Since he seized power in a bloodless coup in 1970, the sultan has overseen the transformation of the country’s economy. In the 1990s, he codified a basic constitution, which gave Omanis freedoms unheard of elsewhere in the region.
In 2011, Sultan Qaboos was praised for the speed with which he reacted to uprisings across the Arab world and protests at home. But some Omanis are now questioning whether his legendary powers of persuasion are on the wane.
Many had expected him to appoint a prime minister or to open up the political system after protests in the country. Instead, he sacked some members of government accused of corruption and unveiled an economic package, which his critics saw as an attempt to appease Omanis in a similar manner to the country’s oil-rich Gulf neighbours. Economists worry that Muscat cannot sustain further largesse of this kind in the future.
Omanis are concerned that the sultan who was a proactive reformer in the past has now become reactive. Others say Sultan Qaboos and his inner circle have reached the limits of the reforms they are willing to enact.
The sultan has unquestionably changed Oman for the better, but if progress is to continue, a clear agenda must be set for the future.