MUSCAT (Reuters) - Oman plans to spend an additional $1 billion from its oil windfall to create jobs for its citizens over the next 12 months, a finance ministry official said on Sunday.
“We had a very good income from oil revenues in the first six months of the year,” the official in the ministry’s planning department, who declined to be named under briefing rules, told Reuters.
“Not only do we expect to comfortably balance the budget, but we will use $1 billion of that windfall to create jobs in the next 12 months from September.”
The official did not elaborate on how the money would be spent, or whether the jobs created would be government posts or private sector jobs.
Oman, a non-OPEC oil producer, reported earlier this month that the government’s revenues surged 35 percent from a year earlier to 7.37 billion rials ($19.1 billion) in the first six months of this year, because of high oil prices and rising production.
The resulting budget surplus of 1.61 billion rials during the period was more than four times the surplus in the year-earlier period.
Oman has a young population and anger about limited access to jobs has spilled over into sporadic street protests since early last year. The government says that through state spending and economic policies, it has created over 50,000 jobs between May last year and June this year.
The government has not revealed unemployment statistics but according to a manpower ministry official, there are currently about 22,000 Omani citizens looking for jobs, out of a total of roughly 2 million.
“About 15,000 graduates are looking for jobs this summer and the rest, from that figure of 22,000, are a backlog of jobless who have not found jobs since the beginning of the year,” the official said.
According to the most recent estimate from the International Monetary Fund, census data indicated the unemployment rate among Omani nationals was 24.4 percent in 2010; the IMF estimated some 45,000 new private sector positions for Omanis would be needed each year to absorb new labor force entrants and cut unemployment significantly. However, the IMF acknowledged its number for unemployed might include many people who were not truly looking for work.
Editing by Andrew Torchia