MUSCAT, JAN 7
The Sultanate of Oman is exerting unremitting efforts to promote and attract foreign investments by updating many laws and regulations related to investment, creating a suitable environment for starting businesses, enhancing digital transformation in all services provided to investors, providing incentives to those who are interesting to invest in Oman and strengthening the global competitive position of the Sultanate of Oman.
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MoCIIP) stated that the government is working in integration and partnership with the private sector to increase the number of investments in the targeted sectors and to attract more foreign investments to the Sultanate of Oman.
In its meeting last week, The Council of Ministers reviewed the executive position of initiatives, programs and efforts undertaken by the competent to attract more local and foreign investments develop sources of economic diversification and augment the share of non-oil investments in the gross domestic product (GDP).
The meeting also reviewed the necessity of follow-up to consolidate investment and diversify its sources, streamline related procedures and address challenges in a way that reflects positively on investor confidence and enhances Oman’s competitive indices
Oman a fertile environment for business
Qais bin Mohammed al Yousef, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, emphasized that the wise directives of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik and his keen interest in facilitating and developing the business environment has made the Sultanate of Oman a fertile environment for business growth and investment, and a leading attractive destination for investors and entrepreneurs, while efforts are integrated between the concerned authorities to put these generous directives into practice.
Accordingly, a number of legislations and regulations were issued to improve the business environment, including the amendment of some provisions of the executive regulations of the Foreign Capital Investment Law, the issuance of the Commercial Companies Regulations, and the issuance of the executive regulations to the Competition Protection and Monopoly Prevention Law. In addition to the facilitation by reducing fees for a number of government services, and launching a number of electronic services, include automatic and investment licenses.
Al Yousef added: “These royal directives resulted in the launch of a number of national initiatives and programs, such as the National Programme for Investment and Export Development “Nazdaher”, the investor residency program, the fast track initiative, and the Invest in Oman lounge project, which is a one-stop shop for providing all services investment opportunities to investors, in cooperation with the relevant government authorities and private companies in accordance with the best international practices.
Khalid bin Said al Shuaibi, head of the National Programme for Investment and Export Development “Nazdaher”, explained that the programme aims at enhancing and empowering the private sector in leading economic development by creating an attractive investment environment and improving the business environment in the Sultanate of Oman by simplifying and digitizing investor procedures, and developing investment and legislation tools, in order to develop investment partnerships between Oman and the international and local business community.
The programme focuses on several investment sectors, including manufacturing, communications, information technology, transportation, energy, mining, food security, aviation, and tourism.
The head of the National Programme for Investment and Export Development “Nazdaher” added: The programme has identified anchors for all sectors concerned with investment, projects, investment opportunities and the empowering projects in the targeted sectors, as well as identified projects and investment opportunities across the governorates of the Sultanate of Oman.
He pointed out that the total number of initiatives included in the program's indicator dashboard to ensure the readiness of the investment system reached 167 initiatives, including 57 empowering initiatives, 57 in investment projects, and 32 initiatives in investment opportunities.
It should be noted here that “Nazdaher” programme is under the supervision of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion in cooperation with the Oman Vision 2040 Implementation Follow-up Unit and the Ministry of Economy, while there is a supervisory committee for the programme headed by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion and a number of under-secretaries concerned with the targeted sectors.
Invest in Oman lounge project
Shaikh Hilal bin Abdullah al Hinai, manager of the Invest in Oman lounge project, confirmed that the lounge was launched to embody the concept of complementary roles of government and private agencies concerned with investment, thus providing a unique model in serving investors during all practising investment stages extending from the stage of discovering investment opportunities, stage of establishing and localizing the project and till the end of the implementation stage.
The complementary roles of the lounge and the way it operates make it the first stop for investors who are interested to invest in Oman, where they will be able to get acquainted with the investment environment, incentives, and the industrial, free and economic zones in Oman. The lounge will also contribute to enabling the concerned authorities to overcome all their facing challenges.
The lounge includes 14 government entities and 6 private bodies to ensure the complementarity of roles and the provision of comprehensive services.
And also to ensure the smoothness and speed of procedures in accordance with a clear mechanism, the lounge will provide an “account manager for each investor”, which is the service through which the investor will deal with only one person who manages all his procedures with the concerned parties.
Al Hinai added that in light of the digital transformation that the government seeks, the lounge project took into account the importance of having an electronic platform to serve investors, where visitors to the platform will be able to see the investment opportunities offered from different sectors in a way that uses an interactive map.
The platform will also provide the information that investors, including the investment incentives, laws and guides, in addition to showing various communication channels that enable the lounge to interact with investors, meet their needs and respond to their inquiries.
Strong growth in investments
The Royal Directives in this regard and the efforts exerted by Oman were reflected in a noticeable increase in the volume of investments. According to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, the total volume of direct foreign investments, till the third quarter of 2022 reached RO 18.14 billion, recording an increase of 10.4 per cent, compared to the same period in last year,
The statistics show that, the volume of trade exchange between Oman and the countries of the world till September 2022, reached RO 30,421.4 million, with an increase of 46.18 per cent. The value of direct foreign investments in the manufacturing sector, till the end of the third quarter of 2022, reached RO 1,717.1 million, compared to RO 1,512.0 million in the same period in 2021.
Strengthened investment environment
The Ministry issued during the period from 2020-2022 a total of35 regulations to enhance and improve the business environment, including the executive regulations of the Foreign Capital Investment Law, specifying the list of activities that stimulate the practice of foreign investment in them, the regulations of the Commercial Companies Law and the executive regulations of the Law Protecting competition and combating monopoly, and issuing a regulation for the conformity system and a regulation for organizing and managing exhibitions.
To enable investors to complete their transactions, MoCIIP has launched many new electronic services through the Invest Easy portal as part of the comprehensive digital transformation initiative. In contrast, a visual documentation service was launched to transfer ownership of the commercial registry. The service of issuance of certificates of origin for Arab, Singaporean and AFTA countries has launched too.
Also, the service of updating investor data and registering patents, inventions and industrial models was launched, in addition to launching the service of issuing licenses to invest in the Salalah Free Zone, establishing the electronic linking in the service of commitments with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning and the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, and the linking with the Ministry of Labor in the service of cancelling the commercial registration.
The Invest Easy portal is also linked to 32 government entities in data exchange and 14 government entities in licensing procedures.
The statistics issued by MoCIIP showed that the number of transactions completed through the “Invest Easy” portal during the year 2022, reached 989,495 transactions, compared to 804,330 transactions in 2021, an increase of 23 per cent.
It also showed that the number of applications for investment licenses through the Invest Easy portal since the launch of the service and till 5 January 2023 reached 23,780 approved licenses. The number of automatic licenses granted during the past year of 2022 reached 181,048 licenses, compared to 113,218 licenses in 2021, while the total number of automatic licenses since the launch of the service, till the end of 2022, reached 338,629.
Through the beneficiary service improvement system project, MoCIIP has focused on accelerating the completion of transactions and developing the call centre. It is worth noting that the Ministry, as part of its efforts to develop the Invest Easy portal, has obtained a satisfaction rate of 79 per cent) in the public opinion poll on the evaluation of government services for November 2022, which was issued by the National Center for Statistics and Information.
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion confirmed that a lot of efforts have been made to improve and develop the investment and business environment during the period (2020-2022), where MoCIIP in cooperation with the Follow-up Unit for the Implementation of Oman Vision 2040, carried out a study on best practices in attracting investment.
In accordance with that study, The National Programme for Investment and Export Development “Nazdaher” was launched, which actually started its work in November 2021.
A number of initiatives have also been launched in the programme to create an attractive environment for investment and to address the challenges faced by investors, which were prepared in accordance with the best practices in force globally.
National Investment Strategy
The ministry indicated that one of the most important initiatives achieved by the government is the unified national investment strategy initiative, which aims at setting an integrated strategy for investment in the Sultanate of Oman that unifies all investment efforts in the same strategy.
In this context, an international company has been contracted to work on developing strategies to attract foreign direct investment, and on new promotional mechanisms based on targeting companies and sectors in countries in accordance with the priority of the Sultanate of Oman.
National Negotiation Team
The initiative National Negotiation Team is a unified team that represents the government of the Sultanate of Oman in negotiations with a high economic dimension, aiming at shortening and unifying the negotiation process.
The team relies on a matrix that was built internally in accordance with several criteria, including the compatibility of the project with the strategic investment direction of the sector, the objectives of Oman Vision 2040, the economic impact, the realities of the project and the local content, and then to grant incentives to companies with a focus on the extent to which the Sultanate of Oman benefits from these projects.
Investor Residency Programme
The investor residency initiative, is a tool and a competitive advantage to attract qualitative foreign investments and stimulate various economic sectors, including linking residency with investment by facilitating the granting of residency to investors and their family members, who are interesting to invest in the Sultanate of Oman for periods ranging from 5 to 10 years, subject to extension, provided that the procedures and controls established for that are adhered to in accordance with the categories offered.
The total number of investors who obtained investor residency from the beginning of the programme till January 1, 2023 reached 1219 investors of various nationalities, including the issuance of 725 investor residency cards for the 10-year category, and 489 cards for the 5-year category, as well as 5 Retirement cards.
Fast Track Initiative
The Fast Track Initiative aims at supporting investment projects under implementation or development that face challenges in their implementation, in order to assess their status and the reasons for obstruction, and to take quick and effective decisions to end outstanding issues with the relevant authorities so as to implement the project, and ensure the continuity of business implementation.
The first phase of the Fast Track Initiative targeted 39 investment projects, while the implementation position of 27 investment projects was completed by 100 per cent, with total value of $2.779 billion, including renewable energy, industry , mining, tourism, logistics and food security sectors.
Investment Incentives Guide
MoCIIP has initiated the preparation of the investment incentives guide, an integrated guide that includes the current investment incentives in Oman, as well as it is a proposal to add other new incentives during the next stage. The guide is published in both Arabic and English languages, and several other languages are added.
In order to ensure the ease and speed of the licensing system, the automatic licensing initiative was launched and implemented, which is considered a quantum leap in the field of facilitating and simplifying procedures in doing business in Oman.
The service was launched for more than 1833 economic activities, which represents 88 per cent of the total economic activities, 12 per cent are high-risk activities, while coordination is underway with the relevant authorities to include them in the automatic licensing service.
Visual Documentation Service
The Visual Documentation Service initiative to transfer ownership of the commercial registry is an electronic service through the Invest Easy portal, and it is an important and advanced step in the field of facilitating business, investment and facilitation for institutions and commercial companies which are interesting to sell their shares or transfer ownership of a commercial registry to another investor, or to enter a partner in the commercial registry electronically, through visual communication, that allows the buyer and seller to sign these contracts from anywhere in the world through the Invest Easy portal without the need for the investors to come to the Ministry or its affiliated directorates or departments.
The guidebook service of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, aims at creating a guiding reference for the beneficiaries of the ministry's services, achieving best practices in the government field and facilitating the business environment for investors.
The guidebook provides comprehensive details about all the services provided by the ministry, it covers a number of 180 services, which fall collectively under 17 departments in the various sectors of the ministry.
The guidebook includes 8 basic criteria for each service, which are the requirements and controls, the required documents, the service workflow chart, the average time to complete the service, in addition to the service fees and payment mechanism, the channels that provide the same service, working hours and contact points.
Various investment opportunities
Lamia bint Sultan al Habsiyya, Assistant Director General of Investment Promotion at the Ministry, clarified that the ministry within its initiatives is seeking investment opportunities for various sectors, in aims at promoting economic diversification, empowering the private sector to contribute to raising the local added value, developing national industries, providing products to partners in the private sector, enhancing diversification of industrial facilities in the various governorates of the Sultanate, which in turn will contribute to raising the contribution of the industrial sector to the Sultanate's gross product.
She added that the number of investment opportunities available in the "Invest in Oman" platform reached 90 investment opportunities, while its first package includes 50 investment opportunities in the industrial sector in the chemical and food industries, accurate size, metal, mining, construction and building materials. And the second package includes providing 22 an investment opportunity for pre-purchase contracts in cooperation with Petroleum Development Company in the oil and gas industries, Nama Group advanced electrical industries and Mazoon Dairy in the food packaging industry.
The third package includes 18 investment opportunities in the tourism sector and the circular economy sector for waste management in cooperation be’ah, ASAAS, Omran Group Jabal Bausher Heights Company.
Al -Habsiya said: “The Invest In Oman platform contributes to providing communication with investors and promoting the Sultanate of Oman remotely. The platform provides offers investment opportunities available in the Sultanate of Oman and the details related to each project. It also displays the procedures of licenses related to the practice of business, in addition to providing an introductory file for each investor who would like to invest in the Sultanate of Oman.”