Saudi Arabia's banking regulator directs lenders to restructure loans without additional fees

Central bank issues a series of measures to ease the impact of the coronavirus outbreak

A general view shows an empty street after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 24, 2020. Picture taken March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
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Saudi Arabia's banking regulator instructed banks to adjust or restructure financing without charging additional fees as part of a series of measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the private sector, preserve jobs and ensure business continuity.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Fund (SAMA) also directed banks to provide financing for individuals who have lost their jobs in the private sector and to waive fees related to transactions through Internet banking, the central bank said in a statement on its website on Sunday.

"SAMA approved new precautionary measures in order to support efforts to combat the impact of the rapid spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) on various economic sectors," it said.

SAMA also asked banks to re-assess interest rates and other fees imposed on credit cards for new and existing clients, according to the statement.

The banking regulator said it is monitoring the impact of the spread of the coronavirus on various economic sectors, including finance and banking.

SAMA will provide all necessary support to preserve the stability of the banking sector so that lenders can continue to finance various business activities and economic sectors.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia unveiled a 50 billion riyal (Dh48.9bn) stimulus package to shore up its private sector and offset the coronavirus's impact on the economy.

On Sunday the kingdom said it is extending the suspension of all international and domestic passenger flights indefinitely amid heightened precautions to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid-19 outbreak is the greatest challenge facing the world economy since the 2008 global financial crisis. It has disrupted global supply chains, tourism, aviation, oil prices and wiped about $20 trillion from stock markets globally.

Globally, the number of confirmed cases surpassed 681,000, while the death toll climbed to more than 31,000 and the number of people who have recovered reached more than 145,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.