Saudi Arabia has dropped the Islamic lunar calendar and adopted the Gregorian calendar system for paying civil servants as part of an austerity measures regime.
The kingdom adopted the calendar changes on Sunday, in a move which results in the loss of 11 salary days for government employees.
The lunar calendar system was adopted as the Saudi rulers established the monarchy following a period of war in 1932. It is made up of 12 months of 29 or 30 days based on the sighting of the moon. Its year consists of 354 days, which is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian or “Western” calendar.
The move brings Riyadh’s public sector salary disbursement system in line with that of its private sector and most of its international energy customers.
The changes are but the latest in a series of austerity measures recently taken on by Riyadh that include canceling of some bonuses offered to state employees and increasing of entry visa fees for residents and foreigners.
Saudi Arabia, once known for its lavish public spending, has been hard hit by low oil prices and a costly military operation against its southern neighbor Yemen.
The kingdom is facing a budget deficit of nearly $100 billion caused by a sharp slump in oil prices as well as Riyadh’s rising army expenditure, a large amount of which is being funneled into a military campaign against Yemen, where at least 10,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured.