Oman’s ruler approves fiscal plan to diversify revenue

Sultan Haitham is seeking to reduce high levels of government debt and bring down state spending. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 October 2020

Oman’s ruler approves fiscal plan to diversify revenue

DUBAI: Oman’s sultan has approved a medium-term fiscal plan to make government finances sustainable, state media said on Thursday, as the coronavirus crisis and low oil prices batter state coffers.

The country has long had plans to reform its economy, diversify revenues and introduce sensitive tax and subsidies reform, but they dragged under the late Sultan Qaboos, who died in January after half a century in power.

His successor, Sultan Haitham, approved a 2020-2024 fiscal plan that included increasing government income from non-oil sectors, state media reported, citing orders from the Sultan.

Oman will also accelerate the establishment of a social security system for low-income citizens who may be affected by the government’s drive to bring down the country’s debt and cut state spending, one of the orders said.

Haitham also ordered 371 million Omani rials ($964 million) of unspecified development projects to be carried out across the country.

Rated non-investment grade by all major credit agencies, Oman’s debt climbed to around 60 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2019 from less than 5 percent five years earlier.

On Wednesday it raised $2 billion in its first international bond sale since July 2019.  People familiar with the plans had previously said Oman sought to raise between $3 billion and $4 billion in a three-part deal.

However, Oman scrapped a three-year tranche as it faces an aggressive debt repayment schedule between 2021 and 2023 and limited investor appetite for the offer, several bankers and fund managers said.

“Our estimate was that they wanted to do $3 billion. So I think the size might be a bit disappointing for them but I think they should be happier with the price,” Abdul Kadir Hussain, head of fixed income asset management at Arqaam Capital.

The country has begun preliminary discussions with some Gulf countries about financial support, according to a bond prospectus seen by Reuters. Bahrain, the only other “junk” rated Gulf country, averted a credit crunch in 2018 when it was bailed out with a $10 billion aid package from its wealthy neighbors.


Scammers fool Britons with investment firm clones, says trade body

Updated 28 November 2020

Scammers fool Britons with investment firm clones, says trade body

  • Losses amounted to 9.4 million pounds ($12.56 million) between March and mid-October

LONDON: More than 200 British retail investors have lost nearly 10 million pounds ($13.4 million) in total to sophisticated investment scams since a government lockdown in March to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, a trade body said on Saturday.
Fraudsters cloned genuine investment management firms’ websites and documentation, and advertised fake products on sham price comparison websites and on social media, the Investment Association said.
Greater financial uncertainty and more time spent online have likely contributed to the increase in scams, industry sources say.
Losses amounted to 9.4 million pounds ($12.56 million) between March and mid-October, the IA said, based on information it got from member firms which had been cloned.
“In a year clouded in uncertainty, organized criminals have sought opportunity in misfortune by attempting to con investors out of their hard-earned savings,” Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association said.
The investment management industry was working closely with police and regulators to stop the scams, he added.
Britain’s Action Fraud warned earlier this month that total reported losses from all types of investment fraud came to 657 million pounds between September 2019 and September 2020, a rise of 28% from a year ago. Reports spiked between May and September, following Britain’s first national lockdown, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting center added.