August 3, 2016
Almost 16,000 Indian and Pakistani workers are stuck in Saudi Arabian camps without food and water, or visas to leave the country, after construction companies were forced to cut jobs as oil prices plummeted.
There are 7,700 Indians and 8,000 Pakistanis stranded, according to Bloomberg citing the foreign ministries in New Delhi and Islamabad.
More than 4,000 former workers for Riyadh-based construction and management company Saudi Oger have been abandoned in camps, said the Indian Foreign Ministry. It added that India’s Embassy is providing food to workers in 20 camps in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said his government will help the stranded workers “in all possible ways.” It’s estimated 1.8 million Pakistanis are employed in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government has cut spending as sliding oil prices hit the kingdom’s economy. Payment delays increased lately as the government cut spending on contracts to preserve cash. The construction sector is the hardest hit as companies depend heavily on government business for cash.
The Saudi Ministry of Labor said construction workers have complained about not being paid for months.
According to the country’s National Commercial Bank, construction contracts dropped by about 50 percent in the first quarter of 2016. No contracts have been awarded by the government since the end of last year, the bank said.
Saudi Arabia is facing a huge budget deficit which is expected to reach $87 billion this year. It comes on the back of a falling crude price with oil sales accounting for almost 80 percent of the country’s revenue. The kingdom’s economic growth is forecast to slow to 1.5 percent this year, the lowest level in seven years.