The government has revived the scheme of offering full pensions to local state employees seeking early retirement to ensure a decent living standard for citizens.

According to Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mattar Al Azizi, Minister of the Civil Service and Deputy Chairman of the Civil Service Employees Pension Fund, citizens who left their jobs on compulsory or optional early reitrement schemes would continue to recieve full retirment pay - 100 per cent of the basic salary of the last month in service.

"No amendments will be made that would affect the value of their pensions,"said the Minister. He said the new decision was in keeping with the directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, wanting all citizens to live a decent, honourable life.

The 'golden handshake', as it was called, was introduced years ago. Some 4,700 civil servants and other local government employees benefited from it, but it was put on hold for some reason, a source told Gulf News.

"It allowed the government to inject new, educated, young blood into the civil service to improve efficiency." The minimum service for early retirement against a full pension was 10 years, while 60 was the superannuation age in Oman, when 80 per cent of the basic salary was given to pensioners.

According to the source, the total strength of government employees at the end of last year, excluding those working in the Diwan of the Royal Court, was 84,662, of whom 63,934 were citizens and the rest, 20,728 were non-Omanis.

Omanis prefer government jobs, which are more lucrative than jobs in the private sector. But efforts are being made to attract them into the private sector, where the minium salary for a local has been fixed at 120 riyals.

The government wants at least 20,000 nationals to be recruited in the private sector every year not only to remove joblessness among the local populace but also to reduce dependence on the foreign workforce.