Oman to set up investment authority to manage state assets

The investment authority decree, issued by Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, will allow the new authority to own all public assets except the Petroleum Development Oman company. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Oman to set up investment authority to manage state assets

  • Oman is being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices
  • Oman Investment Authority board members will be appointed by Sultan Haitham

DUBAI: Oman is setting up the Oman Investment Authority to own and manage most of the country’s sovereign wealth fund and finance ministry assets, state TV reported on Thursday, citing a decree from the sultanate’s ruler.
The decree, issued by Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said, will allow the new authority to own all public assets except the Petroleum Development Oman company and government stakes in international institutions.
The investment authority will also replace sovereign wealth funds in the country’s official documents, the decree said.
Oman’s largest sovereign fund, the State General Reserve Fund, has assets of around $14 billion dollars while its second-largest fund, Oman Investment Fund, has around $3.4 billion, data from research group the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute showed.
Oman, a small oil producer relative to its Gulf neighbors, is being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.
Brent crude futures were trading at around $39 a barrel on Thursday, and Oman would need oil at $86.8 a barrel to balance its budget this year, the International Monetary Fund has estimated.
Oman is emerging as “an increasingly vulnerable spot in the region in light of its mounting debt,” the Institute of International Finance said, adding that Oman could experience a 5.3% economic contraction this year while its deficit could widen to 16.1% from 9.4% in 2019.
Oman Investment Authority board members will be appointed by Sultan Haitham, the decree said, adding that all employees of the sultanate’s two sovereign funds would transfer to the new entity.


US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

People, some wearing face masks, pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul on July 10, 2020 as they gather to celebrate after a top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque. (AFP)
Updated 3 min 35 sec ago

US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site

WASHINGTON: The US said it was “disappointed” by Turkey’s decision to turn the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque and urged equal access for all visitors.
“We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
“We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all,” she said on Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
A magnet for tourists worldwide, the Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Erdogan’s announcement came after the cancellation of a decision under modern Turkey’s secularizing founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.

We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all.

Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokeswoman

Erdogan went ahead despite an open appeal to the NATO ally by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who frequently speaks about religious freedom.
In a statement last week, Pompeo called the museum status an “exemplar” of Turkey’s “commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history” of the country and said a change risked “diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also said on Friday he deeply regretted Turkey’s decision.
Biden called on Erdogan to reverse it “and instead keep this treasured place in its current status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all.”