Haider al lawati –
In a recent questionnaire I had prepared on “Savings Policies and Approaches in the Omani Society” for my PhD studies, I posed a variety of questions towards a group of young Omanis. This article focuses on a key theme discussed in the questionnaire: Savings and Business.
On the question, “Are you currently saving money for any future business?”, more than 88 per cent responded that their aim was to utilise their savings in future business and investment.
This may be through direct business ventures or investment in the securities or real estate markets and other business opportunities in the fields of industry, fisheries, tourism and logistics. 34.6 per cent ticked the ‘Strongly Agree’ option, while 54.1 per cent picked ‘Agree’ question, which is a validation of with government efforts to promote SMEs.
This would necessitate more streamlined investment procedures designed to encourage Omanis to venture into business in the various sectors.
According to data published by the Commercial Register of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the number of registrations reached 312,651 by the end of 2015.
However, many of those enterprises were later cancelled due to irregularities detected in their registrations before the launch of “Invest Easy” portal.
Moreover, phantom commercial registrations are frequently detected by authorities, and recently an Omani citizen was prosecuted for owning over 88 Commercial Registers and manipulating the system to obtain work permits for expatriate labour for personal gains.
The results of the study indicate that the number of Omanis wishing to venture into business in the future will increase if new laws and legislations are issued that will provide them with a stronger basis to manage their own projects. This is in addition to the need to combat hidden trade, which is managed by some expatriate businessmen.
Furthermore, stimulating and activating the investment and trade sector in the country and providing an ideal environment for the development of this vital sector will play a major role not only in achieving diversification of income sources sought by the Sultanate to face falling global oil prices, but also in providing job opportunities for thousands of Omani youth in the upcoming phase.
The Sultanate needs to provide thousands of jobs for citizens who will enter the labour market by the year 2020, which requires mapping out a deliberate plan focused on attracting large and new investments whilst developing existing investments in the various sectors. Any investment in the economic sector must bear in mind providing promising career opportunities for Omani youth.
Meanwhile, many strongly believe that the commercial sector needs a comprehensive review in line with modern trends, as many of the laws and legislations regulating this sector need to be reviewed and updated with focus given to providing a package of facilities, incentives and simplified procedures to achieve the objectives enshrined in the “Invest Easy” initiative.
On the other hand, the Sultanate enjoys a terrorism-free environment, which helps to promote investments and trade with the rest of the world. Oman’s Global Terrorism Index is “zero”, according to international reports.
This achievement is extraordinary, especially when the world is living on edge and witnessing endless conflicts. This advantage must be carefully utilised, since investors consider stability as a priority in selecting their project destinations, in addition to facilities, incentives and simplified procedures that attract both local and international investments. This is especially true with the fierce global competition to attract investors in light of the economic crisis that affected most of the world with the continuous decline in oil prices.
Today, growing numbers of Omani youth are becoming entrepreneurs. This is living proof of the great ambition of the future generation and its strong desire to build its future and contribute to the comprehensive national development.
Diversifying economies, accelerating the pace of growth and moving up the global specialisation ladder remain some of the challenges that need to be addressed in parallel with reform of distorted policies, incentives of labour markets and education and the low level of educational outputs.