Editor's Note

Editor's Note

As every year, this February too we have our cover story on the state budget. The budget continues with the overall theme of development-oriented growth. With the highest expenditure allocation in nominal terms in Oman's history, the RO10bn 2012 budget shows an increase of 23 per cent against the original 2011 budget figures and an increase of 8.7 per cent against the amended budget level of RO9.2bn in 2011. Current expenditure represents the highest portion of the government expenditure at 64.5 per cent, followed by investment expenditure at RO 2.7bn and participation and subsidy to private sector at RO845mn.

The provision to create 36,000 jobs in 2012 in addition to the 96,000 jobs already announced in 2011 shows the emphasis the government has placed on human development. There is an increased focus on the education sector - 13 per cent of the total public expenditure has been set aside for this purpose. Health sector also gets an increased allocation. The total spending on the health sector amounts to RO500mn, which is five per cent of the total spending.

Most analysts say that the budget is also a clear indication of the government's seriousness in supporting the establishment of SMEs and building new industrial zones. BusinessToday speaks to leaders from various industries to see how they think the budget will impact their sectors.

Our corporate report this month takes a look at the Sohar-based Al Jazeera Steel Products Company. At a time when volatile steel prices, stiff competition and escalating raw material costs have dampened the spirits of most steel manufacturers in the region, Al Jazeera is looking past such obstacles to roll out new products and enhance their presence in the international arena. Of course there are roadblocks to tackle, but the company has mapped out a strategy and is confident of its future growth.

This month's industry report looks at the bottled water segment. There are 25 active players in the market of which 11 are UAE-based. According to a recent AC Nielsen report, the current market size is 23mn cases (each case is eight ounce) a year. The report puts per capita consumption at 693 cases per annum. It is easy to assume that the bottled water industry is a lucrative business to be in, but those in the industry say despite a six per cent year on year growth for the past five years, cutthroat competition and rising PET prices are hitting the sector, which hasn't witnessed a price correction for over a decade.

As always, there is much more in this issue. Read on and enjoy.

Editor's Note
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