Oman job cuts not India-specific: Centre

Gulf country decides to fire expat workers from state-sector companies

April 30, 2020 11:54 pm | Updated May 01, 2020 08:48 am IST - NEW DELHI

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava. Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava. Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Expat Indian citizens have played a significant role in creating prosperous economies in the Gulf region, the External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday.

The statement came amid reports of continued job cuts in several Gulf countries, including Oman, which has instructed government-owned companies to replace expat workers “as quickly as possible” with Omanis.

“The Gulf countries greatly value their relation with India. They also value the role of the Indian diaspora in the development of the region. The policy of Oman is not specific to India and it does not target Indians,” Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told presspersons.

Oman’s Finance Ministry on Wednesday issued a new set of guidelines ordering state-owned companies to “expedite replacement of expatriates with Omanis”.

According to some estimates, around a third of Oman’s 4.6 million residents are expatriates who work in state-owned and private sectors.

There are at least 8,00,000 Indian workers in the kingdom and a part of them are likely to be impacted by the order. Though the order is limited to the state-owned companies, it is understood that the private sector will be under pressure to follow the state sector’s example.

The Omani order, when carried out, is expected to force significant part of the expat Indians to return home. In view of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Gulf states and the accompanying regional economic downturn, India is already preparing to evacuate a large number of citizens from the Gulf.

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Mr. Srivastava said, “The issue of evacuation is receiving attention of the government,” though he refused to spell out the plans saying, it is “remature” to discuss the details of the evacuation.

The Hindu had reported that India is preparing naval vessels and wide-bodied aircraft to carry out large-scale evacuations from the Gulf after the end of the lockdown. Reports of the upcoming operation created a massive online traffic of Indian applicants on Thursday, which crashed the website of the Indian consulate in Dubai.

Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tarik had assured Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the salaries and well-being of the Indian community would be protected as the country dealt with the economic downturn that had resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Srivastava maintained that Oman had assured to look after the Indians in the country, saying, “They have sent out food for Indians in pockets where they are stuck in the lockdown. They have also said that validity of visas will be extended for those Indians who are stranded there.”

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Strategic partner

Oman has been a strategic partner of India, and a large number of local workers are from South Asia.

Diplomatic sources said the order was not connected to the ongoing pandemic-related economic downturn in the Gulf. “It has been a part of a long-drawn plan to create more job opportunities for the Omani youth who are educated and are looking for employment at home,” said a source familiar with Oman’s official policies. He pointed out that the critical component of the decision was that it showed Oman was determined to go ahead with the indigenisation move.

Oman has been part of India’s international consultations on the pandemic and Mr. Modi spoke with the Sultan on April 7 to discuss the challenges posed by the pandemic to both the countries. The ruler of Oman thanked Mr. Modi for India’s support to Omani citizens who are affected by the ongoing lockdown.

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Oman's economy has received a jolt from the ongoing oil price war, which has prompted the country to go for hard austerity measures this year. These steps are likely to continue in the coming months.

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