MUSCAT, July 9 (AFP) - Oman's trade balance recorded a surplus of 2.388 billion dollars in 1999, a sharp recovery from a deficit of 313 million dollars the previous year, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
Oman Times, citing newly-released official statistics, said the key factors behind the surge were higher oil prices, larger volumes of oil exports and a decline in imports. The surplus accounted for 15 percent of GDP last year.
Annual oil exports rose by 8.7 million barrels, or almost three percent, to 308.8 million barrels in 1999.
Total export earnings increased by 31 percent to 7.132 billion dollars, while oil export revenues soared by 49 percent to 5.45 billion dollars. Japan overtook Thailand as the top importer of Omani crude with a 31 percent share.
The imports bill fell 17.6 percent to 4.744 billion dollars compared to 1998.
In January 1999, Oman raised the tax level on imported luxury goods to 15 percent and on cars to between 10 and 15 percent, but both rates were cut back to five percent at the end of last year.
Omans general oil reserves crept up to 5.742 billion barrels in 1999 from 5.564 billion barrels in 1998, said Oman Times. Oil accounts for around 75 percent of the state budget.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )