Oman has traditionally been regarded as a place of stability in the volatile region but recent demonstrations have revealed a number of difficulties facing the Gulf state on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
The riots that took place last month to an exhibition in various cities. Opinions are growing on the causes of the Omani people’s grievances, as well as whether they can be addressed.
Ten years ago, the Sultanate of Oman filled the Arab Spring, which changed the landscape of the region and ended several regimes. Unlike Tunisia, Egypt or Libya, however, Omani activists in particular wanted to change politics, not the Sultan’s departure.
At that time, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said was forced and promised various political changes. This includes creating 50,000 new jobs in the social service, unemployment programs and increasing salaries for public servants.
Local demonstrations were quickly curtailed, though not completely eliminated, says James Worrall, associate professor of International Relations & Middle East Study at the University of Leeds.
It has been observed that Qaboos reforms are only temporary in the country, not permanent.
“There have been small demonstrations in the Sultanate since 2011, which have been taking place under the jurisdiction,” Worrall told Al Jazeera.
The COVID-19 epidemic and the slowdown in oil prices have revealed the weakness of the Omani economic system, which is more than 60% dependent on oil and gas, Yasmina Abouzzohour, during a visit to her Brookings Institution told Al Jazeera.
“Oman’s economy – which was in crisis before 2019 due to over-reliance on hydrocarbons and high debt – has grown due to the global catastrophic volcanic eruption and rising oil prices,” he said.
As a result, economic performance fell by 6.4 percent The global budget was enlarged up to 17.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) since the changes were first implemented. In less than a year, the country’s deficit rose from 60% to 81% of GDP in 2019.
Meanwhile, the economic downturn in this country led to increased employment, especially among young people, with an unemployment rate of 10%.
Here, the risk of coronavirus has added a new dimension to the individual’s level, Worrall said.
“The epidemic has added to the burden of the economic crisis and has left people feeling exhausted, exhausted and frustrated – this is important.”
Sultan Qaboos died in January 2020, leaving his successor behind Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said difficult. However, a change in leadership could benefit the country, Worrall said.
“Obviously there are a lot of similarities, and that’s important, but we’ve also seen some interesting differences. Haitham obviously has a lot of power. There have been a lot of actions where by the end of the Qaboos era things are moving slowly and some difficult decisions have not been made,” he said.
These difficult decisions that Qaboos moved to were left to Haitham, who had no choice but to make economic changes in light of the economic crisis Oman has witnessed.
Haitham advised all regulators to reduce their budget by 10 percent. It is with these tools that have been improved over the years to help as many people as possible.
The Oman administrative office now spends about three-quarters of the world’s gross domestic product. He too imposes an additional 5% tax (VAT) and, since 2022, the highest income tax payer.
In addition, the government has reduced funding, retired early and reduced salaries for new jobs.
The recurrence of human grief thus is not surprising, and the resurgence of protests is the result of the recurring economic crisis, says Abouzzohour.
“It was caused by financial worries, especially unemployment and layoffs,” he said.
Among other things, Haitham announced plans to create 32,000 jobs in the federal and state sectors, and offer some benefits.
“The response to the new public service protests – the interesting thing is that most of the time – and the announcement of a change in public service seems like a rental response but a text message about the long-term – economic reforms and, of course,” Worrall said.
It is an ongoing demonstration that could lead to a financial crisis for the government, as it could undermine the confidence of investors in the moment when Oman seeks foreign exchange and seeks to promote difficult sectors such as tourism, correcting this is essential to the Sultan’s vision.
Fortunately for him, the demonstrations will not grow much, says Abouzzohour.
“It would not be logical for the protests to be so frequent. First, this was a small incident where there were a few hundred protesters. Second, Sultan Haitham has moved quickly to embrace this by promising to set up state and federal services, as well as a six-month fundraiser for Omanis who lost their jobs due to the epidemic. ”
In addition, the biggest protests against unemployment and inflation took place in 2018 and 2019 and were magnified by the late Sultan Qaboos as well. There is no reason to doubt that the soon-to-be-lived settlement may be different, says Abouzzohour.
Worrall also acknowledged, saying that the government has shown potential for improvement rather than for further improvement.
“Nothing can be completely challenged, but luck [of protest escalation] it’s a little bit. Admittedly, it can be difficult to integrate real relationships. The government remains obedient and shows concern for its citizens. The epidemic means that people understand the problems and can see everywhere they have the same problems, ”Worrall said.
“The government continues to negotiate and show a willingness to address the problems of the people as best they can.”
Politically, on the other hand, Oman is now facing the question of whether this change should be followed by a political liberation. While the initial indications are positive, one cannot monitor the Sultan’s modus operational progress, Worrall said.
“It is important not to think of political instability as something that seems to be a western phenomenon, but it is clear that Haitham’s policies are moving and inclusive. the establishment of power it seems to be a kind of political freedom.
“There will be a lot of elections on the spot, but it is clear that there is something going on here, too, and I am doing well. For example, Majlis A’Shura [legislative body] has recently taken on a new dimension, but it has also suddenly been replaced or removed, ”said Worrall.
However, even before the country is quickly liberated, the Sultan will have work to do.
According to Abouzzohour, the most important ones are obvious.
“The Sultan is planning to boost the economy, improve tourism as soon as it is established, and continue to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons,” he said.
While the problem is positive, Sultan has solutions to the problem, Worrall added.
“Things are difficult, but Haitham has a number of tools to use and people to help him. So we will see the ever-changing and ever-changing changes – the timely changes in the interests, resources and priorities that have helped the Sultanate over the past 50 years,” he said. Worrall.
While the current Sultan and his successor shared “many similarities”, there are differences that could change the country’s progress, Worrall said.
“The good news is that Haitham seems to be ready to delegate, to the royal family and others. The division of senior positions of Qaboos is a top priority, as is the acceleration of systems and other functions. ”
Worrall concluded: “The desire to make a difference is a new person who wants to make a name for himself, as well as a person who can make quick decisions and who knows that the time is near for the financial crisis.”