Rare demonstrations erupt across Oman over high unemployment and economic woes

Rare demonstrations erupt across Oman over high unemployment and economic woes
Unemployment has risen in the Gulf state as oil prices drop. These protests are rare in the relatively calm Gulf state.
3 min read
26 May, 2021
Omani army patrols streets of Sohar, Oman, after clashing with protesters in 2011. [AFP/Getty]

Protests in Oman have continued as citizens grow frustrated with a slumped economy and a lack of jobs.

Videos of the rare demonstrations in the relatively calm Gulf state have spread online, showing clashes between protesters and riot police in some areas.

Large crowds of mainly young men have gathered in several towns across Oman since Sunday.

It comes after the economy, which relies heavily on the production and export of petroleum, was hit hard for several years by low oil prices and the Covid-19 epidemic.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade on Wednesday called for an investigation into the use of UK-made tear gas in Oman. 

It said that the UK has sold Oman £16 million worth of tear gas since 2015 and the sultanate remains one of the UK arms industry's biggest customers.

Oman state-run television acknowledged the protests on Twitter, assuring that the plans to create jobs was moving forward.

"An official government source confirms that the government is moving forward with completing the appointment and replacement procedures for the twelve thousand jobs specified in the employment plan for (this) year 2021, so that one thousand jobs are offered every month in the civil and military government sector until the end of this year", it read.

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, who came to power last year after the death of Sultan Qaboos, announced on Wednesday 32,000 new jobs were being created for young Omanis.

He has implemented harsh austerity measures to ease pressure on public finances amidst a drop in oil prices.

The protests started when a group of unemployed workers staged a demonstration outside a government office in the industrial town of Sohar, northern Oman.

The last time any large-scale demonstrations happened in Oman were in 2011, when uprisings swept the North Africa and the Middle East region.

The Sultanate announced earlier this year that it will bar expatriates from certain jobs in an effort to create more employment opportunities for its own citizens.

Expats in the country make up about 40 percent of the country's 4.5 million-strong population. 

In April 2020, Oman ordered state-owned companies to accelerate the process of replacing foreign staff with Omani nationals, especially in senior positions.

Since 2014, the oil-rich Gulf region has been hit hard by falling crude prices, suffering a new blow amid the global economic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.