The inhabitants of the area of Oman have long prospered from Indian Ocean trade. In the late 18th century, the nascent sultanate in Muscat signed the first in a series of friendship treaties with Britain. Over time, Oman's dependence on British political and military advisors increased, although the Sultanate never became a British colony. In 1970, QABOOS bin Said Al-Said overthrew his father, and has since ruled as sultan, but he has not designated a successor. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world, while preserving the longstanding close ties with the UK and US. Oman's moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with its neighbors and to avoid external entanglements. Inspired by the popular uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa beginning in January 2011, some Omanis staged demonstrations, calling for more jobs and economic benefits and an end to corruption. In response to those protester demands, QABOOS in 2011 pledged to implement economic and political reforms, such as granting legislative and regulatory powers to the Majlis al-Shura and increasing unemployment benefits. Additionally, in August 2012, the Sultan announced a royal directive mandating the speedy implementation of a national job creation plan for thousands of public and private sector Omani jobs. As part of the government's efforts to decentralize authority and allow greater citizen participation in local governance, Oman successfully conducted its first municipal council elections in December 2012. Announced by the Sultan in 2011, the municipal councils have the power to advise the Royal Court on the needs of local districts across Oman's 11 governorates. The Sultan returned to Oman in March 2015 after eight months in Germany, where he received medical treatment. He has since appeared publicly on a few occasions.
Oman is heavily dependent on its dwindling oil resources, which generate 84% of government revenue. In 2016, low global oil prices drove Oman’s budget deficit to $11.5 billion, or approximately 19% of GDP. Oman has limited foreign assets and is issuing debt to cover its deficit.Oman is using enhanced oil recovery techniques to boost production, but has simultaneously pursued a development plan that focuses on diversification, industrialization, and privatization, with the objective of reducing the oil sector's contribution to GDP from 46% at present to 9% by 2020 in accordance with Oman’s ninth five-year development plan. Tourism and gas-based industries are key components of the government's diversification strategy.Muscat also has notably focused on creating more Omani jobs to employ the rising number of nationals entering the workforce. However, high social welfare benefits — that had increased in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring — have challenged the government's ability to effectively balance its budget in light of low export oil prices. In response, Omani officials imposed austerity measures to its gasoline and diesel subsidies in 2016, with further subsidy cuts planned for electricity and liquid petroleum gas. The spending cuts have faced some public opposition, which could hinder their implementation.