JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Saudi buyers have rushed to buy items with large tickets such as gold, equipment and electronics before the reported tripling of basic goods taxes on Wednesday as the government tries to raise revenue for its devastated economy. from coronavirus and low oil prices.
The government is tripling the Value Added Tax, or VAT, on basic goods and services from 5% to 15%, starting on Wednesday. It comes after the Saudi economy is now projected to contract 6.8% this year, according to the latest forecasts from the International Monetary Fund.
To defeat the tax hike, the Saudis have filled malls, supermarkets and some car dealerships in recent days as shops reopened after weeks of blockages and restrictions due to the virus.
The kingdom eased restrictions on gyms, restaurants, businesses and rallies in recent weeks – even as the number of deaths from the virus continues to rise. On Tuesday, the kingdom said 50 died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, to a total of 1,649 deaths among the more than 190,000 cases confirmed so far.
However, consumer spending in May amid a partial easing of restrictions fell nearly 16% compared to a year ago, according to Jadwa Investment. The Saudi economy contracted 1% in the first quarter of 2020.
The virus has also stripped the kingdom of billions of dollars in revenue this year from Hajj pilgrimage, which normally draws 2.5 million people for five days of intense worship in Mecca.
Saudi authorities have said the pilgrimage, which begins in late July this year, will be “very limited” and could involve as few as 1,000 pilgrims from the kingdom’s existing residents due to concerns about the spread of the virus in large crowds.
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