Leaner Omani Cabinet sworn in at Muscat palace ceremony

New and old ministers, including the largest number of women to date in an Omani Cabinet, took the oath of office on Wednesday

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Oman's new-look Cabinet took the oath of office on Wednesday at Muscatel's Al Barakah Palace, the first new government since Sultan Haitham took office in January.

Sultan Haitham won praise when he announced the reshuffle and leaner government, devolving power away from himself and into the hands of ministers for the foreign and finance briefs.

Among the new ministers to take the oath on Wednesday was Badr Al Busaidi, who took over from long-time foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi. A popular successor to the veteran minister, he has worked on Oman's foreign affairs for a number of years.

Financial expert Sultan Al Habsi who has served as secretary-general of the Supreme Council for Planning and head of the tax authority, among other senior positions, took over from Darwish Al Balushi.

The Cabinet also has the largest number of women to date in government in Oman, with five positions.

Other well-known ministers retained their positions, even if the titles and remits of their portfolios changed. Khalid Al Busaidi remains Diwan of the Royal Palace Minister and Mohamed Al Rumhi, will now lead the Energy and Minerals Department, formerly named the Ministry of Oil and Gas.

Badr Al Busaidi paid tribute to his former boss, Yusuf bin Alawi on Wednesday evening, as he received the Royal Order of Commendation from Sultan Haitham.

"I would also like to express my own feelings towards this sober Omani figure, the human minister, worthy teacher, and honest mentor," he wrote on Twitter. "Thank you."

The new Cabinet came as Oman’s Sultan Haitham on Tuesday issued royal directives to provide free laptops to Omanis enrolling for colleges and universities in the academic year starting in September.

The official Oman News Agency said the computers would be distributed to students in poor Omani families and those registered in the social security service.

About 43,000 higher education students have registered for the new academic year, of whom about 17 per cent will qualify under the initiative.

The low-income families fall into two categories: families who earn less than 500 rials (Dh4,775) a month are in the first category, while the second have no income and rely on welfare payments from the government. Such families typically live in social housing.