Saudi Arabia has released about US$1 billion owed to its biggest construction firm as part of efforts to cover unpaid wages of migrant workers.
The family-owned Saudi Binladin Group was paid in September, with the money intended mostly for tens of thousands of idled laborers, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The money is enough to enable them to leave the country. Precise figures on the number affected or the total owed are not available.
Payments began slowing more than a year ago as government oil revenue dwindled.
A spokesman for Saudi Binladin confirmed the payments were made but declined to give more details.
Another major construction company, Saudi Oger, owned by a Lebanese family, is on the verge of bankruptcy, unable to pay thousands of workers, two bankers familiar with the matter said.
It couldn’t be determined whether Saudi Oger, which is owed billions of dollars, also received government payments recently.
The industry’s troubles are rippling through the sector, hitting subcontractors and smaller companies.
The government’s shrinking oil revenue has led to massive layoffs and rare signs of labor unrest.
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