His Majesty issues royal decrees for a variety of purposes. Some royal decrees pass new laws, some establish new government entities and embassies, some appoint new senior government officials, while others ratify international agreements that Oman decides to join. As 2015 comes to a close, we take a look at the most important royal decrees issued this year.
His Majesty issued 51 royal decrees in 2015. This is the smallest number of royal decrees issued in a single year since 1973 in which only 46 royal decrees were issued. The graph below shows how 2015 compares with the previous 10 years.
The low number of royal decrees could be seen as part of the natural decline for the need to issue new royal decrees as the Omani legal system becomes mature and the government structuring becomes stable. It could also be attributed to the fact that His Majesty spent a big portion of the year abroad for medical reasons and the fact that Oman is going through an economic downturn. These two reasons should not be take too seriously because some royal decrees were issued while His Majesty was abroad for medical reasons and not all royal decrees involve financial matters or affect the budget.
The most important function of royal decrees is to pass new laws or amend existing ones. The most talked about law of 2015 was definitely the law regulating the responsibility of government employees and members of elected and appointed councils. The scope of the liability expanded for government employees, but what is more significant is that this liability now extends to members of elected and appointed councils as well as employees of government owned companies. Other significant legal developments include the amendment of the law of the classification of government documents and the regulation of protected spaces, the passing of the new law regulating the pharmaceutical profession, and the adoption of the GCC law on anti-dumping.
Royal decrees are needed to ratify international agreements that Oman signs with other countries. Such agreements become legally binding and part of the domestic law upon their ratification. In 2015 Oman ratified 9 international agreements. The most important of these is probably the agreement between Oman and Iran on the delimitation of the maritime boundaries between the two countries. Even though the current practice of the Official Gazette is to publish treaties ratified by royal decrees, this one appears to be confidential and has not been published. Other significant ratifications include the ratification of the GCC electric grid interconnection agreement, which aims to support electricity demands across the region and create a framework for trading electricity between the countries, the avoidance of double taxation agreements with Portugal and Switzerland, and the ratification of the Arab Agreement for Combating Cybercrime and the Arab Agreement for Combating Organised Trans-Border Crimes.
Creation of new government entities, merging them and abolishing any of them can only be done by royal decree. Only one new government entity was created in 2015: Oman’s Centre for Governance and Sustainability, a spin-off from the Capital Market Authority that aims at promoting the proper governance of public companies. Two government entities were also restructured this year by reconfiguring their internal departments, namely, the Ministry of Information and Muscat Municipality.
Senior government officials are appointed by His Majesty through royal decrees. Even though there was no change in the membership of the council of ministers this year, there were still some important appointments such as the appointment of new members of the Tender Board, the appointment of an undersecretary to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the appointment of new CEOs for the Public Authority for Mining and the Oman Medical Specialty Board, and last and definitely not least, the appointment of the members of the State Council – the upper house of the Council of Oman.
These were the main highlights of 2015, but there are other royal decrees that were issued on numerous other subjects such as issuing the budget, appropriating property, approving concessions and much more. You can browse all the royal decrees that were issued in 2015 in Arabic on the main section of Qanoon.om.