Jeddah - 'Non-Saudis will be allowed to own real estate and run trade, industry and service firms."
Expatriates residing in Saudi Arabia have lauded Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence's plans to offer a US Green Card-like system, which would offer permanent residency to the nearly 10 million expats in the Kingdom, Saudi Gazette reported.
"The Green Card-like program and a plan to allow employers to hire more foreign workers above their official quotas for a fee could generate $10 billion a year each," the deputy crown prince had told Bloomberg in an exclusive interview.
Talking to the daily and Okaz, Nidal Ridwan, chairman of the Federation of Labor Committees in the Kingdom, said that he expected the formation of an independent authority to implement the new system.
He added the new authority under the Cabinet would supervise implementation of the system. It will have representatives from the ministries of economy and planning, interior, labor, commerce and industry, and finance, as well as Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority and General Organization for Social Insurance.
"The new system will bring a lot of economic and social benefits. Non-Saudis will pay what the Saudis pay including Zakat, value added tax and insurance premiums. They will be allowed to own real estate and run trade, industry and service firms."
Quoting a long-time Jeddah resident, Dr MS Karimuddin, he said that he will be among the first to apply if the system is implemented.
"This will give confidence to them that they belong to this country. Already we are very satisfied with everything here. But this initiative will give excellent opportunity to expatriates to serve more."
Another resident, Zulqarnain Ali Khan, a Pakistani resident and businessman, said: "It is a positive move and a visionary initiative," adding that the benefits of such a system would be much larger as expatriates will come and open their businesses here. It will also help build local skills and develop human resources.
The planned move is part of an ambitious package of reforms to move away from oil based revenue to raise at least an extra $100 billion a year by 2020. The planned Green Card system could generate $10 billion, and another $10 billion is expected to be generated from the fees imposed to exceed foreign worker quotas.
The plan is part of Saudi Arabia's economic diversification plan, in a bid to create non-oil revenue streams amidst falling oil prices.
It is noteworthy that Prince Mohammed bin Salman had not divulged much about the 'permanent residency' program in the interview.
While the Green Card system could generate $10 billion - another $10 billion is expected to be generated from the fees imposed to exceed foreign worker quotas.
The measures would raise at least an extra $100 billion a year by 2020, which would more than triple non-oil income and balance the budget, Bloomberg reported.
US Green Card is a lawful permanent residency which allows a person to live and work there.
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