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Oman boosts student benefits
(AFP) – Feb 26, 2011 
MUSCAT — Omani ruler Sultan Qaboos announced on Saturday that he was boosting social benefits for students, the state-run Oman News Agency reported, amid a wave of anti-regime protests in the region.
Sultan Qaboos ordered the monthly allowance for students in universities and vocational schools be raised by between 25 and 90 Omani rials ($65 to $234) to "achieve further development and... provide a decent living for his people," the agency said.
He also ordered the creation of a consumer protection bureau, and was looking into opening cooperatives, according to the report.
Around 300 Omanis, including women, staged a peaceful rally in central Muscat on February 18 to demand an increase in salaries and political reforms.
But the demonstrators have emphasised their loyalty to the ruler with placards declaring: "We are always loyal to you, Sultan Qaboos."
The rally was the second of its kind in the sultanate in the past month, after about 200 demonstrators hit the streets on January 17 in protest against rising prices and corruption in the country of just under two million people.
Earlier this month, Oman raised minimum wages for an estimated 150,000 private sector employees to $520 from $364 a month.
Before the raise, minimum salaries in the non-OPEC oil producer were 140 riyals ($364).
Popular uprisings against autocratic regimes in the Arab world have toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt and spread into Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, a partner of Oman in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved. More »
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