Muscat: Loan defaulters serving sentences in Omani prisons could soon be set free thanks to an ongoing successful campaign that was launched in 2012 by the Oman Laywers Association.
The campaign, dubbed Fak Kurbah (redeeming anguish), has been overwhelmingly embraced by Omani society as individuals have donated for the cause in droves.
“The idea of the project is to understand the sufferings of those behind the bars — especially those fell into debt traps,” Mohammad Al Zadjali, the head of Oman Lawyers Association and the Legislative and Legal Committee at Oman’s elected Shura Council, told Gulf News.
The campaign which is slated to last through the month of Ramadan has managed to free more than 780 prisoners since 2012.
Al Zadjali expects at least 400 prisoners will benefit from the campaign this year.
Typically, those with debt under 2,000 riyals will be freed.
The campaign usually happens annually, but was halted in 2013 and 2016 due to lack of donations.
Ahmad Al Nasri, a private sector employee, told Gulf News he will be donating to the cause this year.
“It’s a good feeling to bring life back to a family, especially in the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.
In 2016, there was 600 million riyals of unpaid personal loans, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) figures.
Al Zadjali says he hopes that funding for Fak Kurbah will increase so that it will be able to operate year round.
The grim statistics coincide with increasing unemployment in the country amid an economic slump due to the plunge in oil prices.
More than 5,000 Omanis lost their jobs in the oil and gas sector in 2016, according to government figures.
In April, a proposal to establish a fund to support Omanis laid off in the private sector was discussed, according to Nabhan Al Batashi, chairman of General Federation of Oman Trade Union (GFOTU).
Under the proposal, those who qualify will receive 60 per cent of their salary for a period of six months.
Thanks to intensive lobbying by the GFOTU, at least 4,000 Omani workers were reinstated in their jobs, Al Batashi said.
He added that efforts to reinstate the remaining jobless Omanis were continuing.
Oman has been hit hard by the slump in the oil prices as country’s 2017 budget has massive spending cuts.
State revenue is expected to rake in 8.7 billion riyals but spending is predicted to reach 11.7 billion riyals, resulting in a 3 billion riyal deficit.
The predicted deficit is significantly lower than the 5.3 billion deficit posted in 2016.