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 neighbours, is being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.
Brent crude LCOc1 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.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Merriman) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +971552994086; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))