A balanced approach towards Omanisation

Ahmed al Qassabi

The Omanisation drive isn’t something new and over the years the government has brought in regulations and restrictions regarding the employment of expatriates. The recent mandate to intensify the Omanisation focus has come at a time where the economy and firms are managing the uncertainty caused by the COVID- 19 pandemic and the oil crisis. While adding the Omanisation drive to the agenda may cause additional considerations it could yet prove to be a key economic continuity and growth strategy in these uncertain times.

Apart from addressing the growing unemployment concern, the Omanisation drive could be the enablement of the country to become self-reliant in terms of talent availability.

The growing need for self-reliance is emphasized due to the current restriction of employment migrations due to COVID-19. While there have been a number of initiatives taken for Omani skills development by the government and firms, there are still sectors and roles which are still dependent on expatriate workers. Sustained interventions and focused investments towards capability building are not only required to address current skills gaps but also to factor in the future of work which is expected to be drastically transformed.  Local talent development could play a pivotal role in fulfilling the workforce requirements across sectors and businesses not only in the short-medium term but also for the future.

A large portion of the workforce population in Oman consists of expatriates, and while a certain percentage of their earnings generated is spent within the country,  a significant portion of these earnings are accumulated over a period of time and end up as remittances to other countries. With an increased Omani workforce, there is very likely a higher degree of earnings that are retained in the country, which can directly contribute to economic development.

The government in recent years has increased its focus on developing in-country based Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and now, coupled with the increasing focus on Omanisation, can enable the domestic business to grow.  With more local resources available, the supply chain costs associated with goods and services used and produced within the country can be measured.

While there are benefits to be gained from the Omanisation drive, the process needs to be balanced as expatriates have significantly contributed to the country’s development over the last 50 years. Oman has built a strong reputation as being one of the friendliest and preferred countries for expatriates to work in in the Middle East region.  There has also been increasing focus on foreign direct investments, public-private partnerships, travel and tourism. The Sultanate’s Vision 2040 lays the foundation for diversifying the economy to various other sectors in order to reduce reliance on oil revenues.

These future plans and focus will have a high degree of dependency on global markets and expatriate capabilities.  Using a future based planning approach, taking into account the future risks as well as the impact and consequences of current decisions will assist in arriving at the most viable options.

[The writer is Managing Partner (Oman Office) at Deloitte & Touche (ME) & Co LLC]

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