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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 July 2006, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
The New Arab World
First broadcast on BBC World Service in July 2006

Building in Oman's capital Muscat

In recent years, a number of Gulf countries have been making progress towards economic, social and even limited political reforms.

These advances are so rapid that many believe the Gulf - once seen as a relatively backward region - could one day eclipse the Arab world's more established centres of influence, such as Egypt and Lebanon.

The BBC's Arab Affairs Analyst Magdi Abdelhadi investigates how far these changes might go.

Part Two: Oman

Oman has taken a more moderate approach to change than some its neighbours.

Once among the most backward countries in the Middle East, it is now determined to profit from the global economy - but on its own terms.

As well as long-standing political and military relationship with the UK, it has a substantial trade surplus and low inflation. The government is privatising its utilities and diversifying its economy to attract foreign investment.

It is also now engaged in what has been termed "Omanisation" - encouraging the replacement of expatriate workers with local people to reduce unemployment and dependance on other countries.

Is this slower and more subtle approach a better way of integrating Western ideas without causing a radical overhaul of life and society?

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Timeline: Oman
02 Feb 06 |  Country profiles
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