held on March 11-12 here.

Ahmed Alhakbani, covernor — General Customs Authority, said: “Saudi Customs play a crucial role in driving national transformation as trade is a vital sector in development. The authority continues to build on its strengths to ensure that policies are moving towards a more efficient and faster customs processes in accordance with existing national laws and international regulations. The shipping sector is an essential partner for Saudi Customs to implement its goal and we are keen to be an essential contributor in providing insights regarding recent developments and upcoming initiatives, which aims to improve the trade process and thereby contribute to national and international economic growth.”

Eng. Abdullah Aldubaikhi, CEO, Bahri, said: “Bahri’s commitment to steering Saudi Arabia’s shipping sector towards new levels of growth and development is anchored on the nation’s transformation plan. Our business strategies are fully aligned with the goals set out in Saudi Vision 2030, while also extending our global reach in the maritime industry. We will continue to build on our existing services and solutions to contribute to the enhancement of the Kingdom’s shipping and logistics sector. Bahri’s participation in this major event will further strengthen our resolve to establish the Kingdom as one of the world’s leading logistics and transportation hubs.”

The recently launched National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), one of the 13 Vision Realization Programs under Saudi Vision 2030 that aims to make the country into a leading global player in logistical services, will pave way for the growth of four key sectors: industry, mining, energy and logistics, and contribute up to SR1.2 trillion to Saudi Arabia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A total of 330 logistics initiatives are being developed under the program and stimulate up to SR1.7 trillion of investments.

The oil and gas sector is also primed to increase business growth from the local market by up to 75 percent by 2030 from 40 percent in 2015. Some of these initiatives are being led by Saudi Aramco, which aims to develop a more competitive local supply chain by requiring suppliers them to secure 70 percent of the content of their products from local sources. Meanwhile, leading shipping company Bahri has stepped its business strategies, aligning them to the country’s diversification plans through expansion of its multi-purpose fleet, adding five Very Large Crude-oil Carriers (VLCCs) as well as adopting new technologies to boost its operations capabilities.

Among the latest measures relevant to the shipping sector are reforms under the Saudi Ports Authority (MAWANI) in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, which are soon to allow foreign shipping agencies to hold 100 per cent ownership of their companies and operate independently under a foreign investment license. The license will have to be secured from Saudi Ports Authority and will be valid for five years. Previously, shipping agents could operate only as a fully owned Saudi company or under partnership with local investors.

Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade, said: “The huge development plans across Saudi Arabia are opening massive opportunities for vital sectors such as the shipping and logistics industry to take part in the implementation of the country’s national agenda. The Second Saudi Maritime Congress will gather local and international economic leaders and major sector players from the shipping, ports, ship construction and offshore marine industry to further discuss how new policies and business agenda can align their efforts towards achieving the nation’s goals.”

The Second Saudi Maritime Congress will be held at Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh, Kingdom Centre.

The event expects the attendance of more than 2,000 maritime professionals, and will provide numerous opportunities to network, do business, strengthen local presence and establish new business relationships in the field. — SG 2019-02-27


Saudis asked to fill vacuum left by expats in anti-tasattur impact

The National Trade Committee at the Council of the Saudi Chambers has asked young Saudi men and women to avail themselves of the opportunities left behind by expatriates leaving the market under the impact of the law to combat tasattur, or cover-up operations where they do business in the names of Saudis.

Members of the committee asked the municipalities to join the efforts in fighting tasattur as they supervise a number of trading activities, the Makkah newspaper reported.

The members said jobs in the private sector must be attractive to lure more young Saudi men and women.

A number of economic and marketing experts said using the electronic system of payment instead of cash will cut the path for tasattur and will also greatly reduce the volume of remittances abroad by expatriates.

A royal consent was recently given to the recommendations of the National Program to Combat Tassatur, which is meant to fight all forms of cover-up operations, encourage e-trade, organize financial transactions to limit the flight of capital abroad and promote the private sector to generate more jobs for the Saudi nationals.

The program was also aimed at preventing expatriates from illegally acquiring businesses in the Kingdom.

Under the royal consent, the recommendations of the program must be implemented within 90 days of their issuance.

Shinan Al-Zahrani, deputy chairman of the the National Trade Committee, said preventing expatriates from owning businesses will greatly reduce the transfer of funds abroad and will increase the cash flow in the national economy.

He hoped that the program would be implemented on schedule within three months and would not be delayed for any reason.

Zahrani asked young Saudi men and women to utilize the precious opportunities that will be made available to them when the expatriates will be forced to abandon all tassattur operations.

Saleh Al-Afaliq, a former chairman of the Chamber Council, said expatriates in fact own hundreds of groceries, laundry shops and healthcare facilities.

“Regretfully this has been made possible for them by some greedy Saudis who want to make easy money by helping the foreigners to steal the Kingdom’s wealth,” he said. He asked the municipalities to join forces in the fight against tasattur as they are the ones supervising restaurants and coffee shops.

Bandar Al-Jabri, a member of the board of directors of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said expatriates were extending their services at less prices compromising quality to dominate the market.

“The program will enable the Saudi public and private sector employees to own businesses, which will receive support from the government,” he said.

Saudi Gazette report (2019-02-27)


Law to protect whistleblowers finalized: Nazaha

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha) will soon bring a law to guarantee the protection of whistleblowers and witnesses in graft cases.

Abdulrahman Al-Ajlan, spokesperson of Nazaha, said law has drafted and the announcement about its issuance is expected in the near future.

Speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette, he said the commission has made intervention to protect some whistleblowers after they were subject to harassment.

“Nazaha will guarantee their protection in addition to providing them remuneration in accordance with the significance of reporting,” he said.

Al-Ajlan said Nazaha is now verifying the merit of 1,447 complaints that were reported to it during 2018.

The commission will hand over these complaints to relevant investigation authorities after the completion of the verification.

He emphasized that all the actions taken by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to fight corruption and the royal directives confirm that there is no immunity for anyone in the fight against corruption.

Al-Ajlan said all complaints that reach the commission will be examined within a period not exceeding two weeks.

“The increase in the number of communications in 2018 by about 50 percent is a positive indicator and that reflects the increased confidence of the public in the measures taken by the leadership in the fight against corruption,” he added.

In 2018, the number of complaints the commission received rose to 15,591 from 10,402 from what was reported in 2017 and 6,482 in 2016.

Financial and administrative corruption cases topped the list of complaints with 74.3 percent of registered cases.

The reports about misuse of power accounted for 28.9 percent of cases.

The cases of embezzlement and wastage of public money were 17.6 percent. Nepotism accounted for 15.9 percent of the complaints.

Nazaha completed processing of 59 percent of complaints and referred 4.4 percent of the cases to the Control and Investigation Bureau and 3.37 percent to the Presidency of State Security.


By Abdullah Al-Ghamdi - Okaz/Saudi Gazette (2019-02-27)


Fines up to SR25,000 for violating labor rights: Ministry

JEDDAH: Employers will be fined SR25,000 ($6,700) for registering Saudi employees with the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) without their approval.

Firms can also face a five-day closure in addition to the fine, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development on Tuesday announced.
The ministry posted on its official Twitter account a list of penalties that will be imposed on employers if they violate the rights of their employees.
The announcement includes nine violation scenarios. Companies can receive fines of SR20,000 for recruiting expat workers for jobs allocated for Saudis as well as SR10,000 plus a one-day closure if the firm employs male expat workers for jobs which have been nationalized.
Holding workers’ passports without their approval will result in a SR2,000 fine. Employing a worker without a contract or without giving a copy of the contract can lead to a SR5,000 fine; the same fine applies to not adhering to offering work contracts in Arabic.
The ministry also stated that a SR5,000 fine would imposed for not complying with the conditions mentioned in training contracts; for not keeping workers’ records, including names, salaries, fines, attendance and medical records; as well as for full or partial withholding of a worker’s salary.

LULWA SHALHOUB | Published — Wednesday 14 June 2017 Arabnews


Fines, recruitment bans for recruiting others sponsors’ workers

RIYADH: An official at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs said companies that employ other sponsors’ workers or allow their workers to work for others, could be fined SR25,000 ($6,667) and denied foreign recruitment for one year, according to Article 39 of the Labor Law.

If the violation is committed a second time, the fine is raised to SR50,000, the recruitment ban is increased to two years, the employer is named, and the responsible manager is jailed for six months. If repeated for a third time, the fine is SR100,000, the recruitment ban is increased to five years, and the responsible manager is jailed for one year.

Small enterprises are fined SR15,000 and denied recruitment for one year when caught committing these violations, with the fine increased to SR30,000 and SR100,000, and the recruitment ban extended for two years and five years, respectively, when the violation is committed the second and third time.

An official said the ministry regularly inspects establishments, and has received complaints from workers if they are made to work for firms other than their sponsors. Reported or detected violations are referred to the Ministry of Interior for legal recourse.

ARAB NEWS | Published — Monday 19 June 2017


MCI warns buyers of counterfeit products sold online


RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce and Investment cautioned consumers against counterfeit products sold online and urged them to report any such practices.

Warning against selling or marketing fake or counterfeit goods, the ministry said: “Since this act is considered a violation of the Anti-Commercial Fraud Law and Trademark System, it may lead to penalties of up to three years in prison and fines of up to SR1 million ($266,645).”

In the statement, the ministry also called on owners of e-shops and social network marketers to register their trade activities with its free e-service platform Maroof, which will ensure credibility of the traders’ activities and products, and protect the rights of buyers. Marketers are urged to make sure that the party selling goods has a commercial registration or has signed up through the e-service.

The portal provides an evaluation of services and the quality of e-stores in the Kingdom, and presents the opinions of dealers and clients on such stores.

“This e-service also gives the seller an opportunity to market their electronic shop online within various Maroof platforms,” enabling online store owners to add all their social media accounts, their website and contact numbers to their page with Maroof, which makes it is easier for buyers to access and contact them, according to the ministry.

The service preserves the rights of consumers, making it possible to lodge a complaint in case of any commercial fraud, by contacting the ministry’s consumer call center (1900) or through the application of a commercial violation report via smartphone.
Maroof is a free electronic service and takes only a few seconds to sign up to the website: www.maroof.sa. According to the ministry, the number of stores signed up, so far, with the e-service has reached 15,000 electronic stores.
RASHID HASSAN | Published — Tuesday 20 June 2017 Arabnews


All businesses in Kingdom with annual revenues from SR375,000 covered by VAT


JEDDAH — The General Authority for Zakat and Tax announced Sunday that the implementation of 5% VAT starting January 2018 will have no exceptions.

Misfir Dahim, the head of legal team for non-direct tax at the Authority, said all private sector establishments that had annual revenues of SR375,000 will be included in the VAT decision. Businesses with revenues of SR185,000 have the option to pay the tax.

He added that the system will overcome some wrong practices in the market and it will reflect positively on the economy. He added that this tax fee comes as an agreement between GCC states and it is considered the lowest in the world. He added that losing company is not exempted from paying the tax. He noted that the VAT is applied in 150 countries around the world.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Al-Taifi, head of the Authority at Jeddah office, said that there are major punishments on those evading the taxes. The violating establishment will be asked to pay an additional 50% of the value of the tax.

Vijay Soni, President, IMA Western Province Chapter, said GCC, particularly Saudi Arabia, has been treated as a tax-free zone by investors over decades. The adoption for the first time of any form of tax is a challenge for government as well as businesses and enterprises, as none of them have experienced its functionality, issues, and ways forward.

Most SMEs do not even understand the concept and their accounting processes are still based on non-VAT/sales tax methods. This means that they have to modify the process of recording business transactions, possibly adapt new technologies, conduct training for staff or hire new talent in addition to a new marketing approach to adjust pricing, he told Saudi Gazette during an interview.

Asked about sectors most affected by the VAT, he said packaged foods and soft drinks will face the most challenge initially. Automobile and machinery business enterprises are already feeling the pain of increased customs and removal of customs exemptions on various accounts.

Commenting on the potential contribution of the VAT in the GDP, he said at the outset, Saudi Arabian VAT collection is estimated to reach close to 2% of GDP within a short span of time. He added that in emerging and developing oil-exporting countries where the VAT has been implemented, the VAT contribution to GDP is around the average range of 5 percent (global average of about 7%).

He highlighted that the tax department needs to have a customer-friendly approach. They need to proactively reach out to the business community to reduce the fear of the new tax regime. He suggested that the department studies the experience of EU, Singapore and India to replicate best practices from these countries.

He highlighted that Vision 2030 is clearly showing the government’s willingness to work for the betterment of business community with transparent and performance-oriented working environment. “As management accountants, our role is to help translate those policies into business practices and adapt them to our enterprises to support and contribute to the country’s development goals.”


All businesses in Kingdom with annual revenues from SR375,000 covered by VAT
Saudi Gazette - May 22, 2017, By Fatima Muhammad



MCI, Requesting the Opinions of the Public on the New Draft of the General Policies of bankruptcy

MCI, Requesting the Opinions of the Public on the New Draft of the General Policies of bankruptcy
17 March 2015
Based on transparency and giving a chance for public participation, MCI would like to invite those interested and the public to express their views and suggestions on the new draft of the general policies of bankruptcy, through its website and e-mail before Sunday, 16.06.1436 H, corresponding to 05.04 . 2015 AD. This comes within the Ministry`s pursuit to prepare and develop a new draft for bankruptcy, where the Ministry was keen on designing the general policies of bankruptcy in accordance with the different aspects of the local environmental, such as legitimacy (Islamic Law), statutory and economic, in order to achieve the desired goals of the bankruptcy law in general, taking into consideration a number of advanced international practices in this field.
 MCI pointed out that the new draft of bankruptcy seeks to create a systemic environment that may contribute to expand the private investment base in terms of number and volume, through the preservation of the private economic value, to be added to the overall economy. Therefore, the new draft of bankruptcy would give priority to conciliation procedures or reorganizing the debtor's situation, who is in financial troubles and there is still real and true chance to regain his trade activity to a level where he could add values to the overall economy and fulfill his obligations towards the creditors, as well as the new draft aims at liquidating the assets of the commercial institutions which may fail to regain their trade activity in a regular and fast way.   
MCI stresses the importance of the new draft of bankruptcy for small and medium enterprises. Therefore, the new draft would contain a number of provisions that take into account the nature of these enterprises and stimulate entrepreneurs to start their business. These provisions would include simplified and swift remedial action to deal with the small and medium enterprises in case of financial troubles, in addition to some of the detailed provisions that might help stimulating the private sector to finance these enterprises.
MCI pointed out that this new draft would contribute in raising the contribution of the private sector, especially small and medium enterprises, in developing the trade and industry and therefore the economic development in general.
MCI would like to invite those interested and the public to participate and express their opinions on the new draft of bankruptcy policies through accessing the link: click here:
Or via e-mail: ippd@mci.gov.sa.


MCI, Requesting the Opinions of the Public on the Draft of Professional Companies Law

MCI, Requesting the Opinions of the Public on the Draft of Professional Companies Law
17 March 2015
Based on the principle of participation and transparency, MCI invites those interested and the public to express their views and suggestions on the draft of professional companies Law, through its website, before Thursday, 04.07.1436 H, corresponding to 23.04.2015 AD.
MCI stressed that this draft would enable the Saudi professional companies to grow, enter into competition and play a greater role in the national economy, in light of the events and changes witnessed by the liberal professions sector over the past two decades, along with the growing number of professional companies around the world and the liberalization of many of the restrictions on their work in the WTO Member States.
MCI pointed out that the draft of the professional companies law establishes three fundamental changes to the existing system, such as to allow the establishment of professional companies exercising more than one liberal profession, and to approve the establishment of a professional companies that take the form of a Limited Partnership, limited liability companies, closed- joint company, Inc. per person, in addition to the company's corporate form permitted by the applied professional companies system.
The system also allows the participation of non-professional investors in the professional companies, in order to help providing the necessary financing needed for their founding and to ensure continuation.
MCI would like to invite those interested and the public to participate and express their opinions on the draft of Professional Companies law, through accessing this link: Click here.


MCI, Six Months to Register and Update the Commercial Agencies and Abolishment for those Non-Compliant

22 March 2015
The Commercial Institutions and Companies are requested to Register their Agencies and Update the Registered Ones
MCI would like to announce to all companies and institutions, which have commercial agencies contracts, to take the initiative and register these contracts in the Agents and Distributors Record. The Ministry stressed that it will apply the penalties set forth in the Commercial Agencies System against those who do not adhere to register during a period of six months starting from 01/06/1436 AH. Notably, it is permissible to register more than one agency for a product or a single client in case of multiple agents.
The Ministry said that those enrolled in the Agents and Distributors Record are kindly requested to update and renew the database of their expired commercial agencies during a period of six months starting from 01.06.1436 AH. Otherwise, their agencies will be written off administratively. To perform the requested update, the agent must provide a letter from the entrusted company in the country of origin, certified by the competent authorities, and to be translated by a certified translation office, stating the renewal and validity of the agency agreement.
These measures will contribute in preserving the rights of the agencies parties and clarify their obligations towards the consumers, and will enhance the application of other related systems, such as Anti-Commercial Fraud System, Commercial Brands and others.
Only those who are registered in the Agents and Distributors Record can consider themselves as agents or distributors in the media, they can also benefit from the speed of their products release via the customs ports.
Meanwhile, MCI emphasizes that the agents and distributors must commit to provide maintenance services, spare parts and guarantee the manufacturing quality for the products subject of the agency, whether imported by them or by others, and they must be in conformity with the Gulf Standards and Specifications, according to the added provisions of Article II of the Commercial Agencies System and the provisions of the related Implementing Regulations. Also, the aforementioned provisions of Article II would be applied on importers, even if they are not agents or distributors, and on anyone who has taken the sales process directly or through a third party as a craft and with the intention of a profit. Anyone who violates the provisions of this article will be subject to the same penalties applied on agents and distributors.


MCI, Foreign Investors are compelled to Issue Industrial Licenses, any Factory does not Adhere with that will be Shut Down

21 April 2015
Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced the start of industrial licenses issuance for foreign   investors, stressing its intention to apply the mechanism of issuing industrial licenses for national investors in the future. Therefore, it is mandatory to have valid investment license, issued by the General Authority of Investment, allowing   the practice of any industrial activity.
The Ministry also called on all foreign investors to issue the necessary licenses, so as not to be subject to cease their commercial activities.
MCI has pointed out that it will start issuing the industrial licenses for foreign investors in accordance with the applied mechanism on the national investment, the investment license will be requested from the foreign investors, as a prerequisite for getting the industrial license.
This comes as an implementation of the Council of Ministers Decree No. 181 dated 05/06/1434 H, which contained the assertion that the General Authority of Investment should include the following phrase "the licensee must contact the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for getting the industrial license" for all investment licenses issued by the Authority in the industrial field.
MCI emphasizes its Permanent keen and interest in the application of the regulatory and control role to improve the industrial environment, and to free it from any systematic violations, to contribute attracting the commercial and industrial investments in the local market.


New labor courts to start operations in Muharram 1438AH

Labor Minister Adel Fakeih disclosed recently that the affiliation of labor dispute settlement bodies with the Ministry of Justice will soon come to an end and will be transferred to the Ministry of Labor, pending the launch of the new labor courts in Muharram 1438AH.
The minister was speaking following the inauguration of a workshop regarding labor codes and principles held recently, in the presence of Minister of Justice Waleed Al-Samaani and a number of judges and interested parties. 
"The labor codes, decisions and rulings issued by the labor commission represent a step forward in documenting labor judicial functions. In coordination with the Ministry of Justice, this process is expected to be completed next year. Once the process is completed, we will be able to transfer the responsibilities of the labor judicial functions to the Supreme Judicial Council, in line with the development of the judicial system as ordered by the king", said the minister.
Fakeih explained that the Ministry of Labor has spent the past two years developing the number of commissions for labor dispute settlements, including primary and supreme commissions, in addition to staffing such commissions with newly trained members. "The object is to minimize the litigation period for employers and workers," he said.
He added that the step to publish the new codes stems from the ministry's efforts to increased transparency in litigation, and to enable the employers, judges and other parties concerned to be familiar with the courts' rulings. 
"The codes for the years 1431 and 1432 already have been issued, while other codes will also be issued to form a strong benchmarks for labor commission members, lawyers and others," said the minister.
He noted that other developmental projects to boost the competencies of labor commissions' members will also be implemented soon. Such projects, he added, will represent an operational model with positive effects, and will be concise in terms of time and effort. "We are cooperating with the Ministry of Justice in this regard."
Abdullah Al-Abdullatif, president of the Supreme Commission for the Settlement of Labor Disputes, confirmed that the ultimate goal of the codes is to satisfy clients, develop the commissions, reduce litigation periods and develop administrative competency.
"The inauguration of the electronic portal for the labor commission by the minister of labor will also help in the study and evaluation of the training needs of employees in these commissions. It will help establish a consultative center for further development of the mechanisms, in order to allow follow up on the labor laws, he explained.

ARAB NEWS Published — Saturday 4 April 2015


Up to SR10m penalty for bad food sale

ARABNEWS - Published — Sunday 14 December 2014

A new fining system set up by Jeddah's municipality to uncover health and hygiene violations has been endorsed.
It rewards whistle blowers with up to 25 percent of the amount fined to restaurants and food facilities. The rewards could reach up to SR2.5 million if the facility used tainted food or any substances that could compromise the consumers’ health. In such cases, the fine would also increase to up to SR10 million.
This plan stipulates that any establishment found violating the regulations would be fined over SR1 million. The fine will also include the closure of the premises for a period of at least 180 days, with the establishment's license revoked for one year.
The new campaign is also targeting imported food, which is forbidden to enter the Kingdom until it has met all prescribed conditions.
Moreover, any edibles that are found misleading consumers about Shariah would attract a hefty fine, municipality sources said. Edibles must be evaluated by authorities concerned before they hit the market. 
Health officials evaluate any impending danger to human health while carrying out inspections both in food establishments or factory products before they hit the supermarket shelves. If unsavory food or cooking methods are caught, inspectors would seize the evidence and order an immediate shutdown of the establishment.


Non-Saudis can own hospitals

ARAB NEWS - Published — Sunday 14 December 2014

New regulations governing private health institutions will allow non-Saudis to own hospitals in the Kingdom. However, a foreign investor's application to set up a health establishment should be cleared first by the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA), Aleqtesadiah daily reported.
A committee of medical and economic experts set up by the Ministry of Health is the competent authority to approve a new establishment, and will review all applications made by foreigners wishing to open such institutions.
While the application fee to open a 50-bed hospital is SR5,000, the fee for a hospital with 51 to 100 beds is SR10,000, and SR15,000 for more 100 beds. A general and specialist medical and laboratory complex with a single-day surgery facility will have to pay an application fee of SR2,000.
This new system will come into effect in three months. Authorities will make sure that these private health institutions comply with regulations to combat infections, especially the disposal of their medical waste in the appropriate manner.
The private health sector is also likely to be permitted to open rehabilitation clinics with specially trained and qualified doctors and staff.
Those who violate the new regulations by opening a private health institution without the required license may face criminal charges as well as the closure of the facility and the denial of license for a period of not less than six months. In addition, authorities will fine offenders with up to SR30,000 in the case of support health service centers, SR100,000 for laboratories, scanning centers, ambulance service centers and SR150,000 for clinics and medical complexes with single day surgery. The fine for operating an unlicensed hospital with all departments will be SR300,000.


Jordanian awarded SR4.3m for unlawful detention

Jeddah’s Administrative Court has ordered the General Directorate of Prisons to pay a former Jordanian inmate SR4.3 million in compensation for having unlawfully detained him three years longer than his prison sentence.

The defendant had originally been sentenced to one year at Briman Prison for forgery and was supposed to be released on Dec. 3, 2011.
The prison, however, refused to release him on the grounds that the deportation ruling was still pending.
Legal counselor Mohammad Al-Thaali confirmed that the directorate unlawfully extended the detention period after misinterpreting the deportation decision and process.
“Prisons have no right to extend prison sentences based on a specific article within a criminal law that stipulates that prisons are only meant for serving time and not making decisions on the fate of prisoners.”
The lawyer will submit an appeal on the verdict, demanding, instead, more than SR15.5 million in compensation, or SR15,000 per each additional day the defendant had been unlawfully held.
The ex-inmate had filed the compensation claim himself.
The ruling, issued by a criminal court at the Board of Grievances, had been delivered in three parts.

ARAB NEWS  Published — Sunday 2 November 2014


Over 3,700 expats await decisions in labor disputes

Statistics show that more than 3,740 expatriate workers have filed complaints against their Saudi employers concerning a number of issues, such as nonpayment of salaries, refusal to renew residency documents, preventing them from traveling and a host of other problems.

The labor office in Makkah has witnessed a large influx of expatriates who are following up on their complaints. These expatriates have criticized the slow process of dealing with complaints, and of their sponsors’ failure to show up at hearings. 

A number of expatriate spoke to Al-Madinah daily about their problems.

Abdulati Abdulsalam, a plumber, said his sponsor had not paid him for the past six months and also accused him of insulting and mistreating him. He submitted his complaints to the preliminary committee at the labor office, but is still awaiting a decision as he wants to transfer his work visa to another employer.

Hakeem, a Pakistani national, said he had not been paid for the past eight months despite his constant requests to his employer. He also criticized the slow process of complaints.

Sameer Othman said his sponsor asked him to pay SR20,000 to renew his residence permit, an amount he cannot afford to pay. “I make SR1,700 a month, which is hardly enough to cover my expenses. My sponsor has also reported me to the concerned bodies and accused me of fleeing my job,” he said.

Othman’s case is currently under review with the preliminary committee.

Yaseen Abdulaziz said that he arrived in the Kingdom five years ago, and ever since, his sponsor has refused to allow him to travel to his country to see family, including his ill daughter. He hopes his case will be resolved soon.

Lawyer and judicial consultant, Abdullah Fallatah, said any expatriate has the right to file a complaint at the labor office against his employer for issues concerning their rights according to the work agreement.

He pointed out that complaints concerning mistreatment of workers are filed in specialized courts and asked anyone subjected to such problems to submit their complaints at these courts.

Saudi Gazette report


38 percent Saudi companies unsure about cyber security

Information security experts have claimed that 38 percent of companies in the Kingdom are unsure how secure their data is against hacking attempts.

The main reason for this uncertainty is negligence of top management and information technology managers in these companies of the seriousness and damage hacking can have on their data.

The CEO of Ard Al-Sahab for Communication and Information Technology, Abdullah Aal-Mesaed, told Al-Yaum daily that breaching companies’ networks is one of the major threats companies face.

He also claimed that many companies rely on basic anti-virus and firewall software to protect their data and that most network administrators are unaware that their network has been penetrated.

“Most information technology companies in the Kingdom employ experts that can design special programs to protect data, and many companies are reverting to backing up their data on the cloud, but that depends on the data security provided by the hosting company,” he said.

Information security specialist, Sami Al-Eidaa, said online attacks are similar to traditional wars, and countries that possess the technological know-how can destroy the infrastructure, such as electricity and communications systems, of any country without using weaponry or troops.

“Some countries can also implant spy files into systems as an alternative to human spies and all electronic attacks should be considered dangerous as they threaten the confidentiality of data and information, and can also damage the electronic services offered by these companies,” he said.

Al-Eidaa believes the main reason for poor security at companies is due to the lack of support by the management.

“Some companies believe that their anti-virus and firewall software is enough to fend off hackers, and they neglect other technical factors that can contribute to minimizing and limiting such attacks,” he said.

A recent survey published by SafeNet Inc., which specializes in data protection, showed that most companies believe that their basic internal protection measures are enough to guard against hackers. This is despite the increasing number of hacking attempts and the loss of more than 2 billion data files worldwide last year.

SafeNet Inc.’s index for data security showed that 66 percent of decision makers in the Middle East believe their preventive measures are sufficient in preventing unauthorized access to their data, while ironically, 48 percent of them admitted that they had been subjected to hacking attempts.


Saudi Gazette report


SAGIA warning: Shape up or ship out!

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has urged small-scale foreign investors to either improve their performance or leave the Kingdom. 
“We have given an ultimatum to these small investors who have failed to add value to the national economy,” said Abdullathif Al-Othman, SAGIA governor, adding that the deadline ends within a week.
Al-Othman said the move was aimed at attracting investments to quality projects that not only add value to the economy, but also help the transfer of technology and employment of more Saudis. 
“New investment licenses will be given only to those who fulfill these conditions,” he said in comments published on Thursday. He said some of these small investors have submitted an undertaking that they would improve their level of investment. 
“If they do this, they will continue in the market,” he said, adding that serious investors have expressed their readiness to meet the conditions. 
Al-Othman said the closure of these small businesses would not affect the economy. “Our economy is big enough not to be shaken by these small-scale projects,” he said while welcoming serious investors who wanted to contribute positively to the economy. “Such good investors will receive a warm welcome from both Saudi people and officials.”
Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil, president of the Council of Saudi Chambers, applauded SAGIA’s move to clean up the investment sector. 
“There are hundreds of investors who have licenses, but did nothing to kick-start their projects. Some of them are engaged in activities other than what they are licensed to do,” he told Arab News.
Al-Zamil said the SAGIA move would also help eradicate illegal cover-up businesses from the country. 
“Saudi Arabia is not against foreign investors, but we are looking for serious investors,” he said, adding that about 8,000 foreign investors had not contributed to the national economy after receiving SAGIA licenses.
“SAGIA has launched a survey of foreign investment projects across the country,” Al-Zamil said. 
The authority has canceled 792 licenses, including 403 in the contracting sector, 117 in the light industries, 189 in metal works, gold and furniture, 10 restaurants and 18 tour operators.

Published on Arab News — Saudi Arabia News, Middle East News, Opinion, Economy and more. (http://www.arabnews.com)

Published — Friday 30 May 2014


SAGIA: Fast track service in KSA for foreign investors

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has introduced a ‘fast track service’ to process applications from foreign investors within five days under a streamlined program.
The new measures have been announced in an administrative decision issued by Abdullatif Al-Othman, governor of SAGIA and chairman of the board. 
This follows the Council of Ministers’ decision (No. 2 of 5/1/1421H), the Foreign Investment Law by Royal Decree (No. M/1 of 5/1/1421H) and its Implementing Regulations issued by the board’s decision No. 2/74 of 12.5.1435H.
“Overseas investors looking to launch businesses in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will now be able to benefit from a faster and simpler application process with the launch of the new fast track service by SAGIA,” said an official from the authority. 
“This new application process guarantees application decisions within five working days, once SAGIA has received all required documentation.” 
The fast track is available to potential investors who meet one of the following requirements: 
1 Multinational companies publicly listed in the capital market of their countries or in international stock exchanges 
2. Firms manufacturing products that are classified and approved by independent agencies, and employ certified process technology 
3. Small and medium size enterprises which will be operating in the area of the IPRs registered in their names, or which are classified as innovative enterprises. 
4. An international company aiming to set up regional centers in Saudi Arabia. 
5. A construction company classified under ‘first class’ in their countries, or which have implemented a project with a value of not less than SR500,000,000 and have a manpower of not less than 2,000 employees and total assets of not less than SR50 million. 
6. A company entering into partnership with other companies qualified by Saudi government agency, or by a state-owned entity or an entity in which the government has a shareholding, or with a company listed in the Saudi Capital Market.
7. The aim of SAGIA’s fast track service is to facilitate foreign direct investment (FDI) into target sectors in the Saudi economy, namely ICT, downstream petrochemical and mining, industrial manufacturing, health care and life science, transportation and infrastructure, human capital development, and energy and petrochemicals.
Documents required to complete applications under the fast track service include: 
1. Shareholders Resolution to invest in the Kingdom, listing the names of shareholders, capital share of each shareholder, company headquarters, type of activity, name of the general manager and authorized representative, duly legalized by the competent authorities and the Saudi mission. 
2. Copies of enterprise Memorandum of Association and commercial registration, duly authenticated by the competent authorities and the Saudi Consulate.
3. Filling out the autobiography form and provision of a company profile, duly stamped by company’s seal.
Eligible applicants providing the necessary information should make their applications to:Fasttrack@sagia.gov.sa in the interim, while an online application process is developed.

Published on Arab News — Saudi Arabia News, Middle East News, Opinion, Economy and more. (http://www.arabnews.com)

Published — Monday 9 June 2014


Investors upset as SAGIA cancels 374 licenses

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) announced Tuesday that it canceled 374 licenses of foreign investors in 2013 after they failed to correct their status in tune with new regulations and conditions set by the organization to promote value-added investment.

The SAGIA move, which has brought down the number of foreign investment licenses from 9,265 to 6,000 this year, aims at attracting major international companies to ensure transfer of advanced technology and creation of more job opportunities for Saudis.

But many foreign investors, including Arabs, Americans, Canadians and Indians, said the action has negatively affected their investments worth billions of riyals and that they would take legal action against the organization.

SAGIA said it applied new rules and conditions on the basis of a royal decree that regulates its activities. 

“There are three types of foreign investors,” said Khaled Al-Khathlan, deputy governor of SAGIA, adding that many license holders have violated the regulations. He said 10 percent of licensed foreign firms created 90 percent of jobs in the sector.

According to a report, 167 investors have lodged complaints at the Court of Grievances against SAGIA with the hope that it would issue a fair verdict in order to avoid taking the case to the international center for settlement of investment disputes in the US.

One investor said SAGIA was imposing an annual fee of SR12,000 for each license. “The royal decree calls for equal treatment of Saudi and foreign investors, but in practice this is not the case,” said another investor.
A SAGIA official told the Shoura Council that it would complete its survey of foreign investment projects shortly to make proposals to improve the Kingdom’s investment climate.

Published on Arab News — Saudi Arabia News, Middle East News, Opinion, Economy and more. (http://www.arabnews.com)

Published — Wednesday 18 June 2014