'Without Sultan Qaboos, We Would Be Yemen': The Renaissance Narrative and the Political Settlement in Oman

This open access article in the Journal of International Development draws on DLP research to highlight the importance of factors often neglected in thinking about political settlements: the (re)production of narrative, and how the interplay of domestic and international power dynamics shape and potentially reinforce conflict and exclusion.

It notes that rapid economic development was the linchpin of the early political settlement under Sultan Qaboos. However, without also having access to a relatively well-educated group of citizens to staff the early bureaucracy, Oman is unlikely to have been able to sustain the economic development that has underpinned the settlement beyond the initial influx of revenue.

The article argues, therefore, that the political settlement emerged initially out of a series of fortuitous junctures that culminated in the state's unprecedented ability to co-opt, and sometimes coerce, the population with new oil revenues. The settlement has endured, however, to a significant degree because of astute use of a narrative that has excluded alternative ways of understanding the changes that Omanis were experiencing. This exclusion is particularly pronounced regarding the autocratic nature of politics, and the role of the British in violently suppressing the Dhofari insurgency. The narrative frames the apparent improvements in prosperity and security as inextricably linked to the personal qualities of Sultan Qaboos, and this has foreclosed debate about how Oman’s political settlement may adapt to a successor after Qaboos. 

About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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