Omani state media reported on Tuesday that senior Saudi and Omani officials held talks examining reciprocal investment opportunities. According to the report, Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al Falih and Omani Commerce and Industry Minister Qais Al Yousef held talks through a video conference.
The talks focused on the ways for diversifying economies, and investment opportunities in several sectors in both countries, the state media noted.
Whether the meeting is related to last week’s street protest erupted over the increasing unemployment rate in the Gulf sultanate is not clear.
Last week, Omani streets witnessed public demonstrations, rare in Gulf states, by the participation of a mass majority of people. The unrest was mostly triggered by the increasing unemployment rate throughout the country. Using intense police force against protesters fueled the demonstrations. Although the protests were brought under control by security forces, it is clear that they have pushed the Omani administration to take steps to reduce state deficits and meet job demands.
In this sense, the Omani Sultan announced a new employment program last week aiming to create more than 32,000 jobs in public and private sectors to calm demonstrators. It was indicated that 12,000 of the quotas will be allocated to the government’s civil and military departments.
Oman is considered as the financially least robust country in the region, with a much smaller oil industry comparing to its other Gulf neighbors.
Last year, the Omani economy was severely injured due to the shakeout in oil prices and the economic repercussion of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country recorded the highest debt in its history, had to introduce new taxes, and freeze public sector hiring, alongside other austerity measures. Besides, Oman held preliminary talks with some Gulf countries for financial help.
Meanwhile, it was reported that many demonstrators who were detained during the last week’s protests were released by Omani authorities on Wednesday.