Monday column: Omanis celebrate Social Protection Allowances

Opinion Sunday 21/January/2024 19:55 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Monday column: Omanis celebrate Social Protection Allowances

Last week, over two million Omanis received the first monthly payment of the social protection allowances that will help them to keep up with the cost of living.

Citizens from the age of 60 start getting OMR115 a month. Also, children under the age of 18 get OMR10 a month while disabled Omanis get OMR130 a month. The widows also benefit from the new allowances, even if they have not reached the age of 60.

“The allowance is helping me to pay for my groceries. My late husband’s pension was never enough and I used to struggle,” Fatma Al Balushi, a 43-year old widow, said.

A 49-year old disabled man who lost a leg in a road accident in 2019, is also grateful. He could not continue with his work as a guard in a mall and was forced to accept 50 percent of his work pension because he did not complete the required number of years.

“The money helps a lot to pay the bills and as a disabled person, I am eternally grateful to the gesture of His Majesty the Sultan,” Mohammed Al-Salmi, said.

The State Budget 2024 has allocated OMR560 million for the Social Protection Allowances to help Omani citizens who need financial assistance. Statistics show that about 60 percent of the recipients are children, 8 percent are people with disabilities while the rest are widows and pensioners. It is not surprising that the big majority are children because young Omani couples are prolific when it comes to child bearing.

According to statistics, an average Omani couple have five children. But it is not clear which category of recipients will benefit most. But social security experts estimate that Omanis with young children will benefit more.

“Some young couples with five or six children are struggling to look after them. So they will benefit most from the extra cash. For them, the allowances are a gift from God to make ends meet,” Rashid Al-Saifi, a Social Security Advisor, said.

He added that hopefully the new children allowances will not encourage newly-weds to produce more.

“My only hope is that this new children allowance will not make new couples think of producing a number of children. Or the ones married now will not be encouraged to have more babies,” Khalid Al-Esri, a family counsellor, said.

He added that currently, nearly 40 percent of the Omanis are under the age of 18.

While experts fear the population explosion, economists say that the cash injected into the economy will benefit the local businesses and create employment.  

“With over half a billion rials injected annually into the economy, that will have a very positive effect soon enough. My predictions the cash will create more businesses and expand existing trades. In return, more graduates will be employed or start their own businesses,” said Feisal Al-Hattali, a retired government economist.

About 40,000 graduates leave schools, colleges and universities every year looking for employment. Currently, there is a reasonable backlog to fill for the graduates.

Overall, the Social Protection Allowances will be a big boost to the country and for everyone.