Saudi Arabia reports 18% drop in expat remittances as saudisation takes its toll

Pedro Gonçalves
Saudi Arabia reports 18% drop in expat remittances as saudisation takes its toll

Expat remittances fell by 18% in November, according to Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA). The banking authority said  $2.6bn (SAR9.9bn) was transferred by expats in November, compared to $3.2bn (SAR12bn) in the same month last year, 

SAMA said remittances by Saudis also dropped by 39.5% - $1.2bn (SAR4.8bn) in November, compared to $2.1bn (SAR7.9bn) in 2017. The value of retail (point of sale) transactions in the kingdom reached a record $56bn (SAR210bn) for the first 11 months of this year, up from $48bn (SAR180bn) in 2017.

Annual remittances sent by expatriates in Saudi Arabia could drop by SAR6bn ($1.6bn) if the government implements the Saudisation of jobs in the grocery industry, local daily Saudi Gazette reported.

Nationalising the sector could also generate more than 35,000 jobs for Saudis, economists told the paper.

However, they also added that such a move should be preceded by a number of steps including the training of Saudi nationals.

Quoting official figures, economic expert Luai Tayyar estimated that there were more than 160,000 expatriates working in grocery stores around the kingdom.

"It might not be possible to replace expatriates working in the groceries by 100 per cent during the initial years, especially those in the remote areas, due to their large number and the different sizes of shops they serve," he told the paper.

New Saudisation rules in the kingdom - particularly in the retail sector - have seen hundreds of thousands of legal foreign workers leave the country in recent months.

General Authority for Statistics figures showed that the number of employed non-Saudis decreased 290,381 in the second quarter, from 10.18 million to 9.89 million after declining 234,000 the previous quarter.

This meant the total workforce also decreased from 13.333 million to 13.018 million.