The Saudi Initiative for Mitigating COVID-19 Impact: The Ministry of HR and Social Development

The initiatives taken by the Saudi government in light of the COVID-19 outbreak are unmatched globally, with around 30 new regulatory moves in motion as of March 18. The Saudi government is investing SR120 billion to mitigate potential damages and overcome the challenges the virus outbreak poses, with SR70 billion dedicated to the private sector and a SR50 billion contribution from SAMA (Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority) directed mainly towards financial institutions, banks and small facilities. These initiatives are taken in order to solidify financial stability and support financial activities to the highest degree of normalcy possible. 

The Ministry of HR and Social Development has launched a series of initiatives directly targeting the private sector’s maintenance of activity. Exemptions are made for expats with expiring residencies between March and June 30, expanding their work visas for three months for free. The Ministry also announced a refund of all visa applications for workers whose arrivals were anticipated during the quarantine period. For those workers, even if the visas were acquired, they are extended for a period of three months also for free. The Ministry also made these regulatory changes easily accessible through its online platform and they were immediately made effective on its website. 

In order to reduce the impact on the private sector, the Ministry of HR and Social Development lifted the suspensions on wage protection for the time being, as well as suspensions on businesses in the private sector until activity resumes. Suspensions due to failure to meet penalty payments are also lifted, and penalties related to corporate immigration are suspended. Perhaps the most notable regulatory change by the Ministry was the flexibility in worker exchange among businesses through the Ajeer portal, where workers can relocate regardless of the firm’s activity. This helps manage workloads and reduce the workforce-related efforts among affected businesses, while providing the necessary workforce for businesses under high demand in the current situation. Among the ministry’s actions to relieve private sector organizations is the immediate registration of a Saudi national in Nitaqat. 

More COVID-19-related updates here.