Oman’s finance ministry on Wednesday directed all state-owned companies to replace foreign workers with local Omanis to develop the national workforce, The Times of Oman reported. The move is part of the government’s “Omanisation” policy, launched during the rule of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died on January 10.

A circular issued by the finance ministry said that the replacement of expats with Omanis will need to be done in a “speedy and organised manner”. The ministry also said the order to ensure quality jobs to locals will have its implementation costs included in the 2021 budget estimates.

“The circular comes within the context of the government’s attention to upgrading the skills of Omani citizens to enable them to contribute efficiently to the comprehensive march of domestic development,” a statement issued by the finance ministry said.

It said a number of expatriates occupy leadership and supervisory jobs in government firms, adding that the companies have “good potential” to execute the decision.

Reports said more than a third of Oman’s 4.6 million residents are expatriates who work in state-owned and private sectors. There are at least 8,00,000 Indian workers in Oman and a part of them are likely to be affected by the order.

The decision was necessitated due to oil prices and the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The country has also announced budget cuts to stabilise the economy.