| 30 May 2024, Thursday |

Saudi Central Bank to extend loan relief programme for SMEs until December

The Saudi Central Bank has extended loan relief measures for small and medium enterprises by another three months.

The steps were introduced last year to ease the effects of Covid-19 on the private sector and help smaller businesses through the pandemic.

The Deferred Payment Programme, which was established in March last year, has been extended until December 31, the Saudi Central Bank said in a statement on Tuesday.

The scheme was previously extended in June for three months until September 30.

The programme has been extended “for the benefit of micro, small and medium enterprises [MSME] that continue to be affected by the Covid-19 precautionary measures”, the central bank said.

The extension of the relief programme to MSMEs is “based on the assessment of the financing entities”.

So far, the value of deferred payments stands at 174 billion riyals ($46.4bn), while guaranteed financing through another programme has allowed companies to tap another 11bn riyals.

“The purpose of these programmes has been to support the private sector as well as financial system liquidity, which should help in easing the economic impact of the Covid-19 precautionary measures on the MSMEs sector,” said Sama, as the central bank is known.

Sama has taken a number of measures to stabilise the kingdom’s economy since the onset of the pandemic last year, cutting interest rates and implementing a 50bn riyal stimulus package.

Saudi Arabia’s quick response to counter the Covid-19 pandemic has curtailed its impact on the kingdom’s economy, which is expected to expand 2.1 per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund said in May.

The pace of recovery will accelerate next year, as the largest Arab economy will expand 4.8 per cent in 2022, after contracting 4.1 per cent in 2020, the IMF said.

Higher oil prices, the easing of Opec+ production caps and the introduction of a mass inoculation programme to stem the pandemic will drive Saudi Arabia’s economic growth up until the end of 2024, S&P Global Ratings said on Tuesday.

A sharp rise in the non-oil gross domestic product of the kingdom will also support economic growth momentum, S&P said in its review of Saudi Arabia. It estimates the kingdom will grow 2.4 per cent annually on average throughout the 2021-24 period.

  • The National News