Sultan of Oman predicts 6% growth in GDP this year

Bullish forecast as Oman, not a member of OPEC, has been less affected by global downturn since it has not had to cut oil production.

The Sultan of Oman, who is also its finance minister, has given one of the most bullish forecasts yet to emerge from the Gulf states for economic expansion this year. Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said said he expected the country to achieve 6.1 per cent GDP growth in real terms this year. He estimated inflation would be about 3.5 per cent without giving comparative figures for last year. Oman's total debt as of the end of last year stood at 722 million rials (Dh6.89 billion), with domestic debt accounting for 252m rials of that. He said figures for last year had yet to be finalised.

Oman's economy minister, Ahmad bin Abdul-Nabi Mekki, said on December 13 he expected the country's economy to have grown by as much as 2 per cent last year, with the growth rate being influenced by lower oil prices in the second quarter. The global economic crisis slashed income for Gulf oil producing nations. Oman, which is not an OPEC member, was less affected than fellow regional oil exporters as it was not forced to cut output.

A senior official in the economy ministry said in October that the sultanate's economy would have grown by 2.5 per cent last year in nominal terms because of better performance from non-oil sectors. The IMF has forecast GDP growth of 4.1 per cent this year, well below the 7.8 per cent achieved in 2008. The economy minister said there were no plans for Oman to join the proposed GCC monetary union or to abandon its currency peg to the US dollar. The governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency also said, in remarks published yesterday, that the region's largest economy had no plans to change the US dollar as a peg.

"The current exchange regime has served the national economy in excellent form over the past two decades," Muhammad al Jasser told the Saudi newspaper Al Eqtisadiah. * with Reuters