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Oman’s reform plans worry activists

Large budget deficits have forced Oman to accelerate the pace of economic reforms, which some activists fear are not addressing restrictions on political expression.
Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq meets with US Secretary of State at al-Alam palace in the capital Muscat on February 21, 2020. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Oman announced it plans to levy an income tax on wealthy individuals beginning in 2022. The measure, if implemented, would signal a turning point in a region where tax-free income is the norm. German diplomat Joachim Duster has closely followed Gulf affairs since the 1970s and told Al-Monitor, “Oman is waking up to the realities of this world.”

But the clock is ticking, and a repeatedly delayed 5% value-added tax is expected to be introduced in April 2021, as government coffers are at risk of further depletion. Oman is on track to post its seventh straight year in the red while public debt is expected to reach 80% of gross domestic product this year, 16 times more than the number in 2014.

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