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Tue 17 May 2011 07:31 PM

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Jobless Omani activists vow to hold more protests

Young protesters say government promises to create 50,000 public sector jobs not yet delivered

Jobless Omani activists vow to hold more protests
Omani protesters hold a sit-in outside the sultanates consultative council in Muscat on March 1, 2011. (Getty Images)

Jobless Omani activists vowed on Tuesday to organise more protests, complaining that not enough has been done to appease street protesters demanding better pay, more jobs and an end to graft in the Gulf Arab country.

The government promised 50,000 public sector jobs to calm unrest, but protesters say many jobs have yet to be created.

Protest organisers told Reuters they were planning another demonstration next week outside the civil service government offices in the capital Muscat to demand answers.

"We are still waiting for most of the promised jobs. Only a few thousand have been given. What happened to the rest?" Alwan Al Amri, 22, told Reuters.

Omani demonstrators began taking to the streets in February, inspired by rolling pro-democracy revolts in the Arab world that toppled the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia before spreading to the oil-exporting Gulf Arab region.

But in Oman, where rallies have been on a relatively small scale, protesters have focused their demands more on better wages, more jobs and an end to graft.

"We are organising a peaceful protest next week at the government offices district to remind them about the promised jobs. They cannot employ some and ignore the rest," said Saif Hamed, a 19-year-old school dropout.

Dozens and possibly hundreds of protesters camped out for months in different cities in Oman, but most have now been shut down by security forces, with hundreds arrested.

A sit-in that lasted for weeks in the industrial town of Sohar, the epicentre of Oman's protest movement, was suppressed when security forces deployed throughout the city to clear road blocks and arrest hundreds for alleged acts of vandalism.

The government has said it had already generated up to 33,000 jobs. But a government official said some jobless were being choosy over the jobs they accept while others left lower paid private work for more lucrative government jobs.

"We have some who would not accept jobs in places such as the armed forces, retail and manufacturing sectors. We have also some who resigned from the private sector who want higher salary jobs in the government," a government employee in a committee tasked with job creation said.

He declined to say how many jobs were created since February. Mohammed Al Abry, a job consultant at the Muscat-based capital recruiting agency estimated that the state had created around 10,000 to 15,000 jobs since protests began.

"It is difficult to verify if the government has created that many jobs and I think job seekers may have a point," he said.

Gulf Arab oil producers, keen to prevent popular uprisings from taking hold, launched a $20 billion aid package for Bahrain and Oman. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a U.S. ally who has ruled Oman for 40 years, promised a $2.6 billion spending package in April.

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Susan Hampshire 9 years ago

Sir, the problem in the Gulf is that whislt so many proclaim they want jobs, there are very few who are prepared to undertake the roles that could be available.

After rounds of demonstrating, one simply cannot expect to have a well paid, office job with little or no experience.

I have lived and travelled the Middle East extensively and always notice the jobs that an Arab will not contemplate: AC engineer? Satelite installer? Garbage collecter? Plumber? Petrol pump attendant? Car wash attendant? You get my drift.

Unfortunately for the majority, but certainly not all, jobs are not really the issue. Scratch beneath the surface and most are scared their handouts will come to an abrupt end. If, like in the Western world, you are desperate for work, you will do pretty much anything. Like I try to explain to my colleagues, my first job was collecting glasses and emptying ashtrays! Could you imagine...