Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarek announced a grant of 20 million rials ($52m) for each of the country's 11 governorates as he enters the third year of his reign with a drive to improve the country's standard of living.
The ruler has been holding a series of meetings with governors and tribal leaders from each area to discuss how to improve the lives of Omanis.
“We urge you, as administrators of your towns, to elevate your local communities and improve the status of the Omani citizens in your areas and their quality of life. The government will support you,” Sultan Haitham said at a meeting in Nizwa, the main city of Al Dakhiliya governorate, last week.
“You must recognise challenges and address difficulties in your towns to serve your communities and public interest,” he said.
On Monday, he met leaders in the Al Sharqiyah North governorate.
He also issued pardons for 229 prisoners in Omani jails.
Along with creating employment for graduates, the ruler is calling for the promotion of small and medium enterprises to create opportunities for self-employment and for contracts to be given to established businesses.
Sultan Haitham ascended to the throne on January 11, 2020, shortly after the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Sultan Qaboos, who ruled for 50 years, was regarded as a hero by many of his subjects for lifting the country from obscurity and turning it into a modern nation by building infrastructure and schools, creating jobs and reconciling tribal differences between feuding groups.
Sultan Haitham’s first challenge as ruler was to revive the economy, which has suffered from falling oil prices and chronic budget deficits in the past five years.
He was quick to get off the mark with a cabinet reshuffle three months into his rule. He trimmed the cabinet to 19 ministries from 26, retired all civil servants who had served for more than 30 years, and removed the positions of state advisers to save government expenditure.
Omanis in rural areas praised the sultan’s latest initiative as a step in the right direction.
“We welcome the news to improve the quality of life in areas outside big cities like Muscat, Salalah and Sohar,” Ahmed Al Hosni, 44, a farmer in the Wosta region, told The National.
“It is the right step and it comes at the right time. It’s about time that development spreads all over the country and not just in cities and major towns.”