Why is Oman not using local-based consultants?

SALEH AL SHAIBANY – saleh_shaibani@yahoo.com – It is about time now both the private and public sectors begin to have faith on Omani consultants instead of hiring foreign experts in new projects and save millions of rials.
At the moment, the government hires consultants, either individuals or firms, in every project it plans to execute.
After more than four decades of progress and millions of rials spent on educating and empowering local manpower resources and expertise, the government surely can start putting its trust on home grown consultants.
It makes a lot of sense to start assessing whether departments in government’s ministries spending money on outside consulting skills represent good value.
The government also brings in consultants to help struggling sectors to rectify many structural problems.
In the last forty years, many such experts have been invited to advise the government to reform the financial sector, civil service, urban planning or hospitals.
At closer scrutiny, consultants hired from abroad are either near retirement age or well past their prime.
Oman has its own pool of skills in that age category in various professional disciplines but are retired instead of utilising their experience.
It should be acknowledged that Oman is producing enough numbers of experts and if they successfully run various departments as directors than surely they have enough knowledge to be consultants when reforms are needed due to changing environments.
The evidence is in The Oman Research Council (ORC) or educational institutions where many papers produced by local scholars are destined to collect dust in the shelves.
Obviously no one looks at these researches because some authorities don’t have enough trust in home grown talent. Perhaps, ORC needs to publish papers by Omani experts and make them more accessible to policy makers.
Also ORC will need to encourage educational institutions to tap the pool of talents in their faculties to conduct researches in areas under development to help shape experts of the future.
Many Omani-managed consulting firms are overlooked and never hired and as a result close down within two years.
Instead, the government authorities prefer to hire foreign consulting companies under the pretext that they have more experience. It has been proved many times consultants from abroad have provided mediocre advice.
Local consultants who have been working in their own fields of expertise for years, have the benefit of understanding local needs and are backed with sound professional qualifications.
All it takes is for the government is to have more faith.
The authorities, instead of rushing overseas every time they need consultation services, should collaborate with the industries to make best use of local talents.
Oman’s few consulting companies run by Omanis themselves must be given contracts to do consultations in the production of goods services or conduct studies on new projects on anvil. However, the civil service’s departments in need of consultation sometimes have their own staff that can do the same job but are not asked to do it.
Instead, money is spent to hire people elsewhere. Sometimes, they are legitimate reasons to buy these skills abroad when they are in short supply locally.
But these government departments have now become too dependent on getting core skills outside rather than developing them their own staff.
If the departments are already paying for staff who are capable of doing the job but hire a pool of external experts then this is inherently problem that needs to be fixed.
Having technical, organisational, administrative skills in abundance but largely unused or relegated to push office papers is both demoralising and a waste of talent.
Not to mention the salaries they get paid to do almost nothing. Putting faith in local talents will pay good dividends and will give confidence to retirees to start their own consultation firms.