Saudi Arabia denies plans to introduce expat remittance fee

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance has denied reports that it was planning to impose fees on the remittances of foreign workers.

The kingdom is home to more than 10 million foreign workers who in 2017 sent around $38bn back home.

The ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency that the country was committed to supporting the free movement of capital through official channels in accordance with international standards and practices.

The ministry also said such approach comes in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 to diversify the economy and attract foreign investments. The statement was issued in response to “baseless and unfounded” media reports.

The ministry said keeping the remittances free of fees “will also enhance foreign investors’ confidence in the Kingdom’s economy and financial systems.”

In neighbouring Kuwait, the country’s parliamentary financial and economic affairs committee in April approved bills stipulating fees on expat remittances which are expected to bring in over $230 million to Kuwaiti coffers.

Saudi Arabia saw one of the largest outflows of remittances in the world last year, based on data published by the World Bank.

The largest outflows were from the US at $67bn and Saudi Arabia at $38bn.

It said that the countries with the largest inflows in 2017 were India with $69bn, China at $64bn, the Philippines $33bn and Mexico with $31bn.

According to the World Bank, the world’s 266 million migrant workers sent a record $466bn to developing countries last year following two consecutive declines and the money bound for home this year is projected to increase to $485bn.

The share of foreign workers, however, is higher in the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar where about four out of every five workers is from abroad.

Pedro Gonçalves
Pedro Gonçalves is Financial Correspondent at International Investment.

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