MUSCAT Jan 1 Oman's government plans to cut its
budget deficit to 3.3 billion rials ($8.6 billion) this year
from an actual 4.5 billion rials last year, partly through big
spending cuts, Financial Affairs Minister Darwish al-Balushi
said on Friday.
Oman, a small oil exporter, has been hit hard by low oil
prices. The government originally projected a deficit of 2.5
billion rials for last year, assuming an average oil price of
$75 per barrel, but Brent crude is now below $40.
In a statement to official news agency ONA, Balushi
estimated state spending this year at 11.9 billion rials, a big
drop from last year's original budget of 14.1 billion rials, and
revenues at 8.6 billion rials.
He did not specify how the 2016 deficit would be financed,
but said the ministry would issue a detailed statement on the
budget at a later date.
The government has been stepping up local-currency bond
issues and has been seeking a $1 billion syndicated loan.
Officials have said Oman may also issue its first international
bonds since 1997.
Earlier this week, Oman's cabinet approved in principle
spending cuts, tax rises and fuel subsidy reforms to save money,
but did not release detailed numbers.
Salim al-Aufi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Oil and
Gas, was quoted by the al-Shabiba newspaper as saying domestic
gasoline prices would rise by no more than a third to a maximum
of 42 U.S. cents a litre under the reforms - remaining among the
lowest in the world.
(Reporting by Fatma Alarimi; Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing
by Andrew Heavens)