World

Saudi Arabia Changes to 'Western' Calendar

| by Sarah Zimmerman

The oil-rich country of Saudi Arabia has officially changed to the Western Gregorian calendar so it can pay its civil servants less.

Since 1932, the Gulf country has been using the lunar Islamic Hirji calendar, which means that years are 11 days shorter than they are in the West. Because the country pays its employees on an annual basis, this new change would mean that there are now 11 extra days that Saudis will be expected to work each year for the same salary, according to Deutsche Welle.

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This is only one of many changes made by a cash-strapped government to save money and cut costs. Other changes include cancelling employee bonuses, cutting vacation days and decreasing salaries of ministers by up to 20 percent.

Most notably, the country has also hiked fees for entry visas into the country. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and is home to Mecca, the religion's holiest site. Every year, millions of Muslims make a religious pilgrimage to Mecca, which is something all devout Muslims are required to do.

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The country has been trying to reign in lavish public spending during a period of economic recession, according to the Independent. Saudi Arabia has been unable to compete with cheaper U.S. gas and, for the first time, has cut oil production. A war with Yemen has stretched the country to its financial limits. 

Public debt is expected to climb from the current 7.7 percent of the country's economic output to an unheard of 30 percent by 2020.

The huge cuts in wages is a part of Prince Mohammed Bin Naif’s "Vision 2030" plan, which hopes to decrease public wage spending from 45 to 40 percent, according to the Independent.

The cuts will affect all parts of the Saudi public sector, including the military. Gulf News reports that government agencies will have 60 days to change their worker agreements to comply with the new law.  

Sources: Deutsche Welle, Gulf News, Independent / Photo credit: Maher Najm/Flickr

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