Oman: government promises 32,000 jobs and a stipend after days of protest

State has struggled to rein in spending following Covid-19 global economic crisis

Security forces talk to Omanis in Sohar. AP
Security forces talk to Omanis in Sohar. AP

Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik has ordered the creation of 32,000 jobs this year to appease protesters demanding more employment opportunities.

Several hundred unemployed young Omanis in the northwest industrial city of Sohar and in the southern resort of Salalah started protesting on Sunday, with pictures and videos of the demonstrations posted on social media.

We are very grateful for Sultan Haitham to announce the new jobs and may God bless him. I have been looking for a job for more than a year now

Yasser, 25

The protests, which have taken place for three consecutive days, were also reported in other towns including Rostaq, Nizwa and Sur.

A third of the 32,000 jobs will be generated by the civil service and the military, with the rest offered by the private sector, the government said.

Sultan Haitham also ordered a grant of 200 rials ($500) a month to the private sector for every Omani job seeker employed this year, as an incentive for companies to take on local graduates.

The government has also announced a six-month stipend for those made redundant by the pandemic, including Omanis forced to return home from GCC countries. They will be paid 200 rials and 500 baisa per month.

In January, a change to Oman's 1996 basic law saw freedom of expression was guaranteed for Omanis.

"Freedom of opinion and expression be in writing or speech and all forms of expression are guaranteed by the basic law of the state in accordance with the law and without detriment to the sanctity of private life,” the state-run Oman News Agency reported at the time.

Job seekers on Wednesday welcomed the news.

“We are very grateful for Sultan Haitham to announce the new jobs and may God bless him. I have been looking for a job for more than a year now and finally there is commitment from the government to employ us,” a 25-year old Omani who gave his name only as Yasser, told The National.

According to the figures from the National Centre for Statistical Information, about 65,400 Omanis are looking for jobs. Of the total, 24,500 are men and 40,900 are women.

Around 24,000 Omani job seekers have bachelor's degrees, around 22,000 hold secondary school diplomas and the rest failed to complete their education, the NCSI estimates. The figures are not broken down by gender.

Female job seekers were excited but cautious about the new job openings.

“I am very, very happy and this is really good news. I hope that not only boys will get the opportunities but us girls as well, because sometimes the priorities go to them," Halima Al Kindi, a new business graduate said.

"But overall we are grateful to His Majesty the Sultan for his great effort to order jobs for us."

The coronavirus crisis and low oil prices have bitten deep into the country’s finances.

Under Sultan Haitham, who took over in January after the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a series of reforms to make government finances sustainable have been introduced.

He introduced VAT in April this year as part of plans to reform the economy. In another effort to boost government revenue, the Sultanate removed subsidies for the electricity and water sectors earlier this year.

The number of government ministries has been cut from 26 to 19 and all civil servants who served for 30 years or longer have been asked to retire in an effort to create job openings.

Despite these changes, Oman's former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah warned in an interview with Oman state TV last month that without sustained efforts to reform, more protests in Oman and the wider region could not be ruled out.

Updated: May 26, 2021 07:05 PM

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