Senior Saudi and Omani officials on Tuesday discussed investment opportunities in both countries, state media reported, a few days after Oman was hit by protests over unemployment.
The virtual meeting was held by Saudi Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih and Omani Commerce and Industry Minister Qais al-Yousef, Oman’s state television channel reported.
It was not immediately known if the meeting was planned before last week’s street protests in Oman, which were not mentioned by state media reports on the talks.
The talks addressed diversification of economies and sectors with investment opportunities, Omani TV added.
Omanis protested over unemployment for days in several cities and towns across the Gulf Arab sultanate. The unrest appears to have abated after a heavy security response, but signaled that Oman may rein in its efforts to contain state deficits and debts in order to meet job demands.
Oman, with a much smaller oil industry – representing about a third of its GDP – than other Gulf Arab countries, is among the financially least robust countries in the region, and is more vulnerable to swings in oil price swings.
The twin shocks of low oil prices and the COVID-19 crisis have strained Oman’s public finances and pushed its debt to historic record highs, prompting the introduction of new taxes, a public sector hiring freeze and other austerity measures.
Last year Oman started preliminary talks with some Gulf countries for financial help. It was unclear if the two ministers discussed direct financial support at Tuesday’s talks.
IMAGE: Investment Minister, Khalid Abdulaziz Al Falih, speaks during the fourth annual Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 27, 2021.