Oman - State Formation and Politically Influential Groups

Oman - State Formation and Politically Influential Groups

The process of state formation facilitated by Oman's commercial production and export of hydrocarbon resources transformed the relationship between the ruler and the traditional political elite comprising the ruling family, established merchant families, and tribal shaykhs. While reinforcing some linkages, such as the central role of the Al Said and the political influence of the merchant families, other linkages, particularly the tribes, have diminished in importance. Society outside the capital and urban centers remains tribal, with tribal leaders exercising political authority locally. But the power of tribes as regional pressure groups declined steadily as a result of the incorporation of rural areas into the government-administered sector.

Oil revenues facilitated the transfer of some of the income from the state to society, creating a broader base. Pre-oil stratification of Omani society, wherein the ruler depended on the tribal shaykhs to ensure popular support, has partially been superseded by the establishment of a social welfare state through which the government fosters a direct relationship between the state and the individual. Government clinics, agricultural and industrial projects, schools, and employment in the public sector reinforce this new linkage.

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