Cash-strapped Saudi Arabia switches to Gregorian calendar to pay civil servants less

A Saudi man poses with Saudi riyal banknotes. © Faisal Al Nasser
Saudi Arabian civil servants will lose 11 days of pay after the country switched to the Gregorian calendar, the predominant format for organizing time in the West. The switch is part of austerity measures meant to curb the budget deficit.

Previously, only the private sector of the Gulf monarchy used the Gregorian calendar of its oil customers to calculate salaries, while the public sector has used the Islamic lunar Hijri calendar since 1932. Under it, a year comprises of 12 months lasting 354 or 355 days, or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. The salaries are calculated on annual basis, so a longer year translates into less payment for the employees.

The switch came into force on Sunday, the last day of the year 1437 AH, and is part of a wider austerity effort that the Saudi government is enacting to cut budgetary spending, Gulf News reported.

Riyadh is also curbing financial perks for public servants, salaries of officials, annual bonuses, transport allowances, and the number of annual holidays. The new rules apply to both civilian and military officials regardless of their nationality, according to the report.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has been hit hard by the drop in crude oil prices that began in 2014, forcing it to attempt massive reform to cut spending and diversify the economy.

OPEC nations have been struggling to agree on freezing output, a measure that would help stabilize prices, amid Riyadh’s confrontation with Tehran over Iran’s market share, which it wants to regain following the lifting of US-championed sanctions on its oil trade.