The government has accorded top priority to creating job opportunities for nationals by providing additional allocation for both training and education in the current budget. The budget aims at providing employment for 36,000 people in the government sector this year, including defence forces. In addition, government companies are expected to offer employment opportunities for 2,000 aspiring Omani youths.
Addressing the media to announce the budget proposals for 2012 here yesterday, Darwish bin Isma'eel bin Ali Al Balushi, minister responsible for financial affairs, said the government has a two-pronged strategy for augmenting job creation - one is to admit more people in universities and technical colleges, and to offer tailor-made training programmes to mould them suitably for working in both the private and public sectors. The estimated expenditure for education sector is RO1.3 billion, which is 13 percent of the total public expenditure. Also, the minister said, the government is reintroducing a training-for-employment programme, which was first introduced a few years ago. "We are looking for 24,000 Omanis to be taken under this scheme - 12,000 to be trained locally and the remaining people abroad," Darwish said, adding: "As many as 5,000 candidates will be taken immediately for training, which is linked with employment."
The remaining candidates will be taken for training later, depending on the demand from private sector firms. The minister also noted that there is a plan to provide basic training in English language, before sending them for overseas training. "We have to make sure that the youths are ready to be trained in foreign countries like Australia, Malaysia, Germany, Singapore and the United Kingdom." Responding to a question on the success of a plan to provide jobs for 50,000 candidates announced early last year, he said the number of people who got employment exceeded the initial target. "I think 43,000 jobs were created by the government and another 2,100 were absorbed by state-owned companies.
Another 35,000-40,000 people have also got employment in the private sector," he said, adding: "Some of them declined to accept job offers, because the offers were not up to their expectations." Darwish said the government expenditure and revenue are estimated at RO10 billion and RO8.8 billion, leaving an anticipated deficit of RO1.2 billion for 2012. The revenue estimate is 21 percent or RO1.5 billion higher than that of last year, whereas expenditure is 9 percent or RO800 million more than last year's revised estimate of RO9.13 billion. The oil and gas revenue constitute 81 percent of the total estimated revenue, while current and capital revenue will constitute another 19 percent. The oil revenue was calculated on the basis of an average assumed price of $75 per barrel, with an average daily production of 915,000 barrels. The minister said that of the total expenditure, the current expenditure is estimated at RO6.4 billion, constituting 64 percent of the total general expenditure. As much as RO2.6 billion is for covering defence and other security expenditure and another RO3.5 billion for current expenses of the civil ministries.
The investment expenditure is estimated at RO2.7 billion, which is 27 percent of the total expenditure. "Of this, RO1.4 billion is allocated for funding development projects and RO1.3 billion for covering expenses of oil and gas production," he noted. The estimated deficit of RO1.2 billion will be met by way of issuing development bonds and surplus money from oil revenue. The estimated expenditure for the health sector was RO500 million, while another RO130 million is allocated for social security and welfare. The budget also allocated RO120 million for building 2,500 houses for people with limited income. Referring to economic growth, the minister said that preliminary estimates indicate that the gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by 7 percent for 2011, which is against 6 percent for 2010. The minister also noted that non-oil activities are expected to grow by 10 percent last year. Darwish said the average price of Oman oil last year hovered around $102 per barrel, which is against $58 a barrel assumed price taken for calculating budget revenue. Referring to inflation, the minister said the average inflation last year remained at 4 percent, which is considered within the targeted limit.