Economic Progress

Saudi Arabia is paying some citizens to help them deal with the increasing cost of living

A Saudi woman poses with Saudi riyal banknotes at a money exchange shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Saudi Arabia has just announced that it will pay some citizens monthly to help with the cost of living. Image: REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

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Saudi Arabia plans to give its citizens 50 billion riyals ($13 billion) in handouts to offset increasing costs of living, Reuters reported Sunday.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has ordered the government to pay out 1,000 riyals (about $266) to state employees each month in 2018.

“The allocation of 50 billion riyals for this decree indicates the leadership’s concern for the people’s comfort and quality of living,” Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad, the Minister of Culture and Information told local media.

Roughly 1.18 million Saudis are employed by the government.

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Pensioners and soldiers fighting on the frontlines against Yemen will also be given 5,000 riyal ($1330) bonuses, and the government will cover the cost of VAT in some cases, including first-time home purchases.

The King's payment plan hopes to compensate for a recent 5% tax increase on basic goods like food and utilities, and for nearly doubling the cost of gasoline.

Those price hikes were part of the Kingdom's efforts to tackle its budget deficit estimated at 195 billion riyals ($52 billion).

The government also announced plans to cut perks to royal family members, which angered many members of Saudi's elites.

On Saturday, authorities detained 11 princes after they gathered for a rare protest in front of the royal palace.

The protest stemmed from another royal decree that "halted payments by the state to members of the royal family to cover their electricity and water utility bills," Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said in a statement to CNN.

Saudi Arabia is trying to tackle its debt

Saudi Arabia has announced several austerity measures to deal with the country's mounting debt.

Last month, Saudi Arabia revealed a 72 billion riyal ($19.2 billion) program to boost private-sector growth, Bloomberg reported.

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“The only way to generate a recovery of growth in 2018 is through fiscal stimulus,” Crispin Hawes, a managing director at a London political risk consulting firm told Bloomberg.

In line with Vision 2030, which aims to "open up the country and diversify the economy," Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has led a crackdown on corruption by arresting 200 of the country's wealthiest individuals, whose assets are estimated to be worth $800 billion.

Saudi officials offered freedom to businessmen, royals and ministers detained in the purge in return for up to 70% of their wealth, which could net the Kingdom billions for funding the country's ambitious programs.

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