Omanis protest over layoffs amid economic downturn
Dozens of demonstrators in Oman’s northern industrial city of Sohar protested in recent days over unemployment and layoffs, in a rare occurrence in the sultanate.
ozens of demonstrators in Oman’s northern industrial city of Sohar protested in recent days over unemployment and layoffs, in a rare occurrence in the sultanate.
Videos posted online Monday appeared to show protesters amid a heavy contingent of security forces deployed in Sohar, about 200 kilometres (124 miles) northwest of the capital Muscat.
Some footage showed tear gas being launched at demonstrators.
AFP could not immediately verify the videos.
On Sunday, the labour ministry said in a statement it had “followed with great concern the gathering of a number of citizens… (who were) calling for job opportunities” and support for those who have been laid off.
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 coronavirus pandemic.
Faced with an economic slump and a sharp drop in oil revenues, Oman and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have stepped up efforts to create jobs for their own citizens, in a region that has relied heavily on cheap foreign labour.
The protests this week are the first since Sultan Haitham bin Tareq ascended to the throne in January last year, after the death of his cousin Sultan Qaboos, modern Oman’s founding father.
Sultan Haitham served as head of the committee for Oman’s “Vision 2040” — a roadmap for social and economic reform designed to address problems such as high unemployment and corruption.
As part of legislation introduced to give citizens preference over foreigners in both the public and private sectors, Oman ordered state-owned companies in April 2020 to accelerate the process of replacing foreign staff with Omani nationals.
The finance ministry gave public sector companies until July 2021 to draw up timetables to appoint Omanis in the place of foreign staff, including in managerial positions.
Foreigners make up more than 40 percent of Oman’s population of 4.6 million, and have played a major role in the Gulf state’s development for several decades.