Oman, South Arabia discuss investments, days after Omani protest against unemployment

Investment Minister Khalid Abdulaziz Al Falih speaks at the fourth annual Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 27, 2021. REUTERS / Ahmed Yosri

Senior Saudi and Omani officials discussed investment opportunities in the two countries on Tuesday, state media reported, days after Oman was hit by protests against unemployment.

The virtual meeting was hosted by Saudi Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih and Omani Minister of Trade and Industry Qais al-Yousef, Oman State TV reported.

It was not immediately clear whether the meeting was scheduled before last week’s street protests in Oman, which were not mentioned by state media on the talks.

Discussions focused on the diversification of economies and sectors offering investment opportunities, Omani TV added.

Omanis protested against unemployment for days in several towns and villages in the Arab Gulf Sultanate. The unrest appears to have eased after a strong security response, but signaled that Oman could curb efforts to contain state deficits and debts in order to meet job demands. Read more

Oman, with a much smaller oil industry – accounting for around a third of its GDP – than other Arab Gulf countries, is among the least financially sound countries in the region and is more vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices.

The twin shock of low oil prices and the COVID-19 crisis has strained Oman’s public finances and pushed its debt to record levels, leading to the introduction of new taxes, a hiring freeze in the public sector and other austerity measures.

Last year, Oman began preliminary talks with some Gulf countries for financial assistance. It was not clear whether the two ministers discussed direct financial support during the talks on Tuesday.

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