Saudi to cut Saudi remittances

THE reported plan by Saudi Arabia to impose a remittance cap on its foreign workers has sparked worries anew in the Philippines whose economy is largely dependent on the annual remittances from its overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially those from the Middle East.

According to Saudi Labor Minister Adel Fakieh, the Saudi government is introducing a “salary protection” program designed to stop millions of Riyals from being transferred back to foreign workers’ home countries and thus, hurting Saudi economy.

Based on official figures, remittances to the Philippines from Saudi Arabia amounted to $1.544 billion in 2010 – or around 8.2 percent of the cumulative $18.763 billion in cash sent home by all OFWs from around the world.

There are about 1.5 million Filipinos working or residing in Saudi Arabia whose families at home depend on them for their day-to-day expenses.

This new Saudi program will naturally elicit worries among our officials due to the lack of details about it, leaving so much room for baseless speculations and unwarranted fears.

It might do well for both governments if there are concrete details given about the new program so that appropriate counter measures can be drawn immediately.

But be it as it may, this new program has once again struck a familiar chord in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia as it affects not only the welfare of Filipino migrant workers in the Kingdom – similar to the Saudization program and the continued deployment ban on Filipino domestic helpers – but also to our remittance-driven economy.

Of course, our government does not have a choice but respect and abide by the Saudi labor policies and prepare for whatever dire effects it may have on its economy.

But some lawmakers could not help but view these new policy initiatives of the Saudi government as repressive measures that might lead to a mass exodus of foreign workers in the Kingdom to other countries where demands for skilled Filipino workers have remained high.

At best, however, this latest policy initiative is a grim reminder for the Philippine government to develop its own economy and create high paying jobs for its people.

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