Oman’s public revenues drop 31 percent in Q1 on COVID-19, lower oil price

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Oman posted a budget deficit of 751.4 million rials ($1.96 billion) in the first three months of this year as public revenues tumbled 30.5 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lower oil prices, the ministry of finance said on Sunday.

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The oil-producing Gulf country has been struggling over the past few years as it piled up debt to offset a decline in oil revenues while reforms to diversify its economy lagged.

Net oil revenue declined by 34.2 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the ministry said in a report.

“This is attributable to low oil prices and economic implications triggered by COVID-19 pandemic,” the ministry said.

Public spending fell by 2.7 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier partly because of efforts to contain costs in various government units, said the ministry.

To improve fiscal efficiency and bolster its debt-burdened finances, Oman introduced a 5 percent value-added tax last month.

In a first among oil-rich Gulf states, the sultanate is also planning to introduce income tax on high earners starting next year, as part of plans to bring down its deficit.

Ratings agency S&P last month affirmed Oman’s rating - which is below investment grade - and said its outlook was stable as economic and fiscal pressures on the country are expected to ease this year.

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