Saudi Arabia set for 24-hour trading

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RIYADH
The Saudi government has decided to allow businesses in the kingdom to operate for 24 hours as the country is seeking to diversify and boost economic activities. The extended hours will be in exchange for fees that the minister of municipal and village affairs will determine according to considerations that he will estimate, the official Saudi news agency SPA reported. The minister will also specify the commercial activities that will be exempted from the fees based on public interest and the nature of the activity, the agency added.
It was not immediately clear when the decision will take effect. But it drew instant praise. Head of the Riyadh Chamber Ajlan Al Ajlan said the move will create 45,000 jobs in the retail sector, in addition to 45,000 additional indirect and part-time jobs. The decision will also contribute to a rise in the commercial activity of the small and medium-scale enterprises by 14 to 16 per cent, he added.
It will increase the overall restaurant business by around 11 per cent and the economic value of the entertainment sector by about 9 per cent, Al Ajlan added, according to Saudi online newspaper Ajel. A government official, meanwhile, denied that the decision stops the mandatory closure of shops during the prayer times. This decision has nothing to do with this issue, Khaled Al Degheithar, the undersecretary of the Ministry of the Municipal and Village Affairs, said.
The decision does not include doing commercial activities during the prayer time, the official told Al Arabia television. The aim is just to regulate practising commercial activities after the permitted working hours. It did not mention allowing or closing businesses during the prayer time. Stores have to close five times a day during the prayer times in Saudi Arabia.

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