Muscat, Asharq Al-Awsat – Dr. Fuad Sajwani, chairman of the economic committee of the Sultanate of Oman’s Shura Council, has asserted that all of the country’s state institutions are studying the various demands presented by the protesters over the past few days. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat he stressed that everyone supports the reform process and the reasonable demands for reform “but implementation of the reforms needs more time to be examined and therefore the rational thing is for things to be handled calmly.”
He pointed out that the state had previously approved a package of reforms and demands some time ago in order to improve the conditions of Omani citizens, especially those on low income. Foremost among these reforms was raising the minimum wage, removing some restrictions for earning social security, and granting the unemployed monthly financial allowance.
However Dr. Sajwani added that some demands being made by the protesters were unreasonable and illogical “as there are rules and laws in every country that have to be observed. Support for the conditions of low-income families should be within a broader framework that is not confined to financial grants but also strengthens the overall local production and attracts investments and more.”
Sajwani also revealed that action is currently underway to study raising pensions for the private sector’s employees after approval was given to raise pensions of state employees. The Omani cabinet is also studying discussing proposals of increasing the student capacity of Omani universities and private colleges. Dr. Sajwani also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the state was covering the education costs of around 4,000 Omani students in private universities, institutes, and colleges and this number would increase in the coming stage. In addition to this, the state is also funding the education of a large number of students at public universities and colleges following the approval to increase the monthly expenses offered to the students.
The Omani official called for the public to look carefully at the many decisions taken recently by the Omani state to improve the conditions of its citizens, stressing that “an extremely important law was approved some three months ago allocating funds for building housing estates of approximately 13,000 housing units for low-income families. This is an extremely important step but what is needed today is to hasten the implementation of these projects because they are an urgent priority and are bound to facilitate many things for the people.”
He also stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that handing out an amount of money [to the public] would not serve any purpose, but rather it would be better to enable and aid the public in the long-term. He stressed that the protestors must realize that there are certain measures that must be fulfilled before any decision can be taken, and this requires time.
For its part, Oman’s Association of Lawyers urged the protestors to follow a civilized manner of dialogue in order to reach results that serve the country and its citizen. In a statement by the Association of Lawyers, the legal organization stressed that the Omani constitution guarantees freedom of expression as long as this is expressed in a peaceful manner.
Following recent events in Oman, some of the country’s newspapers have commented on the appearance of various advertisements by several private sector companies announcing their desire to employ Omanis in various professions. This is also one of the protesters demands, who have called for private sector companies to hire more Omani nationals. It is important to note here that some years ago Oman set into law a special provision specifying the percentage of Omani nationals that a company must hire.