Saudi government drops Islamic calendar

Sunday 09/10/2016
A Saudi man walks past the logo of Vision 2030 after a news conference, in Jeddah, last June. (Reuters)

Riyadh - The Hijri calendar has become the lat­est casualty of Saudi Arabia’s cost-cutting measures. From the beginning of October — and for the first time — Riyadh will pay government workers according to the Gregorian calendar, mak­ing the average working month for its employees longer and in line with the private sector.

According to the Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette, the deci­sion by the Saudi Council of Ministers was announced Sep­tember 26th and “government employees will lose 11 days of payment under the revised mechanism”. The Hijri calen­dar — used by many Muslims countries to determine Islamic holidays — is lunar-based and consists of 12 months of 29 or 30 days and is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar.

The calendar change came during the same cabinet ses­sion that saw the kingdom slash ministerial salaries by 20% and curtail allowances and bonuses for all government employees.

Approximately 70% of Saudi employees work in government jobs. Government employees’ salaries and allowances ac­counted for 45% of govern­ment spending in 2015. Work­ing hours in the civil service are shorter and holidays longer than in the private sector.

In April, Saudi Arabia un­veiled its Vision 2030 plan, an ambitious diversification pack­age of economic and social policies designed to reduce the country’s dependence on oil. The plan also aims to improve the transparency and efficiency of governmental bodies and empower the private sector.