x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Oman to spend 1 billion rials to meet protesters' demands

Oman has announced a spending boost as a centrepiece of efforts to quell two months of sporadic demonstrations for more jobs and a greater political voice in the monarchy.

MUSCAT // The Omani government said yesterday it will spend about 1 billion rials (Dh9.5bn) to address protesters' demands made during two months of demonstrations. Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, has also promised 50,000 new civil servant jobs with higher wages. The spending boost is a centrepiece of efforts to quell two months of sporadic demonstrations for more jobs and a greater political voice in the monarchy.

The protests have also influenced bloggers, who are becoming more vocal.

"Bloggers would not have gone this far if it was not for the success of the protests. Young people need to let out the steam of frustrations one way or another and that's why blogging is popular among them," said Mohammed Al Shirawi, a blogger at the popular site sablatoman.com. Bloggers are now freely discussing the state of affairs on websites such as omanforum.com, on Twitter and Facebook without fear of retribution. In the past, the information ministry was known to harass bloggers.

"A year ago, the mention of a cabinet minister in a bad light would have been punished. But now people express their opinion and debate in a healthy way knowing that government officials are not faultless," said Ahmed Al Harthy, who is frequently discussing the political situation in Oman on Facebook with friends.

"There's no stopping bloggers now. They would continue to express themselves to improve the country. The current serving ministers would now know that they are being monitored and they cannot get away with corruption or any kind of abuse. With the blessings of His Majesty the Sultan, bloggers will continue to debate for the good of the country," said Hamood Al Amri, a blogger at sablatoman.com.

salshaibany@thenational.ae