Privatisation and Omanisation quotas rising amid lower oil prices

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Given its natural assets, strategic location and appealing geography, Oman has the resources for significant economic expansion. Although the sultanate remains dependent on oil and gas, efforts to diversify the economy are already bearing fruit. While private sector growth benefitted from the many investments committed in the days of higher oil prices, since the global drop in energy prices in 2014 the government has had to contend with a series of budget deficits and rising debt levels. However, debt levels remain manageable, and the government has implemented a series of fiscal reforms to get the budget back on to a sustainable path.

Performance

Oman’s economy has experienced strong growth since 2000, with an average real GDP growth rate of 3.5%. Most of this has come from the non-oil sector, with growth averaging 7% from 2000 to 2018, compared to an average growth rate of 1% in the hydrocarbons sector. In 2018 the hydrocarbons sector accounted for 35% of nominal GDP. In recent years, however, overall growth has slowed on the back of lower oil prices and cutbacks in government spending. Non-oil real GDP growth eased from 5% in 2016 to 3.3% in 2017 and 2% in 2018. The slowdown came despite a number of positive factors impacting the economy. “Oman’s re-export and logistics sectors have received a boost in the last couple of years as a result of the economic blockade of Qatar,” Hettish Karmani, head of research at Ubhar Capital, an Omani investment bank, told OBG. “A significant amount of trade is being rerouted through Oman, which is aiding the country’s trade balance.”

Meanwhile, oil production has fluctuated as the sultanate has joined the broad agreement between the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – of which it is not a member – and other major oil producers to cut production to bolster oil prices. The oil sector’s real GDP fell by 3% in 2017, largely due to lower prices on global markets, and increased by 2.8% in 2018 when prices rebounded. Overall, real GDP growth in 2017 and 2018 was 0.3% and 1.8%, respectively, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).

The 2019 budget statement forecast real GDP growth of 2.8-3% for the year, while a Bloomberg survey in December 2019 put growth around 1.5%. In 2020 and 2021 Oman’s economy is expected to receive a significant boost as a result of higher gas and condensates production from BP Khazzan and other major gas projects (see Energy chapter). The IMF expects this to translate to real growth of 10% in the hydrocarbons sector in 2020, leading to an overall growth rate of around 6%. “The BP Khazzan, Mabrouk and Ghazeer projects will continue to support gas production, with greater output expected from 2020 onwards,” Karmani told OBG.

Fiscal Reforms

The fact that Oman has recorded positive growth over a period of lower hydrocarbons receipts and against a backdrop of weaker regional and global trade is testament to the robustness of its economic planning. Nevertheless, the oil price drop has posed significant challenges for the authorities. While the sultanate’s fiscal position was strong before oil prices fell, with a surplus of some 3% of GDP in 2013, lower oil prices led to a peak in the deficit at 18% of GDP in 2016. The higher deficit was partly a consequence of major spending commitments on infrastructure and hydrocarbons projects that pre-existed the drop in oil prices. However, much of the deficit was covered by drawing down on the sultanate’s substantial financial buffers.

“Oman managed to sustain spending without borrowing until 2016, mainly by using contingency funds that were saved in the sovereign wealth funds,” Hamid Hamirani, senior economist at the Ministry of Finance, told OBG. “Moreover, the country has succeeded in completing its infrastructure development programme despite the collapse in oil prices.”

To tackle the deficit, Oman implemented fiscal reforms that began in 2015 and covered a variety of areas, including subsidy reductions. Subsidies, which totalled OR2bn ($5.2bn) in 2015, are now less than OR200m ($519.4m). The implementation of these reforms helped to narrow the fiscal deficit to 13% of GDP in 2017 and further to 9% of GDP in 2018, with the IMF forecasting a deficit of 7% of GDP in 2019. “We expect to see greater improvement of the fiscal situation with the full-year impact of the sin taxes that were implemented in 2019,” Karmani told OBG.

The government has also been keen on pushing private sector development in order to create jobs and reduce government expenditure on wages. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MoM), around 27,000 Omanis secured jobs in the private sector in the first five months of 2019. The sultanate’s drive towards Omanisation has been behind this trend. There have been many policies introduced in recent years aimed at reducing Omani unemployment. Various quotas are in place for different sectors of the economy, which require a proportion of staff to be Omani citizens. In May 2019 the MoM issued a ban on new and renewed work visas for nine specific roles in the private sector.

In addition, a new National Centre for Employment (NCE) was established in 2019 and will come into effect in 2020. The NCE will prioritise Omani jobseekers, if a suitable candidate can be found, over foreign workers when awarding permits by the MoM. Private sector companies have also been asked to submit their Omanisation action plans to the MoM by the end of January 2020 for review.

Deficit Financing

To finance the deficit, Oman has primarily turned to debt markets, borrowing both locally and internationally. Government debt has risen from just 4.9% of GDP in 2014 to 53.4% of GDP in 2018. A large share of this debt has been raised externally. Foreign debt reached 39% of GDP in 2018 and this is expected to hit 55% by 2024. In 2016 Oman issued an international sovereign bond for the first time since 1997, issuing a total of $2.5bn of five- and 10-year bonds. The government decided to issue further debt in the first quarter of 2017 and again in January 2018, with Oman’s largest-ever issuance of $6.5bn in five-, 10- and 30-year bonds, which drew orders of $15bn. This was followed in July 2019 by the issuance of five- and 10-year bonds that raised $3bn, with total orders of $14bn.

The deficit has also been financed by drawing down on financial reserves, and by the sale or privatisation of public sector assets. For example, the government sold a 10% stake in the major Khazzan gas project and transferred the ownership of some gas pipelines to Oman Gas Company for $1bn. The government is also privatising Oman Electricity Transmission and Muscat Electricity Distribution, which have $3.2bn in combined assets.

The total cost of servicing government debt is currently reasonable, with interest payments equating to about 2% to 3% of GDP. Additionally, the government still has other sources of alternative financing at its disposal that can keep debt servicing contained: there are numerous assets that can be monetised, such as BP Khazzan and pipelines; the sovereign wealth funds could be drawn upon in an emergency; and schools, hospitals and government buildings could be sold and leased back. The value of government land is in the billions of dollars.

Furthermore, a number of companies are slated to be privatised. These include the Oman Oil Company under the newly created OQ, which is planning an initial public offering of 20-25% of its shares by the end of 2020, and power transmission and distribution companies, as privatising these would have a negligible social impact. Attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) for infrastructure works could serve as another alternative source of financing. Indeed, given that 2017, 2018 and 2019 saw major international ratings agencies downgrade Oman’s credit rating to below investment grade, the sultanate may prefer to look to alternative means of financing its deficit if the price of servicing further debt issuances begins to tick steadily upwards.

Inflation & Monetary Policy

Inflation has been relatively low in Oman in recent years. The average rate based on the consumer price index (CPI) fell to 0.9% in 2018, down from 1.6% in 2017 and 1.1% in 2016. Lower inflation in 2018 was a result of falling prices for food, clothing, health, communication and recreation. In 2018 the cost of housing and utilities increased slightly, rising by 0.5% in the CPI. Inflation over the course of 2019 is expected to be up between 1% and 1.5% following the introduction of an excise tax on selected goods in June.

Since 1986 the Omani riyal has been pegged to the US dollar at a rate of $1:OR0.3849. The dollar peg ensures healthy trade relations and investment flows for the sultanate, and it also reduces the risk of destabilising capital inflows and outflows with changes in oil prices, which many resource-rich economies are exposed to. Despite the recent drop in oil prices and decline in external and fiscal revenue, Oman maintains the necessary resources to defend its currency successfully. Gross foreign currency reserves stood at $15.4bn in July 2019, which equates to around nine months of import cover. Oman’s ability to maintain its foreign currency reserves is supported by the receipt of oil revenues, by far the sultanate’s most important export, in US dollars.

Hydrocarbons

While the authorities have worked to diversify the economy, hydrocarbons continue to play a dominant role in the economy. In 2018 hydrocarbons accounted for 35% of GDP, 74% of government revenue and 66% of exports, according to the NCSI. For the past decade Oman has continued to expand its crude oil production, with daily output rising from 653,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2007 to 1m bpd in 2016. Since then, production has declined to 978,000 bpd as of end-2018, due to the OPEC-led quota-cutting agreement made in November 2017. Although Oman is not a member of OPEC, the country also adhered to the terms. Still, oil production at Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the largest oil and gas producer in the country, has risen by around 30,000 bpd since 2017, largely due to new projects coming online.

Oman has continued to make large investments in the oil and gas sector to maximise the exploitation of its valuable resources. The largest recent and ongoing projects are the development of the Khazzan gas field and the Rabab Harweel oil and gas field. These and other initiatives have led to the increase in production, even though oil in more recent developments has been harder to extract. Enhanced oil recovery techniques and higher production volumes have lowered the overall cost of extraction by an average of $3 per barrel (see Energy chapter).

Oil & Gas Developments

Gas production has also been on the rise in recent years, and more is slated to come on-stream at the Mabrouk North East and Khazzan gas fields. The discovery of the Mabrouk North East gas field was one of the top-three global discoveries made in 2018, with reserves of 4.5trn standard cu feet (scf) of gas, equal to roughly 18% of Oman’s existing reserves. An agreement to develop the Mabrouk North East field was signed between the Oman Oil Company, Shell and Total in February 2019. Shell, with a 75% share in the field, is to build a gas-to-liquids plant at Duqm, while Total, with the remaining 25% share, will build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering service for vessels at Sohar port.

The Khazzan natural gas field was discovered in 2000 and is currently the largest hydrocarbons production development project in progress in Oman, with total investment in the project expected to reach $14bn over the full two phases of the project, running from 2014 to 2021. The development is a joint venture between BP Oman, which has a 60% share, Oman Oil Company Exploration and Production – also part of OQ – which holds a 30% stake, and Malaysia’s Petronas, which controls the remaining 10%. The total contribution from BP is expected to be around $8.4bn. The current phase of the project was initiated in 2014, with production around 1bn scf per day (scfd) of gas and 35,000 bpd of condensates as of late 2019. The second phase of the project was initiated in 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2021, with the aim of adding 500m scfd of gas and 15,000 bpd of condensates.

There are a number of other ongoing projects in the oil and gas sector, with a total investment of around $26bn in the pipeline across production, refineries and petrochemicals. The government expects these projects to enhance technical capacity in the local economy and generate new job opportunities, with around 6000 positions already created as of March 2019. Among these works is the $4.7bn Rabab Harweel Integrated Project, which is being implemented by PDO and commenced production in July 2019, with around 60,000 bpd of condensates and 6m scfd of gas. Additional oil production is expected in the near future. The next-largest project is the $2.9bn Yibal Khuff development, expected to produce oil and gas commencing in 2021. The project is regarded as technically complex due to high acidity in the oil and gas, which makes processing more difficult. Nonetheless, it is reported to be progressing on time, and is expected to produce 20,000 bpd of oil and 6m scfd of gas by 2021.

Other smaller projects are also in the pipeline, including the $826m Salalah Liquefied Petroleum Gas Project slated for completion in 2020; and the Tayseer gas field, discovered in 2014 and being developed at a cost of $350m, with the aim of producing 35m scfd of gas and 4400 bpd of condensates. Lastly, the $6.7bn Liwa Plastic Industries Complex is a polyethylene petrochemical development being built at Sohar Port. It is expected to be completed in 2020. “Oil and gas investment has already yielded positive results, with oil and gas production increasing in part thanks to the Khazzan project. The Mabrouk North East gas discovery in 2018 was one of the largest gas discoveries in the world. Oman, for the first time in many years, is in a gas surplus position, which will be an important catalyst for industrial growth,” Hamirani told OBG.

In addition to these developments in the upstream segment, the downstream segment appears poised for growth as well. “The downstream production planned to come on-line from 2021-22 onwards is expected to improve the yield per barrel, create jobs and provide feedstock for industries. In turn, this will also help improve the balance of payments and current account positions,” Hamirani told OBG.

Rather than being supplied to the domestic market, a large share of Oman’s gas production is exported as LNG through a long-term agreement that runs to 2023. This has left the country with a gas deficit in recent years, leading to a shortage of energy and restricting the availability of gas supply to support the development of energy-intensive industries. New downstream projects in the oil and gas sector will support diversification by increasing the feedstock available to the private sector, encouraging the growth of new industries and manufacturing facilities. The expansion of the Sohar refinery will increase production of fuels, naphtha and propylene. Combined with the polyethylene from Liwa Plastics, this will grow the amount of feedstock available to private firms and provide cheap raw materials for new industries, creating new domestic supply chains that will help reduce imports.

Non-Oil Sectors

Oman’s long-term development plan Vision 2040 aims to increase the non-oil sector’s share of total GDP to over 90%, from around 66.6% as of 2018. As downstream oil and gas projects, such as refining and petrochemicals, are counted as manufacturing in the national accounts, these actually contribute to the non-oil segment of the economy, and they will also support further diversification by providing inputs to additional manufacturing. In 2018 manufacturing accounted for roughly 10.2% of the non-oil sector and industry activities accounted for 19.7%. Oman’s most recent infrastructure investment drive started in 2012 and is set to underpin growth across large swathes of the sultanate’s nonoil economy. “The infrastructure rollout will have a large and positive impact on the economy going forwards that has not been appreciated,” Hamirani told OBG. “It is important to note that the airports, seaports, roads and logistics facilities that have been developed are likely to enhance productivity.”

The government retains a very important role in the economy, and public administration accounted for 10.2% of the non-oil sector in 2018. The rest of the services sector, excluding public administration, accounts for the bulk of the remainder of non-oil GDP, at 34.1%. This includes wholesale and retail trade, which comprised 8% non-oil GDP.

Like other economies in the GCC, Oman’s retail sector is being strongly shaped by the construction of major shopping malls, such as Oman Avenues Mall, Oasis Mall and Panorama Mall. The sector also attracts considerable inward flows of FDI, with prominent developers committing substantial capital. For example, in May 2016 Dubai-based real estate developer Majid Al Futtaim announced firm plans to invest around $1.3bn in Oman’s retail sector by 2020. “The GCC is the main source of luxury goods demand, with the highest demand coming from Dubai,” Muatasim Al Hinai, managing director of Omanluxury, told OBG. “However, the European market is becoming more interested in Oman’s luxury goods and this creates an opportunity for suppliers.”

Long-Term Strategy

Oman’s long-term economic strategy is guided by its goal to diversify the country’s economic base away from an over-reliance on hydrocarbons as the main source of national income. The diversification drive is currently being guided by the ninth five-year plan, a strategy that runs from 2016 to 2020 and aims to not only move the country towards its 2020 vision, but place Oman in a strong position to execute the goals outlined under Vision 2040, which was announced in January 2019 (see analysis). The 10th five-year plan that will run from 2021 to 2025 is also being developed.

The new vision and five-year plans will help to shift the country’s focus to economic diversification and job creation via encouraging the development of the private sector. The ninth five-year plan sought to transition the economy to a more private sector footing by developing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), public-private partnerships (PPPs) and improving the investment climate. The plan sets out a privatisation programme that will grant the private sector opportunities to acquire stakes in stateowned entities and manage government projects.

Diversification

Diversification is an important component of the ninth five-year plan. To this end, it highlights manufacturing, logistics, tourism, mining, and agriculture and fisheries as priority sectors. However, the plan also seeks to strengthen the economy by moving further along the value chain in the hydrocarbons sector through the development of new refineries and petrochemicals facilities, as well as through increased production of oil and gas. In 2016 the government launched the National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification, or Tanfeedh – which means “implementation” in Arabic – to track and coordinate reform efforts across priority sectors. Tanfeedh has sought to identify accountability and set specific key performance indicators to make the tracking of reform efforts easier. The programme has also introduced the concept of developmental labs to Oman. These labs bring together all of the involved stakeholders from the both the public and private sector for consultations with the aim of realising opportunities and unblocking the obstacles to progress.

Privatisation

Oman’s Vision 2040 targets an overall Omanisation rate of 40% in the private sector. The programme to privatise government entities will both realise this goal and improve the state’s fiscal position. The Implementation Support and Follow-up Unit (ISFU) – a department within Tanfeedh that is responsible for the execution of diversification efforts – announced in 2017 that it aimed to privatise $1.8bn of state assets by 2021. There are currently 70 state-owned enterprises in Oman, which the ISFU referred to as inefficient and unprofitable. To support the process and push through the sale of state assets, a privatisation committee was also established in 2017. According to the ISFU, all named state-owned companies were required to submit five-year blueprints that outlined their path to privatisation to the Ministry of Finance for review.

A number of privatisations in the power sector are now under way. The national electricity holding company, Nama Holding, initiated the sale of stakes in two state-owned power companies in October 2018. The first was 49% in Oman Electricity Transmission Company, with assets of around $2bn, and the second was 70% in the Muscat Electricity Distribution Company, with assets of some $1bn. Nama Holding announced that it would privatise 70% of a further three power companies in 2020: Majan Electricity Distribution Company, Mazoon Electricity Distribution Company and Dhofar Power Company. In March 2019 Nama Holding announced that it had received 14 offers for the 70% stake in Muscat Electricity Distribution and 11 offers for the 49% stake in Oman Electricity Transmission. The latter stake was purchased by State Grid International Development, a wholly owned subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China, in mid-December 2019.

Numerous government companies were put forward as likely candidates for privatisation in 2017. These include the Oman Tourism Development Company, Oman Food Investment Holding Company, Electricity Holding Company, Oman Global Logistics Group (ASYAD), Minerals Development Oman and Oman Oil Company. The sultanate’s hydrocarbons sector, which has remained almost wholly owned by the state since the first discovery of commercial oil in 1962, is also being opened up for privatisation in certain areas. Upstream assets are considering being released for the first time, and it was announced that some downstream areas are to be privatised, including the Salalah Methanol Company and a drilling operation. The 10% stake in the Khazzan gas field being sold to Petronas in 2018 indicates that the privatisation of other public assets in the hydrocarbons sector may occur in the near to mid-term.

An important step forward was taken in 2019 with the issuance of royal decrees on a new privatisation law and PPP law (see analysis). These laws should make it easier for private sector companies to partner with the government and take over Omani operations. It is hoped that a wave of new investors will engage in economic areas beyond oil and gas now that such regulations are in place.

SME

The central bank estimates SMEs accounted for as much as 16-20% of Oman’s $79bn GDP in 2018, which is a high ratio compared to other countries in the GCC. As of the end of July 2019 there were over 40,000 registered SMEs, according to Riyada, the SME development authority. This figure has risen significantly in recent years. There were 18,579 registered SMEs in Oman in 2015, which increased to 25,692 in 2016, 31,836 in 2017 and 37,289 in 2018. In addition, SMEs are considered to have a high employment ratio. “SMEs can be significant contributors to the development of Oman, but they need more support and protection from the government in order to grow and compete at a high level,” Mudffer Alsarmi, CEO of Blurance Associates, told OBG.

There are already some state initiatives in place, such as the SME Development Fund that was established in 2014 to develop entrepreneurship and help finance SMEs. Meanwhile, Riyada runs a technical support programme for SMEs that targeted 300 entrepreneurs in 2017-18. Smaller programmes included Sharakah, which provides financial support and consultation to SMEs, as well as Inam, which offers funds to kick-start SMEs.

Omanisation

With Vision 2040 aiming to increase the share of Omanis in the private sector workforce to over 40%, the country’s Omanisation drive is central to national development policies. Given Oman’s demographics, providing meaningful employment to young citizens is necessitating the enforcement of Omanisation quotas in various economic sectors. The process involves the government assigning targets for the percentage of Omanis that should be employed by companies in particular sectors, professions and job titles. For example, the quotas are currently set at 60% for transport, storage and communications; 45% for finance, insurance and real estate; 35% in the industrial sector; 30% for hotels and restaurants; 20% in the wholesale and retail trades; and 15% in contracting.

The government has taken steps to ensure the Omanisation quotas are being met. The recruitment of expatriates in over 80 different professions was banned for six months from the beginning of 2018, and the government cancelled agreements with almost 200 companies in February 2018 on the basis that they were falling short of their Omanisation quotas. In May 2019 the MoM extended a ban on non-Omanis holding the following positions in the private sector: assistant general manager, administration director, human resources director, personnel director, training director, follow-up director, public relations director, assistant manager, and all administrative and clerical duties.

Although there are concerns that the strict imposition of quotas may hinder growth and discourage foreign investment, the efforts are starting to see results, with the number of Omanis working in the private sector rising by 5% in the year to May 2019. “While it is more cost effective to hire expats, attracting skilled Omani labour is now the focus, especially as there are Omanisation targets to comply with,” Tim Vallancey, CEO of Oman International Group, a facilities management company, told OBG. “Although it is still difficult to hire locals in certain sectors, such as industry, it is improving.”

Foreign Investment

FDI forms a central component of Oman’s efforts to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to help grow and diversify the economy over the long term. In the last decade free zones have been the primary inducement for foreign investors to enter Oman. These include the Sohar Port and Freezone, Salalah Free Zone, Al Mazunah Free Zone and the Duqm Special Economic Zone (Duqm SEZ) at the Port of Duqm. The free zones offer many benefits for investors, such as 100% foreign ownership, lengthy tax exemptions, and minimal limits on the transfer of profits and capital back to investors’ home countries. There are also nine industrial estates that offer exemptions from taxes and Customs duties. These are overseen by a government body, Madayn, which was formerly the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates and has been operating since 1993.

Duqm in particular has attracted large investment, totalling $14bn by the end of 2018, according to the zone’s authority. Significant investments in the zone are still expected to come from Chinese investors, amounting to $10bn, as well as Kuwaiti investments into a large $14bn refinery and petrochemicals complex. The Port of Duqm joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2018 and has emerged as China’s primary base in the Gulf. A range of Chinese investments are planned at the Duqm SEZ, including in warehouses, methanol plants, manufacturing facilities, hotels and vehicle assembly plants. Ali Shah, CEO of Oman Wanfang, an Omani-Chinese joint venture established to develop the industrial park at Duqm, said in January 2019 that there will be even more Chinese investments in Duqm. The $14bn refinery and petrochemicals complex, meanwhile, is a joint venture between the OQ’s Oman Oil Company and Kuwait Petroleum International. As of July 2019 the refinery was 25% finished with completion scheduled for 2021, while the petrochemicals complex is expected to be completed in 2025-26.

FDI flows into Oman rose to $6.3bn in 2018, compared with $2.9bn in 2017 and net outflows of $2.2bn in 2016. The historical average for FDI was $1.4bn over 2009-14. Foreign portfolio investment has increased rapidly in recent years as a result of the government’s external debt issuance. As the government has issued more international bonds, foreign investors have transferred more dollars into Oman to buy the bonds, leading to a rise in portfolio flows as opposed to FDI. Portfolio investment reached $8.2bn in 2018 and $7.9bn in 2017, having historically sat well below $2bn over the 2007-14 period.

Further impetus to FDI growth is coming from Oman’s strengthening of the legislative framework, which supports investment in the country (see analysis). One of the most important initiatives in this regard is a comprehensive privatisation and PPP platform to replace the framework that previously governed PPP activity. The new laws make it easier to carry out the sale of state companies and sets out a clearer framework for private companies to work with the public sector. It also establishes a new agency to oversee PPP projects in Oman. In addition, a new foreign investment law was announced in July 2019 to replace legislation introduced in 1994. The new law allows foreign companies to own 100% of local companies, removes minimum capital requirements and facilitates the investment process. However, as the new law is awaiting executive regulations that will include restrictions on certain sectors, it is unclear what areas of the economy will be impacted. Lastly, a new bankruptcy law was issued in July 2019 in a move that is expected to bolster sentiment for foreign investors hoping to invest in Oman.

Exports

As an open economy that relies on revenue from exporting crude oil, Oman’s trade balance is subject to the vagaries of the global oil market. In 2018 oil and gas exports grew by 42% to account for 65% of total goods exports due to higher prices and increased production. As a result, the trade surplus roughly doubled from $9bn to $18bn in 2018. The improving trade surplus helped narrow Oman’s current account deficit for the year from $11bn to $4bn. Furthermore, the sultanate’s non-oil exports of Omani origin rose by 41% in 2018 to OR1.2bn ($3.1bn), mainly owing to growing exports of mineral products, chemicals and plastics. A large share of Oman’s non-oil exports go to other GCC countries, with the US and India also featuring prominently. In 2018 re-exports from Oman fell by 26% to OR515.8m ($1.3bn). These mainly consist of mineral products, machinery, electrical equipment, vehicles, aircraft and vessels. Imports, for their part, into Oman fell in 2018 as the economy slowed and heavy infrastructure and project investment wound down. Imports were down 21% at OR2.3bn ($6bn), with the largest categories being machinery and electrical equipment. By far, most imports came from the UAE.

Outlook

The sultanate’s economy has witnessed more muted growth in recent years as the effects of the oil price drop in 2014 have taken their toll on economies across the region and governments have tightened public spending. However, with global oil prices stabilising and reforms associated with the Tanfeedh initiative beginning to bear fruit, the economy looks set for renewed expansion in the years ahead, fuelled by a raft of legislative changes aimed at attracting greater levels of foreign investment.

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