MUSCAT: The second day of the second edition of the 'Together We Make Progress' forum included discussions on diverse topics, including work, employment, economy, investment, culture, sports, youth, media, and national identity.
Leading the session for the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, HH Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham al Said, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, emphasised that the Sultanate of Oman is globally recognised for its ancient history, customs, traditions, and established principles. Despite being open to the world throughout history, HH Sayyid Theyazin asserted the importance of not allowing the country to be influenced by changing behaviours observed in some other nations.
In his interactions, HH Sayyid Theyazin assured the audience that, despite financial challenges, the ministry has reviewed its priorities, placing a strong emphasis on the sports sector and ongoing adjustments. Government companies are actively contributing to the budgets of creative entities in the sports field.
Regarding the new integrated sports city in Al Musannah, HH Sayyid Theyazin mentioned the engagement of a reputed British company for the project, providing potential models. The final decision on the sports city's location near a resort in Al Musannah will be disclosed later.
HH Sayyid Theyazin emphasised that in October 2023, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik directed the initiation of procedures for an integrated Sports City project, aiming to attract and host regional and global tournaments. The restoration of the Sultan Qaboos Bausher Sports Complex is a key focus, with plans currently in progress.
The privatisation of clubs is under way, starting with four clubs supported by major companies. A final study for the project aims to set standards for improved performance, focusing on one activity for enhanced attention and care. The government's support is distributed across various sectors of operation, such as sports and cultural activities. The ongoing study will apply standards to clubs to improve their performance and focus on specific activities.
HH Sayyid Theyazin noted the openness to questions from young people, highlighting the progress in preparing a children's encyclopedia set to be launched at the upcoming Muscat Book Fair. Plans also include initiation of an adventure sports centre and a museum of contemporary art.
Speaking on 'Work and Employment in the Macroeconomic System', Dr Mahad bin Said Baowain, Minister of Labour, said regarding educational qualification, approximately 2,000 individuals with different educational qualifications joined the workforce in the education sector last year.
Dr Baowain added that the ministry offers specialised courses in vocational institutes for short periods for those who do not hold a General Education Diploma. He said the private sector and some government sectors allow working beyond retirement age, and there are efforts to force companies to accommodate more Omanis.
"The issue of employment is linked to economic growth, and the job market, like other sectors, depends on supply and demand. We are trying to bridge the skills gap by providing training," Dr Baowain said. "We aim to target a minimum of 35,000 job opportunities in 2024."
Dr Baowain highlighted that the health and education sectors employ most of the job-seekers in the government sector. Regarding the necessity of employees at the Ministry of Labour to possess skills to interact with the deaf community, Dr Baowain said: "We have an application that will be launched soon to serve this community. We also have coordination with the Ministry of Social Development to provide employees from them at the service outlets of the Ministry of Labour to facilitate communication with this community. We also have a direction to employ people with disabilities in the services of the ministry's visitors to enable them to serve visitors from this community."
The Ministry of Labour issues 300,000 permits annually in the Sultanate of Oman, and there is a problem with educational courses not meeting the needs of the labour market.
Nasr bin Amer al Hosni said rewards vary between Omanis and expatriates depending on the job market and experience. He added that programmes are being implemented by the ministry to qualify and empower Omanis in vital sectors such as banking, oil and gas.
Al Hosni said qualitative economic growth depends on diversity in growth, and the Omani labour market can absorb outputs if we change work culture.
Dr Said bin Mohammed al Saqri, Minister of Economy, said that job opportunities increased by half a million in 2023 compared to 2022.
Dr Al Saqri said that the job market is changing, and training is necessary due to the changing nature of the job market. There must be training and upgrade of qualifications to keep pace with this change, which is a global phenomenon discussed at the Davos Forum due to continuous technological change. He added that we need to increase Omanis in senior positions in the private sector.
Dr Al Saqri added that reforming the job market is important and ongoing, and the Tenth Five-Year Plan has adopted several measures to serve this goal. Awarding tenders to companies is done according to regulations and conditions, where we not only look at Omanisation as a percentage, but rather where Omanisation is concentrated.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Abdullah bin Nasser al Harrasi, Minister of Information, said that the new Media Law encourages freedom of speech that builds Oman. No article in the new law limits freedom, and it only aims to regulate modern media.
The Ministry of Information will launch three documentaries on the Sultanate of Oman and its historical presence, produced at the highest level, along with a documentary book. The documentaries will be in English, Swahili, and Arabic.
Dr Al Harrasi said Oman is progressing in press freedom, culture and economic spheres. The future looks even better with clear policies from His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik to position Oman among one of the top-ranking nations in the world.
Dr Al Harrasi pointed out that preserving Omani identity is the responsibility of everyone to uphold these values, which is important to mobilise all our efforts to empower this identity. He added that councils are one of the mainstays of Omani educational building for the upbringing and education of the youth, and everyone is on the same page regarding its importance.
"Investment in the media sector should be enhanced," he said and indicated that some in the media do not want to keep pace with developments, and there are significant efforts to adopt modern media concepts. He added that he is not satisfied with some media institutions as they are outdated. Dr Al Harrasi added that 99.9 per cent of media jobs are held by Omanis.
Mohammed bin Said al Balushi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Information said that a special workshop on journalism, with participation of Unesco, has produced several recommendations, which are being reviewed.
By Mai al Abri & Ahmed al Kaabi