Taxing expats under spotlight

FEATURED NEWS ARTICLE:

The long pending issue of imposing income tax on foreigners would come up again for discussion at the Shoura Council on Sunday. The finance committee of the Shoura has recommended carrying out fresh studies on imposing tax on all foreigners working in both public and private sectors in the Kingdom, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported yesterday.

"Zakat is not a tax levied by a government, nor is it a voluntary contribution. It is first and foremost a duty enjoined by God and hence a form of worship."

The new proposal was made by Muhammad Al-Quwaihes, member of the Shoura, who presented it as an additional recommendation attached to the annual report of the Department of Zakat and Income Tax, which had already been discussed by the Shoura.

According to Al-Quwaihes, levying income tax on foreigners would be helpful in further boosting the ongoing Saudization drive. “Foreigners working in the Kingdom transfer about SR100 billion to their countries of origin annually.

The government is neither levying a single riyal in tax or Zakat on their remittance nor do they need to pay any kind of taxes,” he said.

Al-Quwaihes noted that most of the countries in the world impose income tax on individuals who work and earn money in those countries. “It is high time to impose income tax on foreigners. It is also to be noted that foreign workers are beneficiaries of all government support and subsidies given to utility services and products such as water, electricity, wheat, and petroleum products,” he said.

Nearly a decade ago, the Shoura Council reviewed the possibility of imposing taxes on foreign workers but later the proposal was put on the shelf. There are eight million foreigners in the Kingdom, an overwhelming majority of them working in the private sector.

Both Saudi and expatriate employees working in the Kingdom had to pay income tax until it was abolished in 1975. Later, there were moves to reintroduce income tax on foreigners in late 80s. However, in 1988, King Fahd scrapped the plans.

At present, only Saudi citizens and Saudi companies need to pay Zakat of 2.5 percent annually on profits and on the assessable amount for individuals, in addition to a 45 percent tax on foreign investors.

In a bid to attract more foreign investment into the Kingdom, the government slashed, in 2004, the tax rate imposed on foreign investors from 45 to 20 percent.

By RIYADH: ARAB NEWS

Published: Mar 30, 2012 23:56 Updated: Mar 30, 2012 23:56

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Expats Top Ten Attributes at Work in Saudi Arabia

The business set up in Saudi Arabia is exceptionally conservative and to make sure successful cross cultural working environment you will need to uphold a proper degree of formality.  

1)  Superiors and those in senior positions are always deferred to and be treated with utmost respect. Treat your co-workers with respect as well.

2)  Do not question the decisions that has been reached inside the workplace or in a round table. Decisions are only made by the highest-ranking employees while in general their subordinates will wait to be told what to do.

3)   When working with people from Saudi Arabia, it’s advisable to bolster the importance of the deadline agreed upon. Saudi educated managers appreciate the importance of executing deadlines and work schedules.

4)   Saudis are tough in negotiating table at work. They believe that everything is open to discussion and should arrived a concrete decision on the matter and repeating your main points will be interpreted that “you’re telling the truth” and “they’re telling lies”. You may need to compromise on a point if someone’s honor is at stake.

5)   Saudi’s sensibilities are common in the working environment, so ensure you don’t offend colleagues by telling them “you are wrong” on a certain decision that were made. Business and friendship go hand in hand in Saudi Arabia.

6)  It is necessary to get to know your associates in the workplace. As an expat it is good to note that the traditional Saudi greeting is “As-Salaam-Alaikum” which means “Peace Be Upon You. The traditional response is “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” means  “and Peace Be Upon You”. Saudis are very proud of their culture, learning this small phrase is very pleasing to them. 

7)  When meeting, you should shake hands with everyone present, starting with the most senior and proceed anti-clockwise around the room and eye contact is important as this will show honesty and naturalness

8)   Saudi Arabians have a different sense of personal space to expatriate workers and most likely stand close to you while talking or discussing something. The significance is placed on politeness and the building of relationships, so always be considerate and civil.

9)  Saudi’s address each other in the workplace by “Ab” or “Abu”, this means “Father” and usually followed by the name of their son ie: “Abu Sultan” or “Abu Saad” (Father of Saad or Father of Sultan).  Do not address them using “Ab” or “Abu”,  it may cause offense as it is usually only done if you are close personal friends. Saudi traditional greeting will do followed by a sincere smile.   

10)  The Saudis have a relaxed attitude towards timekeeping. Meeting decisions often take time but never show impatience as this will be regarded as a sign of weakness and defeat.

If you have this kind of attributes at work  in Saudi Arabia, surely you will be rewarded with  respect and you will always be treated someone special.  

About the Author:  Manuel Amora is an Overseas Filipino Worker who’s been working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 18 years. He is now working at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology-KACST, a Saudi government institution. He is also an active Filipino Community leader, helping fellow OFWs to be aware of their rights and obligation as expatriate workers in the Kingdom.  

Sponsorship system open to widespread abuse

FEATURED ARTICLE  taken from ARABNEWS

 

The Saudi system of sponsorship, or kafala, is still a topic of heated debate as the unjustified extortion of expatriate employees by their sponsors continues.

The sponsorship system supposedly organizes work contracts, salary, visas, vacation and repatriation.

Overseas Filipino Workers at Construction Site (Photo from Al Arabiya News)

However, there have been many instances of sponsors exploiting and mistreating workers under them by various means. A sponsor might take an employee’s passport and iqama (residence permit) or refuse to pay the wage on time. Instead of providing jobs to expatriate workers under them, some sponsors ask them to find work elsewhere and force them to pay a monthly fee. All these are unlawful in Saudi Arabia, but expatriate workers do not complain to the authorities fearing further mistreatment and deportation.

Statistics issued by the Ministry of Labor confirm that about 9 million expatriates currently live and work in the Kingdom. Many of those expatriates are victims of extortion by their sponsors.

The National Society for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia issued a study to organize the rights of sponsors and workers. The study was issued two years ago but its recommendations remain unimplemented, said Mufleh Al-Qahtani, the NSHR chairman. “Changing the word ‘kafala’ to ‘work contract’ has been applied, but that doesn’t change the way sponsors treat their employees,” he said. “We want to create a governmental body or organization that would manage all the conditions and affairs of expatriates. It would cancel the traditional role of the sponsor and ensure all rights are respected.”  read more>>>>>>> 

Sponsors should have a sense of humanity and a fear of God. “Such feelings would make the relationship more safe and fruitful, then the worker would have no reason to escape. I hope officials will revise our system and try to make it more fair” .  - Ibrahim Natto (Former dean of Student Affairs at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran)

Astillero nomination to POEA Board blocked by Philippine Embassy in Riyadh

(Updated  6:10 PM) 15.03.2012, RIYADH— The fight over the nomination of a new Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Board of Trustee, an agency that oversees the government employment program and protects the rights of Filipino migrant workers recently backfires with Philippine Embassy in Riyadh allegedly blocking the confirmation of  Dr. Carlito Astillero in the POEA Board.

It was known from DOLE Secretary Hon. Rosalinda Baldoz herself  that the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has written to her blocking the appointment  of former OFW Dr. Astillero to the Board.

This is the first time that a true bloodied OFW from Saudi Arabia has been nominated to the post.  The Philippine Consortium on Migration and Development (PHILCOMDEV) nominated the multi awarded and MOFYA 2011 Awardee  Dr. Astillero.

Philippine Consortium on Migration and Development (PHILCOMDEV) is a network of thirty-six (36) non – government and people’s organizations, microfinance institutions, cooperatives, community based organizations, networks, and individuals who are involved on the issue of migration, human rights and development – particularly the empowerment of migrants, overseas Filipinos, their families and communities as social development actors, addressing the social costs of migration, optimizing the benefits of migration, and contributing to people-oriented Philippine development.

Dr. Astillero in a letter addressed to the newly designate Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago said please, investigate this matter and let the truth come out. Although I have no interest anymore to serve as board of Director of POEA, I want to clear my name of the report of your Embassy staff.” Dr. AStillero in his letter lamented that  “If I have not done the best thing for our people in diaspora in Iran, Libya, and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia how come that former President Corazon Aquino awarded me Bagong Bayani in 1992 and President Fidel Ramos awarded me Outstanding OCW in 1994, and the same President Ramos again awarded me with Special Presidential Banaag and Sikat Award in 1996 and this not to mention my recent awards after retirement last July 26, 2011 the Model OFW Family of the Year 2011 Award (MOFYA) last December 7, 2011 and the Outstanding Balikbayan Reputation Award (OBR ) in December 9, 2011.”

Dr. Astillero and Engr. Robert Ramos (Two Filcom Leaders in Saudi Arabia nominated for POEA Board)

It was alleged that the former hospital the good doctor was working, the Al Mishari Hospital did wrong doings to its Filipino staff and Dr. Astillero had not done anything to help resolved their cases of complaints by Filipinos working in the said hospital. “The truth of the matter, humbly speaking, and all cases of complaints involving our Filipino staff could not have been solved without my intervention.” The emotional letter says addressed to Ambassador Tago.

Community leaders in Saudi Arabia believed that  the good doctor was framed by some other quarters opposed to the nomination. The nomination was blocked simply because of intrigues and to protect the Embassy staffs, POLO and OWWA’s from further humiliation for their negligence, failure, indifference and insensitiveness  to resolve grievances of OFWs complaints with employers.

“It is sad to note that the blockade would come from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh”  says Jun Aguilar, head of Philippine based organization Filipino Migrant Workers Group.  

Aguilar, also in a letter addressed to Ambassador Tago said This could had been the first time that a legitimate OFW coming fresh and directly from the ranks be appointed in any government line agencies serving the OFW sector had it not been blocked. The staff/official of our Embassy who is blocking the appointment could have shown some courtesy by contacting the nominee and asked his side on the alleged issue of his engagement with Al-Mishari Hospital.

The Sector was already celebrating upon hearing that Dr Astillero is to be appointed in POEA Board, we thought finally a voice in that very important policy making body would be represented legitimately. I just hope a fair inquiry/investigation be conducted and a report/explanation be provided to the Sector very soon”, Jun Aguilar added. 

The Embassy side had not received any request from the DOLE Secretary for background information or comment on your appointment as POEA BOD member”, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago  said, in an email reply to Dr. Astillero.

Ambassador Tago had just arrived from Manila and back in Riyadh two days ago.

“If my comment or opinion was asked, I believe you already know what I would have saidThe embassy will verify if anyone from the other agencies in Riyadh had received such a request or sent an unsolicited comment or reservation on your appointment.” Ambassador Tago added.

OFW Congress President Alex Veloso Bello said, that he will convene the OFW Congress to address the issue, this is unfair, if the Embassy is behind all these, therefore this is an insult to us seasoned leaders.”

If there was really a letter, verified coming from an embassy staff or its attached agencies and found to be just pure harassment to the nominee, the OFW Congress will write a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs and fight for the expulsion of the Embassy staff and ask DFA that he or she should not to be posted in any Philippine diplomatic post abroad.

Engr. Robert Ramos, a well respected community leader in Riyadh commented “that seems there was a political reason behind which I’m also victim at one point of time.  Ramos was also nominated to the POEA Board but was deleted on the list due to a mere technicality of requirements.

Former Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Rafael Seguis, now Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary promised to look into the matter and warn the community not to arrive into conclusion based on speculations, if  there was indeed a letter  from the Embassy, then we should look into it, verify and investigate, I am sure he or she will be identified.” Seguis added.

If the letter was sent through email and the sender hide his or her identity as Embassy staff then we can hire computer forensics experts to identify, dig deeper, analyze and trace who are those behind all these” said one Filipino community leader who is expert in IT based in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Astillero has been endorsed  in the past, as  OWWA  Administrator  by Filipino organization around the globe and now nominated as POEA Board by PHILCOMDEV.  –end- By: BongA

Filipino groups mourn community leaders’ death

By: RUDY ESTIMO JR., ARAB NEWS STAFF

Published: Mar 13, 2012 00:06 Updated: Mar 13, 2012 00:06

Various Filipino groups in the Saudi capital expressed sadness yesterday over the death of two former community leaders who had rendered various services to compatriots while working in the Kingdom.

“The passing of Florencio Coronado and Tony Apolto, former president and vice president of the Manggagawang Kapit-Bisig (MKB) respectively, is a great loss to the Filipino community in Riyadh,” OFW Congress President Alex Bello told Arab News.

Ka Flor (Florencio Coronado) Founding President-Mangagawang Kapit Bisig (MKB-RUH)

Coronado died on Friday morning at a local hospital due to cardiac arrest. He had been undergoing kidney dialysis for the last six years with the help of a Saudi foundation. Apolto died of a heart attack in the Philippines.

Bong Amora, OFW Congress secretary-general, also lamented “the loss of two selfless” community leaders. “Florencio was always there when the community needed help. Tony, on the other hand, was a good follower as well as a good leader,” he said.

Robert Ramos, president of the Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Filipino ng Al Babtain (SAMAFIL), also expressed sadness. “Their untimely death makes the heart sink. They were a tower of strength as far as helping the Filipino community is concerned. They were always around to lend a helping hand.”

Resty Sibug of the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers in the Central Region in Saudi Arabia (PSME-CRSA) expressed sadness too.

“It goes without saying that we, at the PSME-CRSA, are saddened by the passing of two erstwhile indefatigable community workers,” he said.

Angel Pantoja, former community leader in Riyadh who is now based in Manila, said in an email that he was greatly saddened by the loss of real community workers. “Vivian, Florencio’s wife, called me to relay the message that he had passed away in Riyadh,” Pantoja wrote in an email.

Ka Tony Apolto (right) w/ Jhun Aguilar (Filipino Migrant Workers Group-FMW) & Alex Bello (OFW Congress) during PPP Meeting. (Ka Tony was one of the original founding members of Partidong Pandaigdigang Pilipino)

Bello said when Coronado was still healthy, he was always around to help in community activities organized by the Philippine Embassy.

“He and his wife Vivian were indeed active in community activities. Vivian used to lead in singing the Philippine national anthem when the occasion called for it,” he said.

Apolto, on the other hand, died in his home province of Tarlac, north of Manila, where he was vacationing. “Early this year, he went home, but he had a heart attack before he could come back,” the OFW Congress president said.

Bello also called on all OFWs to renew their membership with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) when the time is due to ensure that they could avail of benefits if needed.

“I am calling on all OFWs to make sure their OWWA membership is valid. The daughter of Coronado, Jeane C. Catipon, referred her father’s case to the OWWA in Riyadh but it was found out that his membership had expired,” he said.

PhilEmb Advisory: Passport unclaimed for 6 months to be cancelled

 Press Release 041-2012 (12 March 2012) 

PASSPORTS UNCLAIMED FOR SIX MONTHS TO BE CANCELLED

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh reminds all Filipinos who applied for passports over six months ago and not claimed it yet to do so as soon as possible. 

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and all Philippine Foreign Service missions have been reminded to strictly implement Department Order No. 37-03 dated 23 September 2003 requiring the cancellation of passports unclaimed after six months from issuance.

Applicants who fail to claim the new passport within the six (6) period have to re-apply and pay the prescribed passport fees.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh shall cancel all Philippine passports unclaimed by the applicants or their authorized representatives after six (6) months from the date of issuance.

Filipinos are reminded to inform their respective employers accordingly to avoid unnecessary inconveniences.

Filipinos who have not claimed their passports issued in the past six months or more may call 01-482-3818 or send an email to consular@philembassy-riyadh.org. -end-

Beware of fake recruitment e-mails

Beware of fake recruitment e-mails

You are selected!

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration advises jobseekers to think twice before replying to e-mails with the said subject especially those coming from “international companies” they have never heard of before.

POEA Chief Cacdac

Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said an e-mail congratulating an applicant for being selected for a specific job he or she did not apply for reeks of a recruitment scam.

“When you post your resume to a job search site, you are opening your personal data to potential employers, and even scammers, so be careful,” Cacdac added.

The administrator said these e-mails promise employment in hospitals and caregiving establishments in Canada and the U.S.A. at almost no cost to the applicant but they have to pay for medical tests and interview coaching in the philippines.

Cacdac cited the case of a certain Fraser Health which recruits nurses and caregivers for supposed employment in Canada.

Upon verification, the real Fraser Health in Canada denied the e-mail came from them. The fake company uses free e-mail accounts at hushmail.com whereas the true Fraser Health uses their domain name fraserhealth.ca.

Cacdac said the come-ons offered by the fake company could be hard to refuse for some Filipino workers looking for overseas jobs. The e-mail said applicants would not be charged any placement or processing fee, and the cost of air fare And work visa would be paid by the employer. But the catch is they have to pay Php3,750.00 for “Canadian Embassy Interview Coaching” and medical tests costing up to Php5,000.00.

“Because the company is not real, the victims are unnecessarily spending hardearned money in pursuit of non-existent jobs,” Cacdac said.

Cacdac urges job applicants who received such recruitment e-mails to forward the same to info@poea.gov.ph for verification and proper action by the POEA and police authorities. ### (March 9, 2012)

New recruitment firms set to start operations

TODAY’S FEATURED ARTICLE:

The 13 recruitment companies that were given preliminary licenses will commence operations soon and will rent foreign workers and maids to interested Saudi and foreign clients at monthly payments ranging between SR1,000 and SR1,200, local daily Al-Madinah reported yesterday. It was quoting an official source at the Labor Ministry.

The source, however, said the monthly salaries would be fixed according to the theory of supply and the cost of recruitment.

“The companies will enable citizens and expatriates to hire foreign manpower with various professions except the specialized jobs, such as doctors and engineers, without incurring any additional costs like the Iqama and visa fees,” he said.

 The source explained the companies would be committed to provide suitable and safe accommodation for the foreign manpower under their sponsorship.

He said any of the recruitment companies should consist of at least five recruitment offices and added that each company would be given 1,000 work visas for each of its offices.

“The establishment of the companies was aimed at organizing the import of qualified manpower and to provide professional services,” he said.

Meanwhile, director of information and public relations Hattab bin Saleh Al-Anzi, who is the ministry’s official spokesman, said the ministry would hold workshops and meetings with representatives of the companies and the National Recruitment Committee of the Saudi Council of Chambers to discuss problems facing the establishment of the companies and other issues, including provision of accommodation for foreign manpower.

He said the paid-up capital of each company wishing to import workers and housemaids should not be less than SR50 million, while that of companies wishing to recruit foreign manpower for the public sector should not be less than SR100 million.

The spokesman explained that the companies, covering various regions of the Kingdom, should commence activities a year after obtaining the final licenses.

By JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS, Published: Mar 11, 2012 23:17  : Updated: Mar 11, 2012 23:17

Ma’asalama Joe!

A week ago I posted here in our blog a news item published in Saudi Gazette titled “Filipino Community Leader  in EP Honored” written by seasoned Filipino news correspondent Mr. Joe Avancena.  Today, in return, the whole Filipino community in Saudi Arabia honored him for making us proud as Filipinos in this country.  

Joe Avancena in heartbreaking news died apparently of heart attack, Thursday, March 8 at 5:20 PM at age 74.

He worked in Saudi Gazette, a leading English newspaper in the Kingdom for over 30 years, at first as a reporter and later as Bureau Chief.  He left Saudi Gazzette three years ago and took up a job as Editor at the Federation of GCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Dammam and kept on writing news articles with Saudi Gazette.

He earned his Master of Business Management/MBA degree at Philippine Christian University. He has spent much of his storied career in chronicling Filipino community events and OFW issues and concerns.

Joe witness the social and economic transformation of Saudi Arabia with deep understanding of their culture and history, the reason why he prefer to stay with his wife in the Kingdom rather going back home for good.  His widow,  Ana  is currently working as Administrative Assistant of Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)  in Al Khobar. They have two sons and five grandchildren.

The Filipino Community in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will miss Joe Avancena and our thoughts and prayers are with his family; Ma’asalama Joe!  

Labor disputes and unreasonable delay

FEATURED ARTICLE:

By QAISAR HAMED METAWEA ( Opinion on ARAB NEWS )

One of the aims of enacting labor laws is to protect the rights of employees from any abuse of their employers. Additionally, forming a robust system to resolve disputes is a cornerstone to protecting the rights of employees. However, having a fragile system to resolve disputes may, in actual fact, hinder protecting the rights of employees.

3,000 workers demanding their rights (click image)

Saudi Arabia has endeavored to protect the rights of employees as well as employers. The new Labor Law of Saudi Arabia, which was issued by the Royal Decree No. M/51 dated Sept. 27, 2005, was enacted to regulate labor matters as well as disputes. Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia has a serious dilemma with respect to resolving labor disputes in a timely manner. As such, disputes may take up to two years or more to be resolved for no justified reasons.

In most cases, the dispute process initially commences by an employee filing a complaint before the labor office. The labor office then attempts to resolve the dispute amicably between both parties. However, in the event of an unreachable agreement, the dispute will then be referred by the labor office to the Preliminary Commission for Settlement of Labor Disputes. When the Preliminary Commission issues its decision, it is deemed preliminary and not final in most of the cases and may be appealed before the High Commission for Settlement of Labor Disputes by one or both parties within thirty days from the date of utterance of the decision issued in the presence of the parties or from the date of notification of the decision in other cases.

However, if the decision of the Preliminary Commission is not appealed by one or both parties within the aforesaid period, the decision is considered final and enforceable. Nonetheless, if the decision of the Preliminary Commission is appealed before the High Commission, then the High Commission will only review the part(s) of the decision that one or both parties are appealing and issue its decision accordingly.

The duration of the above process could take up to two years or more; which equates to an absolute nightmare for employees, in particular expatriates.

To read more >>>>>>>>  

Filipino community leader in EP honored

AL-KHOBAR — Engineer Ernesto N. Mapanao, a longtime Filipino worker in the Eastern Province (EP), was honored here last Friday for supporting distressed compatriots and working with various Filipino community organizations throughout the years.

Mapanao received a plaque of recognition from the Overseas Filipino Workers Congress in EP (OFWC-EP), a pioneering Filipino association established 12 years ago in the Kingdom.

Photo by:Joe Avancena (SG)

The simple ceremony was held at the resident of Mary Jane Tupas, president of OFWC and the director of nursing of Mohamad Dosary Hospital.

Mapanao is leaving to join his family in Canada after some 20 years working as an engineer for leading Saudi companies in the oil and gas industries. Active in community affairs, he had served as the Third President of the Overseas Filipino Workers Congress (OFWC) from 2005- 2007.

Leading EP community leaders attended the event, including Dr. Gener Benter, Dr. Peter Marpa, Engr. Bong Dionisio, Martin Valenzuela, Chito Arcilla, Mulong Odsinada, George Palencia, Lito Tomas, Jun Mones, Charlie Rapanut, Ed Saballa and Orly Arcega.

taken from: Saudi Gazette-MARHABA 3 March 2012