Oman Observer

Paring deficit 2019’s priority

Muscat, Sept 3 – The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has issued guidelines to all the ministries, government departments and public sector institutions for the submission of finance proposals for the budget 2019, reported the Oman newspaper, sister publication of the Observer. As per the guidelines, all the government and public sector units, while submitting their financial plans, should not increase the scope of their budget and instead focus on ways to rationalise expenditure and rearrange priorities in line with the available financial resources. The main focus while preparing the general budget 2019 will be on reducing the deficit (keeping it within the safe limits), reducing the level of public debt and rationalising public expenditure, among others.

The ministry has urged the government and other public sector units about the need to avoid compromising on basic priority areas for citizens such as health, education, electricity, water and social security. At the same time, they should continue their focus on diversifying the sources of income and increasing the contribution of non-oil revenues. To achieve these targets, especially creating jobs for citizens, the government will need to achieve an economic growth of not less than three per cent in the Ninth Five-Year Development Plan.

At the same time, priority will be given to implementation of the projects crucial for the overall economic development. The government and other public sector units should raise the efficiency of the state-owned economic institutions, enhance their role in the national economy and expand the scope of private sector participation in the implementation and management of some projects, facilities and businesses that will improve the credit rating of the Sultanate.

The MoF has set specific rules, calling upon all ministries, government units and public institutions when preparing their budget proposals. They should submit in detail the objectives and targets to be achieved through the budget estimates for 2019 compared with what was achieved through the allocations of 2017 and 2018. Private sector: The public sector entities that have private-sector partnership projects should update the Ministry of Finance with that data, indicating the amount required for meeting contractual obligations. They should also identify new projects and services that can be assigned to the private sector.
The public sector should obtain the approval of the Ministry of Finance before entering into any contracts with the private sector.
Public institutions should reduce and rationalise spending as much as possible, especially in the areas that are not directly related to overall productivity improvement.
They should implement the policy of linking wages to productivity and optimising the available capacities and resources so as to achieve maximum productivity under proper economic management.
The preservation of the developmental levels and the institutional achievements achieved by development should be the main objectives of the 2019 budget project.
The budget estimates will keep into account the status of annual bonus payable to employees on 1/1/2019 (in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations). It should take into account a detailed statement of the vacant job positions (in all grades), including the positions that have become vacant as a result of the retirement and or expected to become vacant in 2019.

Additional budgets: General rules also stipulate that the ministries and government units should include in their budgets for 2019 all the necessary financial allocations, both new and running projects, so that there is clarity in the budget.

Non-oil revenues: Non-oil revenues should take into account actions taken during the years prior to 2018 and expected to be taken in 2019 in the areas of revenue improvement in revenue generation.
It should take into consideration the exclusion of any revenues achieved in the previous years.
It should also focus on factors affecting calculation of these revenues and review all service fees collected and compare them with the costs incurred.
The basis of revenue estimates should be set out with all details of the revenues during years 2015-2018 with a full explanation of the reasons for the increase or decrease of these estimates, the categories of fees that have been introduced for the first time and those that have been modified and calculate their expected impact on the budget of 2019.

Job balancing: The annual allocation of salaries of employees will be approved in the light of the available vacancies for each post after the approval of the budget for these posts by the Ministry of Civil Service. It should be submitted in advance so to allow sufficient time for examination by the Ministry of Civil Services

Government vehicles:
There should be efforts to reduce the number of government vehicles, rationalise their expenses and clarify the sources of funding for the cost of buying service vehicles.
The prices of vehicles should be based on the Ministry circular (4/2008) and provide a list of cars to be replaced during 2019.
Vehicles that have completed nine years from the date of purchase and the ones that have high cost of maintenance and spare parts should get top priority for replacement.
The units will have to take prior approval of the Ministry of Finance if the plan is to hire cars instead of purchasing them.
The MoF urged all ministries, government bodies and institutions to take decisive measures to rationalise the use of electricity and water.
The budget estimates should reflect the measures taken by the units on energy conservation and rationalisation of water use.

Inventory: Units should take into account the exhaustion of the idle inventory first before purchasing any new supplies except for the necessary items. The entities should not include any financial provisions for the purchase of new supplies unless there is an urgent requirement, supported by necessary documents.

Vinod Nair