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Finance Minister: No intention to delay any project


Darwish bin Isma'eel al-Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs. Photo - Times of Oman/Files

Muscat: Darwish bin Isma'eel al-Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs, has affirmed that the developmental projects enlisted in this year's budget are ongoing as per schedule and there was no intention to delay or postpone any of these.

Darwish made this observation after a launching a credit card, co-branded by Bank Muscat and Oman Air, where he was the patron.

"The government is aware of the importance of sustained positive economic growth, which requires continued spending on developmental projects.

"That is why it is continuing with its policy of increasing spending while at the same time encouraging, both local and foreign investments," he said.

About government's plans to privatize some public establishments and divest the government stakes in these, al-Balushi said privatization was governed by a law.

"We have a privatization 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 one hand and reduce the government stake in private companies that are wholly or partially owned by the government."

He pointed out that there are more than 60 government companies in different sectors, some of which are well-established corporates with good profits and robust performance.

It was affirmed during this year's budget that the government is serious about privatizing some of these companies. 

"We are a few months away from announcing the new budget, which is currently under preparation and will be announced on January 2. 

The 2014 budget will see an announcement of the names of companies that will be privatized."

Asked whether Oman Air is among these companies slated for privatization, he said Oman Air was a government company and was likely to be privatized at an appropriate time as the government sought to select a reliable and suitable investor for any public company it intended to privatize, so as to avoid any negative impact on the performance of the Muscat Securities Market (MSM).

The Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs revealed that Oman Air will conduct a long-term strategy for the next ten years that will include delineating a future plan for the company in terms of expansion, the number of destinations, revenues, expenditure, profit and losses.

He pointed out that the plan will be presented to the government and the government will then take a decision whether it wants to be responsible for the company for the next ten years or whether the company, through its plan, will prove its profitability or even reach the breakeven point.

Commenting on some forecasts that Oman's oil reserves will run out within two decades' time, he said that when oil production started in the 1970s, reports projected that the oil reserves would last for 20 years.

At that time, oil production was only 200,000 barrels per day and now this figure has jumped to 930,000 barrels per day. However, the oil reserves are projected to last for the next 20 years.

 "Modern technologies help boost oil output unpredictably and our oil policy is based on adding a barrel of oil to the reserve against any produced barrel of oil," Darwish concluded.

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