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Sun 3 Jan 2010 07:20 PM

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Oman project boom raises demand for foreign labour

Lack of nationals to fill job vacancies sees rise in demand for foreign nationals.

Oman's spending on new projects, spurred by the recovery of oil prices, will raise the demand for foreign labour in 2010, the sultanate's national economy minister said on Sunday.

The Gulf Arab country expects to create 4,000 jobs in 2010 for nationals through the $2.4 billion allocated for new projects, but Ahmad Mekki said the projects will also drive demand for foreign workers.

Speaking to reporters, Mekki said: "We will need more expatriates to keep up with the pace of the development from new projects next year." He did not give figures for foreign workers.

He added: "There are not enough nationals to fulfil all the jobs in demand."

According to the latest national economy statistics, there are 852,000 foreign workers in Oman, five times the number of nationals working in the private sector.

Foreign workers make up nearly 30 percent of Oman's population of 2.9 million people.

Industry analysts said the sultanate depended heavily on foreign labour in the construction sector, where nationals lacked expertise or were not willing to take on jobs.

Speaking to Reuters, Rashid Alwai, managing partner at Muscat Investments Co, said: "We don't have enough experts in civil engineering to cater for the rising demands."

He added: "Young Omanis also are not willing to work as labourers because they see it as demeaning."

Oman has allocated an expenditure of $18.65 billion in 2010, up from $16.67 billion a year earlier. Plans include building four new airports, three ports, power plants and petrochemical projects.

Oman fetched 12.5 percent more from oil income in 2009, basing its budget on an oil price of $45 per barrel, but selling its oil at an average price of $56.7 per barrel. (Reuters)

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