The present corruption crackdown in Oman is the latest sign that authorities in the sultanate clearly heard the message delivered by the protesters that took to the streets in 2011.
The demonstrators demanded better wages, more jobs and an end to state corruption. The government was quick to initiate reforms, including introducing a monthly allowance for the unemployed and pay rises for civil servants. Some legislative powers were also ceded to the partially elected Council of Oman. Latterly, several government officials and private businessmen have been convicted of corruption and dozens more face charges of offering or accepting bribes in exchange for contracts.
The few thousands Omanis that turned out to protest three years ago were keen to emphasise their loyalty to the ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, who has led the country since 1970. That loyalty has now been rewarded.
The punishments handed out should be severe enough to deter other state employees from being tempted to follow suit and enrich themselves. Fines have run into millions of dollars and prison sentences have been up to 20 and more years. The clampdown has the potential to change to nature of business in the sultanate for the better.
At the same time, the government is stepping up its investment in development projects aimed to open up the economy and diversify income away from a reliance on energy exports. Progress is being made on important energy projects, the national railway, hospitals and road schemes, and a huge effort is under way to expand the tourism and agricultural sectors. Combined with steady economic growth of 4-5 per cent, the average Omani should now be feeling more positive about their future prospects.