Economic and Political Overview

flag Oman Oman: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

The Sultanate of Oman has had extraordinary economic development since 2004, primarily due to the exploitation of its oil reserves. Despite Omani authorities' swift attempts to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing measures took their toll on the economy, which contracted by an estimated 2.8% in 2020, according to latest IMF estimates. Nonetheless, this was much smaller than an earlier projection of 10%, as oil production fell at a slower rate than initially expected. Oman's GDP was again in positive territory in 2021 (+2.5%) and is now expected to recover fully at 2.9% in 2022 and 4.2% in 2023, mainly supported by the oil industry.

Oman has a relatively healthy economic and financial situation. Nonetheless, the government debt expanded to an estimated 81.2% of GDP in 2020 from 60.5% in 2019 amid higher social and health expenditure, and then 68.2% of GDP in 2021. Public debt is expected to decrease to 61.7% in 2022 and 58.4% in 2023. Lower global oil prices, paired with weaker fiscal revenues pulled the current account deficit to 13.7% of GDP in 2020, but Omani authorities aimed to halve the deficit in 2021 through fiscal consolidation measures : it came back to 5.8% in 2021. The value-added tax is expected to be introduced in April 2021, along with an expansion of the excise tax base. Inflation, which was 3% in 2021 and is forecasted to reach 2.7% in 2022 and 2.6% in 2023. Oman's financial soundness indicators were healthy, according to IMF estimates, with banks' liquidity coverage ratio standing around 200% at the end of 2021, considerably higher than legally mandated levels. In a bid to improve management of oil and gas revenues, the government established a new holding company called Energy Development of Oman (EDO). At the same time, in order to decrease its dependence on raw materials, Oman has established reforms to liberalise and diversify its economy in the framework of its “2040 Vision Plan” (continuation of 2020 Vision Plan), which aims to increase investment in the tourism, financial services and port activity sectors. Such reforms are slowly paying off, as confirmed by the fact that non-oil and gas economy now accounts for more than two-thirds of GDP.

According to World Bank, unemployment rate reached 3.2% in 2021, one of the highest level in nearly 30 years. At the same time, roughly half of Oman's youths are unemployed. Besides, nearly two million jobs are taken by migrant workers (National Centre for Statistics). The government introduced initiatives to tackle the high share of expatriate workers, including bans on foreign worker visas, to promote employment of Omani citizens.

Oil price volatility and insufficient fiscal adjustment could worsen the twin deficits and increase gross financing needs. Fiscal consolidation could also give rise to social tensions, thus undermining the reform drive. On the upside, a further rise in oil prices accompanied with a successful implementation of the reforms would improve the outlook (World Bank, 2022).

 
Main Indicators 20202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 73.9785.87108.97110.79110.45
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -3.23.04.44.11.9
GDP per Capita (USD) 1618232322
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 69.762.945.441.138.1
Inflation Rate (%) -0.91.53.11.92.1
Current Account (billions USD) -12.57-5.216.724.042.84
Current Account (in % of GDP) -17.0-6.16.23.62.6

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Oman has a workforce of 2.67 million out of its 5.1 million population, of whom about 40% are expatriates. The share of expatriate workers has declined in recent years as Oman implemented a visa ban to boost hiring of Omani citizens. Prior to the discovery of oil fields, Oman was virtually a subsistence economy that was entirely based on agriculture and fisheries. Nowadays, the latter contributes only marginally to GDP (3%) and employs 4% of the workforce (World Bank, 2022). Agricultural production is mainly composed of dates, limes, bananas, and owing to the lack of fertile land the country needs to import from international markets.

The industrial sector accounts for 43.6% of GDP and employs 32% of the workforce (World Bank). Its share has increased considerably in the last two decades (employment in industries was as low as 11% in 2000) as Oman increasingly uses enhanced oil recovery techniques and supports mining and manufacturing. The manufacturing sector alone is estimated to contribute to 10% of GDP (World Bank). However, the country is heavily dependent on oil and gas resources, which generate between and 68% and 85% of government revenue on average, depending on fluctuations in commodity prices.

The services sector accounts for 53.4% of GDP and 64% of the workforce (down from 82.4% in 2000). Oil-related activities comprise a significant share of the services sector; however, logistics (maritime transport in particular) and financial activities are growing steadily. Tourism is one of the sectors being developed in order for the Sultanate to build a sustainable non-oil future, and the number of tourists has more than doubled in the last decade (3.5 million in 2019, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information).

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 4.0 32.0 64.0
Value Added (in % of GDP) 2.4 53.7 48.1
Value Added (Annual % Change) 1.9 1.3 -1.1

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Omani Rial (OMR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 0.010.010.010.010.01

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency Converter.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
64,6/100
World Rank:
71
Regional Rank:
7

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Oman's economy is very open and trade represented more than 107% of the country’s GDP in 2019 (World Bank, 2022). The Sultanate mainly exports hydrocarbons and petrochemicals, and in the past few years has been trying to diversify its economy, with a growing share of industrial products in total exports. Oman´s economy is highly dependent on exports of oil (62 percent of total exports) and liquefied natural gas (8 percent). Other exports include chemicals, plastics and rubber products. The country’s demand for consumer goods and equipment has been growing in the past few years. The main imports are led by petroleum oils, vehicles, electronics and iron.

China is by far the largest receiver of Omani exports, accounting for more than 30% of the total, followed by South Korea (11%), the United Arab Emirates (10.7%) and Japan (10.5%). Others include: India, United States and Thailand. The Sultanate’s main suppliers are United Arab Emirates (36.3%), China, Japan, India, Qatar and the United States (Comtrade 2021).

According to WTO data, in 2020, Oman exported goods for a total value of 31.6 billion USD, down by over 7 billion USD, while imports of goods amounted to 20.6 billion USD, against 23.5 billion USD a year earlier. The country is a net importer of services and its trade balance is structurally positive but it is highly sensitive to hydrocarbon prices fluctuations. The country possesses many assets which facilitate the development of trade, such as its high-quality port facilities. However, slow procedures and rigid labour laws remain significant obstacles to trade. Customs duties are relatively low, and there are not many trade barriers in the country. Most goods produced in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries are duty-free if accompanied by a certificate of origin. However, imported alcoholic beverages, tobacco and pork products are subject to the highest custom fees (100%). The government hopes to ratify free trade agreements with the European Union, China and Japan, similar to the one that was signed with the United States in September 2006.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 22,70026,43525,77023,50720,960
Exports of Goods (million USD) 25,30232,90441,76138,72431,685
Imports of Services (million USD) n/a10,81111,72912,0935,539
Exports of Services (million USD) n/a4,0104,5915,0011,830
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -10.215.9-3.4-6.1n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.0-1.34.61.6n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 39.541.838.437.7n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 39.344.652.152.3n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) 6,2588,76418,08518,229n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -1622,00310,94711,137n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 78.886.490.590.0n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
United Arab Emirates 8.6%
Saudi Arabia 3.9%
United States 3.8%
India 3.0%
China 2.3%
See More Countries 78.4%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
United Arab Emirates 35.6%
China 7.0%
India 6.6%
Qatar 6.4%
Brazil 4.9%
See More Countries 39.6%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

44.6 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 41.9%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 9.9%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 8.7%
Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (excl....Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (excl. those in pellet or similar forms, or in packages with a gross weight of <= 10 kg) 3.4%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 2.1%
See More Products 34.1%
31.0 bn USD of products imported in 2021
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 10.9%
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 6.1%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 5.6%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 2.5%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 1.9%
See More Products 73.1%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 
 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
Sultan: Haitham bin Tariq al Said (since 11 January 2020)
Chairman of the Consultative Council: Khalid Al Maawali (since 28 October 2011)
Next Election Dates
Consultative Assembly: October 2023
Main Political Parties
Oman does not allow political parties. The only political organisation, Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman, was dissolved in 1992, and remains dormant to this day.
Type of State
Sultanate. Absolute Monarchy.
Executive Power
Oman is an absolute monarchy and the Sultan is both head of state and head of government. The hereditary Sultan appoints a cabinet to assist him and serves as the supreme commander of the armed forces, prime minister, and minister of defence, foreign affairs, and finance. The Sultan does not designate his own successor when alive. Instead, the ruling family designates a new ruler after the Sultan's death.
Legislative Power
The legislative branch is bicameral; however, it does not have full power over the law-making process. The Council of Ministers (appointed by the Sultan) must refer draft laws to the lower house of the Council of Oman (83 members) and the Consultative Assembly (86 members elected by universal suffrage). The draft law is then subject to the approval of the upper house, the State Council (all appointed by the Sultan). Bills must be approved and signed by the Sultan to become a law.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
133/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
6/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
To find out about the latest status of the COVID-19 pandemic evolution and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID-19 disease in Oman, you can check the latest statements and updates from the Ministry of Health. 
For the international outlook you can consult the latest situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
To discover the latest public health situation in Oman and the current sanitary measures in vigour, please consult the Ministry of Health website
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
For the information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including eventual restrictions on imports and exports, if applicable), please consult the website of the Omani Customs Authority.
For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Oman on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
Most of the economic measures taken by the Oman government to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national economy are addressed here and in the  World Bank´s Country Economic Update.
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Oman government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Oman in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
The country's government official sources do not provide yet information with regards to specific schemes in support of business or exporting companies following the coronavirus epidemic outbreak. However, the government has introduced a number of relief initiatives to relax statutory and regulatory compliance for businesses.  For the updated information please visit the website of the Omani Ministry of Economy.
For a general overview of international SME support policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.
Support plan for exporters
The country's government official sources do not provide yet information with regards to specific schemes in support of business or exporting companies following the coronavirus epidemic outbreak. 
For the updated information please visit the website of the Omani Ministry of Economy.
 

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Latest Update: November 2022