Oman tells state companies to replace expats with locals - ONA

DUBAI, April 29 (Reuters) - Oman’s finance ministry told state companies on Wednesday to replace foreign workers with locals, as part of efforts to develop the national workforce, state-owned Oman News Agency reported.

The move is part of the government’s running so-called “Omanisation” policy, which is aimed at improving the number and quality of jobs available for Omani citizens.

Low oil prices and the economic slowdown caused by the new coronavirus outbreak are straining the finances of Oman, a relatively small energy producer with debt rated “junk” by all the major rating agencies.

Two weeks ago, the state barred private companies from trying to lessen the economic burden of the coronavirus crisis by firing Omanis.

It also urged private firms to ask non-Omani employees “to leave permanently” - a sweeping move in a country where more than a third of the 4.6 million population are expatriates, according to official statistics.

Over the past few weeks Oman - which as of Wednesday had registered 2,274 coronavirus cases and 10 related deaths - has announced budget cuts to stabilise the economy.

Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh and davide Barbuscia; Editing by Andrew Heavens