Diamonds glitter in the display cases of Saddam al-Yafae's shop, but the business has lost its sparkle. He and other retailers in Saudi Arabia say sales were already down - along with the kingdom's oil revenues - and cuts to civil service benefits announced last week only add to their gloom.
"In comparison to last year, this period is very weak," says Yafae, a salesman at Al-Abdoul Wahab for Jewellery in central Riyadh. Sales used to come easily, he says, an array of silver and diamond creations behind him. But this morning there are no customers, and Yafae has time to chat.
"There's a lot less work, especially with these decisions," he says, referring to the government spending cuts. "It's getting worse and worse." On September 26 the cabinet imposed a wage freeze on the civil service, which makes up the bulk of the kingdom's workforce. It eliminated their annual pay hike of three to five percent and capped overtime pay. Other allowances including for hazardous work will be cancelled, amended or suspended.