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The SAG offers several incentive programs to promote employment of Saudi nationals in certain cases. Saudi Arabia does not operate free trade zones or free ports. However, as part of its Vision program, the SAG has announced it will create special zones with special regulations to encourage investment and diversify government revenues.
During the G20 Leaders Summit in November , the SAG announced plans to launch special economic zones in that will be focused on greenfield investment in various sectors including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and digital industries. These zones will have a special legislative environment and include attractive incentives, according to the SAG. Overseen by MISA, these four economic cities aim to provide a variety of advantages to companies that choose to locate their operations within the city limits, including in matters of logistics and ease of doing business.
The cities are in various stages of development, and their future development potential is unclear, given competing Vision economic development projects. The Saudi Industrial Property Authority MODON in Arabic oversees the development of 35 industrial cities, including some still under development, in addition to private industrial cities and complexes.
MODON offers incentives for commercial investment in these cities, including competitive rents for industrial land, government-sponsored financing, export guarantees, and certain customs exemptions. In connection with this mission, RCJY promotes investment opportunities in the two cities and can offer a variety of incentives, including tax holidays, customs exemptions, low-cost loans, and favorable land and utility rates.
The government does not impose systematic conditions on foreign investment. In line with its bid to diversify the economy and provide more private sector jobs for Saudi nationals, the SAG has embarked on a broad effort to source goods and services domestically and is seeking commitments from investors to do so. NAMAA is responsible for monitoring and implementing regulations, suggesting new policies, and coordinating with the private sector on all local content matters.
The LCGPA is mandated to set local content requirements for individual contracts, track the amount of local content used by contractors, and obtain and audit commitments by contractors to use local content. Government-controlled enterprises are also increasingly introducing local content requirements for foreign firms. The SAG is currently mandating increasingly strict localization requirements for government contracts in the defense sector.
The Saudi electronic visitor visa system defaults to five-year visas for all U. Due to the demands of the COVID pandemic in , Saudi Arabia substantially accelerated its Vision digital transformation reform to move its economy to an e-services platform. Also in , infrastructure supporting the information and communications technology sector and 5G network expanded significantly.
In , the National Data Governance Interim Regulations were issued to deal mainly with government-related data. However, part 5 of the National Data Regulations addresses personal data protection and applies to all entities in Saudi Arabia that process personal data in whole or in part, as well as entities outside the Kingdom that possess personal data related to individuals residing in Saudi Arabia.
It remains unclear if the National Data Regulations are being enforced, as no sanctions for a potential breach are specified. Personal data is also protected under general provisions of Saudi law that impose strict obligations on businesses in relation to how, who, and when personal data can be collected, used, and stored.
It is unclear if personal data safeguards on government software applications rolled out during the COVID pandemic provide the same level of personal data protection. Data retention is also restricted; service providers are not allowed to retain personal data any longer than required to complete business transactions for which data was collected.
Also, sharing of data and customer information with third-party providers is prohibited without express permission. With increased emphasis on data-driven technologies, such as artificial intelligence AI , machine learning, cloud computing, blockchain, automation and robotics, the internet of things IoT , and smart mobility, among others, it is anticipated that further developments will occur in the data protection space in the near- to mid-term. The Framework governs the rights and obligations of cloud service providers, customers, businesses, and government entities, and includes data protection principles.
Unless expressly allowed by Saudi law, CCRF regulations do not allow cross-border data flows by cloud service providers or customers of sensitive business content, or of highly-sensitive and secret content belonging to government agencies and institutions. IoT providers and implementors must comply with existing and future published laws, regulations, and requirements concerning data management, which will likely continue to focus on cybersecurity and data security.
The law also requires consent from individuals whose personal data or documents are to be disclosed. For the first time, large American cloud, ISP, and ICT industry representatives have also provided feedback on how to protect consumer data while still enabling innovation and growth of the digital economy and cross-border trade.
The ECC sets the minimum cybersecurity requirements for national organizations that are within its scope of ECC implementation. There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to encryption. Other than a requirement to retain records locally for ten years for tax purposes, there is no requirement regarding data storage or access to surveillance. The Saudi legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property, consistent with the Islamic practice of upholding private property rights.
Non-Saudi corporate entities are allowed to purchase real estate in Saudi Arabia in accordance with the foreign-investment code. Other foreign-owned corporate and personal property is protected by law. Saudi Arabia has a system of recording security interests, and plans to modernize its land registry system. Saudi Arabia ranked 19th out of countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank Doing Business Report. This further liberalized stringent down-payment requirements that prevailed up to , when the central bank raised the maximum loan-to-value rate from 70 percent to 85 percent.
Saudi Arabia has been on the U. In the U. In , SAIP worked to consolidate IP protection competence, including creating a government-wide IPR respect program, establishing a specialized IP court, launching online and in-market enforcement programs, continuing market raids against counterfeit and pirated goods, and conducting significant pro-IPR awareness campaigns.
Saudi Arabia Customs Authority has significantly enhanced its IP enforcement efforts and capacity, seized and destroyed 2 million counterfeit items across all ports during in coordination with SAIP, partnered closely with trademark and copyright owners, and systematically notified right holders of suspected shipments. The United States government also continues to remain concerned about reportedly high levels of online piracy in Saudi Arabia, particularly through illicit streaming devices ISDs , which right holders report are widely available and generally unregulated in Saudi Arabia.
Industry reported in December that However, in August , beoutQ, a Saudi-based rampant satellite and online piracy service, ceased operations. In June , the SAIP announced that it had disabled access to websites that had been disseminating infringing content. Other concerns include the lack of seizure and destruction of counterfeit goods in enforcement actions, and limits on the ability to enter facilities suspected of involvement in the sale or manufacture of counterfeit goods, including facilities located in residential areas.
During the campaign, SAIP inspected shops and seized 9, counterfeit and illicit items in marketplaces. Pete C. Mehravari U. Embassy Abu Dhabi U. Saudi Arabia maintains an effective regulatory system governing portfolio investment in the Kingdom. The Capital Markets Law, passed in , allows for brokerages, asset managers, and other nonbank financial intermediaries to operate in the Kingdom. The law created a market regulator, the Capital Market Authority CMA , established in , and opened the Saudi stock exchange Tadawul to public investment.
Since , the CMA has progressively relaxed the rules applicable to qualified foreign investors, easing barriers to entry and expanding the foreign investor base. The CMA adopted regulations in permitting corporate debt securities to be listed and traded on the exchange; in March , the CMA authorized government debt instruments to be listed and traded on the Tadawul.
The banking system in the Kingdom is generally well-capitalized and healthy. The public has easy access to deposit-taking institutions. The legal, regulatory, and accounting systems used in the banking sector are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. Under the new law, the Saudi Central Bank is responsible for maintaining monetary stability, promoting the stability of and enhancing confidence in the financial sector, and supporting economic growth.
Saudi Arabia had been an observer member since The SAG has authorized increased foreign participation in its banking sector over the last several years. Morgan Chase N. A number of additional, CMA-licensed foreign banks participate in the Saudi market as investors or wealth management advisors. Citigroup, for example, returned to the Saudi market in early under a CMA license. Credit is normally widely available to both Saudi and foreign entities from commercial banks and is allocated on market terms.
In addition, credit is available from several government institutions, such as the SIDF, which allocate credit based on government-set criteria rather than market conditions. Companies must have a legal presence in Saudi Arabia to qualify for credit. The private sector has access to term loans, and there have been a number of corporate issuances of sharia -compliant bonds, known as sukuk. The Ministry of Finance has a pivotal role under the new GTPL by setting policies and issuing directives, collating and distributing information, maintaining a list of boycotts, and approving tender and prequalification forms, contract forms, performance evaluation forms, and other documents.
In , the Ministry of Finance launched the Electronic Government Procurement System Etimad Portal to consolidate and facilitate the process of bidding and government procurement for all government sectors, enhancing transparency amongst sectors of government and among competing entities. There is no limitation in Saudi Arabia on the inflow or outflow of funds for remittances of profits, debt service, capital, capital gains, returns on intellectual property, or imported inputs, other than certain withholding taxes withholding taxes range from five percent for technical services and dividend distributions to 15 percent for transfers to related parties, and 20 percent or more for management fees.
Since , when the last currency devaluation occurred, the official exchange rate has been fixed by SAMA at 3. Transactions typically take place using rates very close to the official rate. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest remitting countries in the world, with roughly 75 percent of the Saudi labor force comprised of foreign workers. There are no waiting periods in effect for remitting investment returns through normal legal channels. In an effort to rebalance its investment portfolio, the PIF has divided its assets into six investment pools comprising local and global investments in various sectors and asset classes: Saudi holdings; Saudi sector development; Saudi real estate and infrastructure development; Saudi giga-projects; international strategic investments; and an international diversified pool of investments.
The PIF also plans to establish a new major airline that will complement the state-owned Saudia formerly Saudi Arabian Airlines and compete with other major aviation companies in the region. SOEs play a leading role in the Saudi economy, particularly in water, power, oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, and transportation.
In December , the Kingdom fulfilled its long-standing promise to publicly list shares of its crown jewel — Saudi Aramco, the most profitable company in the world. The initial public offering IPO of 1. During the annual Future Investment Initiative conference held in January , the Crown Prince announced that Saudi Aramco would launch a second offering of shares as a continuation of the historical initial public offering of , but did not provide additional details.
Proceeds from a second floatation will be transferred to the PIF and will be reinvested domestically and internationally. Saudi Arabia has undertaken a limited privatization process for state-owned companies and assets dating back to The process, which is open to domestic and foreign investors, has resulted in partial privatizations of state-owned enterprises in the banking, mining, telecommunications, petrochemicals, water desalination, insurance, and other sectors.
As part of Vision reforms, the SAG has announced its intention to privatize additional sectors of the economy. In April , the SAG launched a Vision Privatization Program that aims to: strengthen the role of the private sector by unlocking state-owned assets for investment, attract foreign direct investment, create jobs, reduce government overhead, improve the quality of public services, and strengthen the balance of payments.
The program report references a range of approaches to privatization, including full and partial asset sales, initial public offerings, management buy-outs, public-private partnerships build-operate-transfer models , concessions, and outsourcing. While the privatization report outlines the general guidelines for the program and indicated 16 targeted sectors, it does not include an exhaustive list of assets to be privatized.
The report does, however, reference education, healthcare, transportation, renewable energy, power generation, waste management, sports clubs, grain silos, and water desalination facilities as prime areas for privatization or public-private partnerships.
The PSP law aims to increase private sector participation in infrastructure projects and in providing public services by supporting Public-Private-Partnerships PPP and privatization of public sector assets. Foreign firms have identified corruption as a barrier to investment in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has a relatively comprehensive legal framework that addresses corruption, but many firms perceive enforcement as selective. The Combating Bribery Law and the Civil Service Law, the two primary Saudi laws that address corruption, provide for criminal penalties in cases of official corruption. Ministers and other senior government officials appointed by royal decree are forbidden from engaging in business activities with their ministry or organization.
Saudi corruption laws cover most methods of bribery and abuse of authority for personal interest, but not bribery between private parties. The government is considering disclosure regulations for other officials, but has yet to finalize them. Some officials have engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and perceptions of corruption persist in some sectors, but combatting corruption remains a priority.
Nazaha reports directly to King Salman and has the power to dismiss a government employee even if not found guilty by the specialized anti-corruption court. Since its reorganization, Nazaha has not shied away from prosecuting influential players whose indiscretions may previously have been ignored. Throughout , Nazaha published monthly press releases detailing its arrests and investigations, often including high-ranking officials, such as generals and judges, from every ministry in the SAG.
SAMA, the central bank, oversees a strict regime to combat money laundering. The Basic Law of Governance contains provisions on proper management of state assets and authorizes audits and investigation of administrative and financial malfeasance. The Government Tenders and Procurement Law regulates public procurements, which are often a source of corruption. The law provides for public announcement of tenders and guidelines for the award of public contracts.
National Anti-Corruption Commission P. Nazaha accepts complaints about corruption through its website www. The Department of State regularly reviews and updates a travel advisory to apprise U. The Travel Advisory urges U. Please visit www. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development MHRSD sets labor policy and, along with the Ministry of Interior, regulates recruitment and employment of expatriate labor, which makes up a majority of the private-sector workforce.
About 76 percent of total jobs in the country are held by expatriates, who represent roughly 38 percent of the total population of approximately Saudis occupy about 93 percent of government jobs, but only about 24 percent of the total jobs in the Kingdom. Roughly 46 percent of employed Saudi nationals work in the public sector. With approximately 60 percent of the Saudi population under the age of 35, job creation for new Saudi labor market entrants will prove a serious challenge for years.
In , the Ministry of Labor and Social Development the forerunner of MHRSD laid out a sophisticated plan known as Nitaqat, under which companies are divided into categories, each with a different set of quotas for Saudi employment based on company size. The SAG has taken additional measures to strengthen the Nitaqat program and expand the scope of Saudization to require the hiring of Saudi nationals.
The MHRSD has mandated that certain job categories in specific economic sectors only employ Saudi nationals, beginning with mobile phone stores in The ministry has likewise mandated that only Saudi women can occupy retail jobs in certain businesses that cater to female customers, such as lingerie and cosmetics shops.
Many elements of Saudization and Nitaqat have garnered criticism from the private sector, but the SAG claims these policies have substantially increased the percentage of Saudi nationals working in the private sector over the last several years and has indicated that there is flexibility in implementation for special cases.
In , the SAG launched the latest phase of an ongoing campaign to deport illegal and improperly documented workers. These measures have also significantly increased labor costs for employers, both Saudi and foreign alike. Domestic workers are not covered under the provisions of either the regulations or the LRI; separate regulations covering domestic workers were issued in , stipulating employers provide at least nine hours of rest per day, one day off a week, and one month of paid vacation every two years.
Saudi Arabia has taken significant steps to address labor abuses, but weak enforcement continues to result in credible reports of employer violations of foreign employee labor rights. In some instances, foreign workers and particularly domestic staff encounter employer practices including passport withholding and non-payment of wages that constitute trafficking in persons.
Overtime is normally compensated at time-and-a-half rates. The minimum age for employment is Non-Saudis have the right to appeal to specialized committees in the MHRSD regarding wage non-payment and other issues.
Detailed data for inward direct investment below is as of , which is the latest available breakdown of inward FDI by country. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites. Saudi Arabia. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties 3. Legal Regime 4. Industrial Policies 5. Protection of Property Rights 6. Financial Sector 7. State-Owned Enterprises 8. Responsible Business Conduct 9.
Corruption Political and Security Environment Labor Policies and Practices Contact for More Information. Structural impediments to foreign investment in Saudi Arabia remain. Foreign investment is currently prohibited in 10 sectors on the Negative List , including: Oil exploration, drilling, and production; Catering to military sectors; Security and detective services; Real estate investment in the holy cities, Mecca and Medina; Tourist orientation and guidance services for religious tourism related to Hajj and umrah; Printing and publishing subject to a variety of exceptions ; Certain internationally classified commission agents; Services provided by midwives, nurses, physical therapy services, and quasi-doctoral services; Fisheries; and Poison centers, blood banks, and quarantine services.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment Saudi Arabia fully recognizes rights to private ownership and the establishment of private business. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties Saudi Arabia has signed bilateral trade and investment agreements with over 20 countries.
Competition and Antitrust Laws The General Authority for Competition GAC reviews merger transactions for competition-related concerns, investigates business conduct, including allegations of price fixing, can issue fines, and can approve applications for exemptions for certain business conduct.
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