Muscat: Oman has no plans to cut fuel subsidy, Darwish Bin Esmail Al Beloushi, Oman’s Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs, has affirmed.

Al Beloushi told Oman Shura Council on Monday that living standards of citizens are guaranteed and they cannot be touched, Saeed Mohsin, head of the Economic Committee at the council, told Gulf News.

The minister explained that the decline in oil prices was due to market forces and “we have to be more cautious and there is no need to be pessimistic as Oman has swift response for all changes”, Mohsin said.

The minister’s statement is a departure from earlier comments affirming that fuel subsidies will be cut by next year.

An official from the Ministry of Finance told Gulf News in October that subsidies would be cut, adding that the reduction would be gradual in order to ensure that the public would not suffer.

The official had said a study by Oman’s Chamber of Commerce on the cuts showed that 68.7 per cent of those surveyed in various business and government sectors opposed the move, while 18 per cent supported it.

Al Beloushi told the council that the 2010 jobs upgrades for Omani nationals in the public sector have been halted so far, stressing however that the employees’ rights are guaranteed.

He pointed out that the Omani government was seeking to combat the budget deficit by taking loans.

That decision was made as Oman’s Shura Council hosted three ministers in a closed session on Monday to discuss the state’s general budget for 2016 as well as the ninth five year plan (2016-2020).

The Shura Council hosted Darwish Al Beloushi, Ali Al Sunaidi, Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Sultan Al Habsi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Planning.

The Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council has formed a specialised working group last September to study public spending and the means to reduce it amid the slump in oil prices.

The council said in a statement that the government efforts to rationalise spending and to increase non-oil revenues have contributed to the alleviation of the oil price slump.

The Omani government will apply balanced budgeting in the ninth five-year plan of approving allocations for development projects only after the completion of feasibility studies and real costs of the project.

Subsidies on petroleum products, including petrol and diesel, are estimated to have cost Oman an estimated 900 million rials (Dh8.56 billion) in 2015, compared to 840 million rials in 2014.