Oman plans to release in January a list of state companies which it aims to privatise, Minister for Financial Affairs Darwish al-Balushi was quoted as saying by state news agency ONA.
“We are a few months away from the announcement of the new budget, which is currently under preparation and will be announced on Jan. 2. The 2014 budget will see the announcement of the companies that will be privatised,” he said.
Balushi said the government owned more than 60 companies across various sectors, including some well-established firms with good profits and robust performance.
“We have a privatisation strategy, which was approved by the government. That is a two-fold strategy, which opens the doors for the private sector to venture into new projects on the one hand and reduces the government stake in…companies that are wholly or partially owned by the government,” he said.
Asked whether the country’s national carrier Oman Air was among the companies slated for privatisation, Balushi said the airline, which is expected to present its 10-year strategy to the government, was likely to be sold at an appropriate time. He did not elaborate on the privatisation schedule.
Oman, a small non-OPEC oil exporter, has smaller energy reserves than its wealthy Gulf neighbours and, after raising spending sharply in the last few years to improve social welfare and create jobs for its citizens, faces a challenge in managing its state finances.
The International Monetary Fund warned in June that the country would need to contain spending growth and raise non-oil income in the medium term to keep its finances sustainable.
The IMF predicted Oman’s state budget could slip into a deficit of 0.9 per cent of gross domestic product in 2015, widening to 6.8 per cent in 2018.
Oman said earlier this month that it planned to sell a 19 per cent stake in its biggest mobile telecommunications operator Omantel, which could raise $595 million.