04/29/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Riyadh announces measures against record inflation of 9.6%

The rise in the cost of living is affecting all of the Gulf countries, the leading oil producers in the world, and is linked in part to the weakness of the dollar. The Saudi government reduces tariffs on food products and construction materials, and offers subsidies to the population.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - The Saudi government has instituted the first measures against inflation, which reached 9.6% in March, the highest level in the last 20 years.  In February, it was at 8.7%.  The problem of inflation affects all the Gulf countries, the world's leading oil producers, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and is at least partly connected to the weakness of the dollar, to which all of the region's currencies are pegged with the exception of Kuwait, where inflation reached 9.53% in January.

The reduction of import duties on some foods and on construction materials and the payment of subsidies and welfare assistance are some of the measures that the Saudi government announced yesterday to help citizens confront an intolerable rise in prices.

In demonstration of the concern of the government, yesterday's meeting saw the presence of King Abdullah, according to information given to the national news agency SPA by culture and information minister Iyad Madani.

Import tariffs have already been reduced from 20% to 5% for food products like frozen poultry, oil, and cheese.  Tariffs have been brought to the same level for construction products like paint, gypsum, electrical cables, and plastic pipes, while they have been completely eliminated for wheat and its derivatives.

The government has also approved the study of measures to diversify the sources of imported goods, and a new law to combat trade fraud.

John Safakianakis, chief economist of the Saudi British Bank, in an interview with Arab News says that "we would have to see the exact measures to form an opinion but the government is right to address living standards".

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