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‘Transformational Omani policies have elicited positive international response’

Strategic initiatives: Oman Vision 2040 – a new compass and blueprint for growth and development: Al Yousef
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A series of policy programmes and initiatives rolled out by the Omani government in response to the recent economic downturn, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, have garnered an “encouraging” response from the international community, according to Qais Mohammed al Yousef (pictured), Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion.

Initiatives such as the Medium Term Fiscal Plan (also known as Tawazun), the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP), and the Invest Easy single window facility, among other longer-term programmes, symbolise a new direction adopted by the Omani government to “re-imagine economic growth, streamline business procedures and create a pro-enterprise environment that supports the ambitions of our investors”, he said.

Addressing the London Roundtable Meeting of the Arab-British Chamber Commerce in the UK last week, Al Yousef said the government’s economic strategies and investment incentives aim to enhance the country’s business environment.

“The purpose of these is to increase the private sector’s resilience, attract investment, and especially aid the post COVID-19 recovery,” the Minister said.

All of these initiatives align with the objectives of Oman Vision 2040, which he described as “our compass and blueprint for growth and development”, adding: “We are proud of this action-oriented strategy designed to chart a new, bold and sustainable future for Oman.”

Al Yousef cited in particular the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) which was launched in March 2021 following government interactions with local and international businesses. The Plan, he said, is designed to support the economy by offering interest-free emergency loans, tax and fee reductions and waivers as well as the flexibility to pay taxes in installments.

Also as part of the initiative, a 25 per cent reduction is being offered on the lease of land within the Special Economic Zone, as well as the industrial cities administered by Madayn, for the period from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2022. Furthermore, foreign investors can own land of over 5,000 sq metres for commercial or commercial/residential, tourism or industry related investments, he stated.

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“I want to underline to you that these are historic steps taken to ensure the right support is in place for Omani businesses, help firms get through the challenges of the pandemic, protect and create jobs, reinvigorate Oman’s economy and secure the nation’s economic future,” Al Yousef affirmed.

Also having a positive impact on the local business environment are initiatives in support of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the Minister pointed out. This is evident from the latest figures of the SME Development Authority (Riyada), which saw registrations rise to just over 64,000 by end of Q4, 2021, representing a 17 per cent increase compared to figures for Q2 2021.

Likewise, the Invest Easy one-stop portal for registering new businesses is helping facilitate investment into the Sultanate of Oman by reducing cumbersome procedures and expediting approvals.

“Today, via Invest Easy, investors can obtain approval for more than 1,500 economic activities – that is approximately 88 per cent of all economic activities - issuing one document that includes all licenses and approvals from 10 leading authorities. I am happy to share with you that since the launch of the new licensing service in April 2021, over 69,000 applicants have received approvals, 6,354 of which are international investors - investors setting up operations across the length and breadth of Oman. That is a year-on-year rise of 351 per cent - and these are approvals issued in a matter of minutes,” he said.

Earlier, Al Yousef hailed the strength of longstanding Omani-UK relations as attested by the fact that Britain is currently largest foreign direct investor in the Sultanate of Oman.

Also present at the roundtable meeting were Nasser al Jashmi, Secretary General - Ministry of Finance, Abdulsalam al Murshidi, President -- Oman Investment Authority, Mahad Ali Baawain, Minister of Labour, and Abdulaziz al Hinai, the Omani Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Present from the British side were Baroness Symons, Chairperson of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, and Bill Murray, British Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman.

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