Protest waves reach Oman

Men and women gathered in Ruwi, a commercial district in the capital, after prayers and chanted “we want democracy” while others shouted “more pay and jobs”.
Protesters demonstrated for about one hour and left the district. There were no reported arrests.

The sultanate increased the salary for national workers active in the private sector to 200 rials ($520) per month from 140 rials, the Oman News Agency (ONA) said this week.  There is no official unemployment rate, but a CIA estimate from 2004 put the rate then at about 15 per cent.

Gulf Arab countries have stepped up measures to appease their populations following popular unrest that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Protesters in Muscat also demanded cabinet ministers not serve more than four years.

“The cabinet must be appointed from the Shura Council because the members are elected. We can’t have ministers serving 10 to 20 years. It is encouraging corruption,” said one protester.

In 1992, Sultan Qaboos bin Said established a parliament called Majlis Shura, whose 84 members are elected by constituents in 61 districts. But parliament only advises and has no legislative powers.

Inflation in the non-OPEC oil producer accelerated to 4.2 per cent year-on-year in December and prices rose 0.7 per cent from the previous month as food costs soared, data showed.

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