Oman’s Ministry of Finance has asked state-owned companies to stop paying 2016 annual bonuses as well as benefits to their employees, in a bid to control spending amid falling oil revenues.

Muscat cited improving efficiency and effectiveness of government bodies, as the reasons for cuts, according to Dubai-based English language daily Gulf News which cited a recent circular issued by the ministry.

Oman is expected to run a budget deficit of RO3bn ($7.79bn) in 2017, which is equivalent to 35 per cent of the government revenues and 12 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The expected deficit comes after a challenging 2016 for the Omani economy as oil revenues dwindle. The budgeted deficit for 2016 was projected at RO3.3bn.

Oman, which is not a member of oil cartel Opec, earlier in January also approached banks to submit proposals to help it raise funds through the sale of an international bond to help it plug the fiscal deficit. It could raise a dollar or an Islamic bond and the government is expected to receive responses from the banks imminently.

The ministry has also said that all state-owned companies should rationalise spending. “It requires cooperation of all in order to preserve the integrity of the financial situation of the state,” according to the circular.

There are more than 60 state-owned companies in the sultanate and the ministry had earlier said that bonuses and benefits were not “basic rights” of the job and were outside the framework of public expenditure.

Benefits include health insurance for the employee and their dependents, interest-free personal and housing loans, cash bonuses, scholarships, mobile phone expenses, furniture allowance and Ramadan and Eid allowances.