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Oman

Flag of Oman

Oman country brief

Overview

The Sultanate of Oman is the oldest independent state in the Arab World. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia on the western side, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the northwest and Yemen in the southwest. Oman has two enclaves (Madha and the Musandam peninsula) within the land borders of the UAE. Oman also has maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan. The Arabian Sea lies to Oman's southeast, and the Gulf of Oman to the northeast. Although partially under Portuguese occupation during the 16th to mid-17th century, Oman had its own empire in East Africa from the early 18th to the mid-19th century. Oman has a population of 4.2 million (2018). Foreign expatriates are estimated to make up to 45 per cent of the population. Administratively, Oman is divided into six regions. Its national day, 18 November, is the birthday of the former Sultan, HM Qaboos bin Said Al-Said. Oman's capital is Muscat on the northern coast.

Political overview

Oman is a monarchy. The head of state and government (prime minister) is the hereditary sultan. The Sultan, HM Haitham bin Tarik Al-Said acceded to the position in January 2020, following the death of the former Sultan, HM Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said. Sultan Qaboos’ death ended his almost 50 year reign in Oman. As Sultan, HM Haitham bin Tarik Al-Said also performs the roles of Foreign Affairs and Finance Minister, and is Chair of the Central Bank and Commander of the Armed Forces. In international relations, the Sultan is assisted by HE Darwish bin Isma’eel bin Ali al-Balushi, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs.

Established in 1996, Oman has a bicameral legislature with advisory powers, the Council of Oman. It comprises an 83-member upper chamber, the Majilis al Dawla (State Council) appointed by the Sultan, and an 84-member lower chamber, the Majilis al Shura (Consultative Council) elected by popular vote to serve a four year term. The most recent election was held in October 2019. Universal suffrage for those over 21 in Oman was instituted on 4 October 2003. Legislation was amended in February 2010 to allow the formation of labour unions

As with other Gulf countries, Oman has a large youth population (approximately 45 per cent are under the age of 24). Popular protests occurred in Oman in 2011 calling for economic reform, jobs and access to education, leading to some reforms.

Oman is a member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

Bilateral relations

Australia established diplomatic relations with Oman in 1981. The Australian Embassy in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is accredited to Oman. Australia appointed an Honorary Consul in Muscat in December 2011. Austrade services in Oman are provided through the Australian Embassy in Riyadh. Oman's Ambassador in Tokyo is accredited to Australia. Oman opened a Consulate-General in Melbourne in June 2005, mainly to support Omani students in Australia.

Our bilateral relations with Oman are friendly and cooperative. As co-founders of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Australia and Oman work closely together to advance cooperation on a range of Indian Ocean rim regional issues, including fisheries and maritime security and safety.

Australia and Oman enjoy close defence cooperation, with frequent port visits by Australian naval vessels deployed to the Gulf and a range of defence exchange and training programs.

Education links remain strong, with 1,190 Omani student enrolments at Australian institutions in 2019. There are eight formal agreements between Australian and Omani universities to facilitate student and academic exchange, and research collaboration. This includes the establishment in 2003 of the Sultan of Oman Endowed Chair in Arab and Islamic Studies, which was established at the University of Melbourne, by the then Sultan of Oman, as a lasting token of the partnership between Oman and Australia.

People-to-people links are further enhanced by an association of alumni of Australian universities which is active in Oman, the Oman students' association in Melbourne, and the Australian Business Group in Oman.

Economic overview

Oman is a middle-income economy (GDP of US$76.6 billion in 2019). Faced with the prospect of dwindling oil reserves, notwithstanding new gas coming on stream, the Omani Government has pursued an economic reform agenda to diversify its economy. A key pillar of Vision 2040 is to increase the contribution of non-oil sectors of the economy to 90 per cent of GDP. The Omani Government is also seeking to attract more foreign business and investment

Up to a billion dollars have been committed to the development of new maritime ports and the expansion of existing gateways. A new international airport in Muscat opened in 2018, with the capacity to handle 12 million passengers annually. Development of a Special Economic Zone at the port of Duqm is intended to create a major logistics hub for the region.

With an extensive Indian Ocean coastline, Oman has historically looked outward to the Indian Ocean, South Asia and East Africa. Oman aims to become a gateway to international trade between Europe, the Gulf and South Asia.

Trade and investment

Australia's two-way goods and services trade with Oman totalled $615 .0 million in 2018-19. Australia’s principle exports include meat, wheat and livestock. In 2018-9, imports from Oman to Australia were worth $57 million and comprised largely of petroleum and associated commodities

A number of Australian companies are active in Oman across a range of sectors. Oman is encouraging Australian investment to support its economic reform agenda, aimed at diversification of the economy and the education of its citizens. It has a particular interest in tapping into Australia's agribusiness and natural resources-related expertise, including on dairy production.

There is potential for useful scientific collaboration on agriculture, aquaculture and coastal ecosystems. There are significant prospects for further expansion in Australian education services, including in vocational education and training (VET).

High level visits

  • December 2016: Visit to Oman by Australian Special Envoy for Human Rights.
  • September 2015: Visit to Oman by then Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Investment.
  • April 2015: Visit to Oman by the Speaker and a delegation of Members of the WA Legislative Assembly.
  • February 2014: Visit to Oman by the Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security.
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