Gulf Governments Up Fees To Patch Budget Black Holes

The crushing drop in oil prices over the past two years has forced Gulf States to look again at the tax-free perks they offer.

As the price of oil has halved to around $50 a barrel, many Gulf governments have had to deal with a new financial reality as the petrodollars have dried up.

In the latest move, Saudi Arabia is set to levy municipal fees paid by businesses on services ranging from garbage collection to providing telecommunications networks.

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs is bringing in the new charges from December 9.

But the government has decided to give a light touch to businesses by setting the fees at lower than recommended levels.

Ministers see salaries shrink

The Saudi government is struggling to plug a $98 million budget black hole and is looking at a host of suggestions to help raise cash from increasing parking fines to higher charges for visas.

Also under the axe are salaries paid to government ministers and an effective pay cut for public workers for the first time as some perks and bonuses are scrapped.

Pay packets for ministers will shrink by a fifth, while car and housing benefits will be slashed by 15%.

Other workers will have overtime bonuses cut to no more than 25% of their annual salaries and paid leave will be limited to 30 days a year.

Problems with balancing the books have also spread to other Gulf States.

Oman has just announced expats must pay up to 50% more for visas.

The Ministry of Manpower has confirmed visa fees for private sector workers will go up from $522 to $782.

Visa app for UAE

A small fee has also been introduced for worker’s changing their residency status or moving employers.

Oman has a $9.1 billion budget deficit. The government hopes to raise $384 million every year.

No starting date was announced for the new fees.

Meanwhile, expats heading for the United Arab Emirates can apply for visas lasting up to 90 days from smartphones.

The app is available worldwide, with a special version on board Emirates Airlines flights.

Expats can complete a profile, visa details and pay online.

The app is available from Google Play and the Apple App Store

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