Feb 16, 2011 at 13:26
MUSCAT (Reuters) - Oman has raised minimum wages by 43 percent for national workers in the private sector, the Gulf Arab country's official news agency said, after consumer prices increased at their fastest pace in four months in December.
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 late on Tuesday.
"The council of ministers... decided to raise the minimum wage to 200 rials per month under the orders of Sultan Qaboos bin Said," ONA said, without giving a reason for the rise.
Inflation in the non-OPEC oil producer accelerated to 4.2 percent year-on-year in December and prices rose 0.7 percent from the previous month as food costs soared, data showed.
Gulf Arab countries have stepped up measures to appease their populations following popular unrest that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
Bahrain's king decided last week to give 1,000 dinars ($2,650) to each Bahraini family, in a latest move that the Sunni rulers have taken to appease the majority Shi'ite public before this week's protests.
There is no minimum wage for expatriate workers in Oman, who make up 33 percent of Oman's population of 2.9 million.
Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al-Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers, said Oman's leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said was keen to ensure decent living to all Omani citizens, ONA reported.
Said also said authorities would monitor price hikes of food commodities in the private sector.
There is no official unemployment rate, but a CIA estimate from 2004 put the rate then at around 15 percent.
Omani participation in the private sector is estimated at 19 percent, but over a million Omanis are not registered as private-sector and are self-employed in retail, agricultural and cottage industries where they have unlicensed businesses in crafts such as pottery, weaving, and silvercraft.
Oman plans to spend 8.13 billion rials ($21.1 billion) in 2011, an increase of about 696 million over its 2010 budget.
Its economy grew by a faster-than-expected 6 percent last year, and robust crude oil prices enabled the non-OPEC oil producer to overspend on its 2010 budget.
Analysts polled by Reuters expect the country's economy to expand by 4.6 percent in 2011.