Local Government History
The municipality of Muscat came into existence in the late 1920s and extended its jurisdiction to Muttrah in the following decade. The Law of the Municipalities in the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman formally defined its relationship to the sultanate in 1949. The Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment, and Water Resources (MRMEW) acquired the added responsibilities for the environment and water respectively in 1991 and 2001. Sultan Qabous issued a decree on September 9, 2007 concerning the establishment of the “Ministry of Environment and Climatic Affairs” whose main function is to confine the impact of natural disasters. The decree was issued following the Juno hurricane that struck Oman in June 2007 and caused much damage. The responsibilities of the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources were transferred to the new ministry.
Formal decentralization of government exists with the division of the nation into municipalities, but in practice these sub-units have limited autonomy. Oman has 43 municipalities, 14 municipal sections, and 23 rural cleaning units.
Municipal and Local Government Budgets
The Municipal Council is the legislative body of the Municipality and is responsible for framing the policies, budget, proposals for taxes and other sources of revenue. The deliberations and actions of the Municipal Council have legal backing. The Municipal Council of Muscat, Oman’s capital, consists of the Chairman of the Municipality as ex-officio chairman and 27 Members, 11 of whom represent various government ministries/agencies. The municipality provides a number of public services, such as parking regulations and wastewater treatment and recycling, to a population of over 500,000.
Local Government Budgetary Reform
The municipalities of Oman are overseen by the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources (MRMEW). Municipalities submit tax proposals to the MRMEW, which approves local taxes and allocates federal funds to the municipalities as necessary. The MRMEW has implemented a number of projects to improve the urban infrastructure in several municipalities including the towns of Nizwa, al-Buraimi, Sur and al-Rostaq. The ministry has also constructed wastewater treatment plants in eight regional municipalities. The government is currently seeking bids from companies to privatize local public services such as parks, wastewater, and pest control. Provision of these services is the responsibility of the central government.