Oman looks to the future with both pessimism and optimism. The pessimism comes from the certainty that the country's major source of revenue—oil—will run out before the year 2020. Oil accounted for the great majority of Oman's exports and GDP ever since it was discovered in the early 1960s. The oil boom had a widespread impact on the economy: it allowed Oman to provide jobs for many of its people in the public sector, it allowed the country to import labor to perform the least wanted jobs in the economy, and it allowed Oman to avoid developing other industries. With the coming decline of the oil economy, Oman must seek alternative means for economic development.
Fortunately, Oman's government has taken a number of steps to ease the country into new economic patterns. The government plans to develop the production of its natural gas and other non-oil energy-based industries. Its 4 previous 5-year plans have been successful and the current 5-year plan focuses on the private sector as the catalyst for non-petroleum economic growth. The government is moving ahead with privatization of its utilities, the development of a body of commercial law to facilitate foreign investment, and increased budgetary outlays. However, Oman will have to continue to liberalize its markets in conjunction with its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Managing the transition from an oil-based to a more diversified economy will not be easy. Even though Oman has a reputation for stability and cooperation, the country's future success is likely to depend on the wisdom and political will of the country's leaders.