x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Jobless Omanis protest outside Sultan Qaboos’s palace

Protesters in Muscat claim the promise of jobs in the army has not yet been fulfilled.

MUSCAT // Hundreds of young jobless Omanis gathered opposite the gates of Sultan Qaboos bin Said's palace to demand jobs promised to them within the army, witnesses said.

The protesters gathered on Tuesday night at Bait al Barakah roundabout in Muscat. "All we wanted was the attention of Sultan Qaboos to know that the jobs the army promised us have never materialised," Hamed Khalfan, a 19-year old protester, said.

The military moved them on four hours later but Mr Khalfan said some protesters remained on the pavements until Wednesday morning.

Hamood Mohammed, a 20-year old protester said a representative of the sultan came and spoke to the demonstrators and promised he would personally convey their message to him.

A military recruiting spokesman said the army had already recruited more than 2,000 young Omanis in the last two weeks and more jobs would be created in the coming weeks.

"We have strict instructions from the Sultan to recruit as many jobless as we can but it will take time to absorb them. These young people must have patience," the spokesman said.

Sultan Qaboos last month ordered the creation of 50,000 jobs but did not specify the time frame. The minister of manpower, Sheikh Abdulla al Bakri, told reporters earlier this week that the government has already recruited about 6,500 people in the last four weeks for the civil ministries.

"Out of 50,000 jobs, 35,000 jobs will come from the government, including the security forces, the rest from the private sector," he said.

Protesters in Oman have demanded political and economic reforms in a wave of demonstrations across the country in the last seven weeks. Two people have been left dead after security forces opened fire on separate occasions.

Sultan Qaboos, who has ruled the country for 40 years, embarked in a series of reforms since the end of February. He sacked 12 ministers and introduced an unemployment benefit of 150 Rials (Dh1,450) per month.

He also increased the salaries of civil servants and pensioners as well as doubling the monthly allowances of the elderly and people with no income.