Muscat: Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI)- the voice of the private sector in the country- has expressed full confidence in the efforts made by officials to confront Covid-19 and confirmed that the Omani private sector is mobilizing its full potential to provide what is required by
duty and in the interest of Oman.
The coordination between the public and private sectors is based on the highest level of control over the effects and consequences of this crisis. OCCI expresses its deep gratitude to the governmental authorities for ensuring consultation and cooperation by having private sector representatives in the joint task forces to follow events, developments, ongoing consultation about the proper procedure and precautions against the impact of the spread of various viruses."
Under the guidance of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, Oman is considered one of the best countries for efforts in ensuring safety, health, and welfare of its citizens and residents, especially that its strategic stocks of medicines, food, and goods are sufficient for the coming period, stressing to exercise extreme care and caution in procedures and measures to achieve national security through productive industrial facilities to provide the countries current and future requirements and needs, and discussing the constraints facing business owners and ways to overcome them. In addition, all efforts have been made to ensure that these products are available at all sales centers.
OCCI is working towards this with various governmental and private authorities to address the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the decline of international oil prices and their impact on private sector institutions in the Sultanate. As the Chamber is the main representative of the private sector, its effective tool when participating in all decisions that are of interest to the private sector and ensure its interest to ensure business environment stability and growth in the Sultanate.
From this perspective, the Chamber consistently sought to address the challenges facing the private sector in light of this current crisis, by conducting surveys in order to reach appropriate solutions that contribute to alleviating economic consequences and enable the Omani private sector to perform its role effectively. Accordingly, the Chamber presented a number of plans and proposals to deal with the economic situation that the Sultanate is currently going through, which aims to serve the community, especially the business sector and consumers.
The first category: Society
In terms of considering the chamber a private institution with the public interest and being the umbrella that shelter private sector institutions, the idea of establishing the chamber fund and the private sector for social responsibility came, which aims to work with the government in mitigating the effects of the spread of the pandemic emerging Covid-19, uniting the private sector efforts in community service, organizing and directing community projects, where the Chamber has initiated support of RO 1 million to establish the fund.
It is also worth noting that the private sector contributions to the fund are not limited to monetary contributions but rather contributions in kind or social services such as exemption from rental fees and the allocation of hotels to institutional quarantine to combat the Corona pandemic.
The second category: Consumers
Consumers are prioritizing the current plans in managing the crisis, their protection is a priority for the time being, in order to meet all the basic needs for them, the Chamber and in cooperation with the competent authorities had to make sure and ensure that all basic commodities are adequately available and keep the food reserve stock at safe levels even after the pandemic, urge food supplies, food centers to maintain general hygiene and continuously sterilize shopping carts, stimulate remote shopping services through electronic services and urge the delivery companies to cooperate with the initiative (Shop from home), in addition to the chamber’s work with the concerned authorities and specialized companies to facilitate import procedures and provide integrated logistics services.
In order to ensure the consumer’s access to all basic services, the Chamber has submitted a number of recommendations to the concerned authorities regarding the exclusion of shops of some activities from lockdown and partially making them available to the consumer and for limited times due to their importance in providing basic needs for their daily life, compliance with the health and preventive procedures, these activities include the sale of construction materials, sale of spare parts, maintenance and repair of cars, selling and repairing mobile phones, selling and repairing electronic and electrical devices, sale and repair of tires, aluminum and carpentry workshops in industrial areas, contracting companies and engineering consulting offices, car rental offices, and equipment rental offices, which is what has been achieved over the past few days.
The third category: Private sector companies and institutions
In the interest of serving the private sector, the Chamber had a prominent role in alleviating the economic burden faced by various institutions of the sector by taking a package of actions, which we summarize as follows:
Exempting the members of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry from the arrears renewal fees for the previous years, knowing that one-year fees will be charged as well as the membership renewal for the year 2020, and note that these exemptions are estimated at RO7 million.
Providing most of the Chamber's services electronically, allocate numbers to communicate with the members who are facing challenges as a result of this crisis, while extending receiving calls hours through the Member line 80073737
Notify the Chamber’s members of the instructions issued by the Supreme Committee and the concerned authorities, by making them aware of the most important health and preventive requirements from Coronavirus.
Directing owners of commercial centers and real estate to take into account the current conditions of rented and affected stores by precautionary measures, whether by exempting, reducing or postponing rents during the current stage.
Promote direct import through the Sultanate sea and airports outlets, and take advantage of the infrastructure that distinguishes the Sultanate.
Through its representation on the Public Establishment For Industrial Estates - Madayn, food reserves, and discussion of the proposals, some decisions have been approved by these bodies that concern the private sector.
Some problems related to the certificate of origin have been resolved in cooperation with the Royal Oman Police customs, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
To propose a package of economic measures and incentives that would reduce the effects of this crisis.
Fourth Category: Private sector workers
Within the framework of the Chamber’s interest in workers in the private sector, especially the local cadres working in private sector institutions and companies, it has worked in coordination with the Ministry of Manpower and with the competent authorities to provide many measures and incentives aimed at reducing the pressures it suffers from as a result of the current economic conditions, including:
The Chamber’s contribution is RO1 in the name of the Omani private sector in the job safety fund that His Majesty Sultan -may God bless him ordered to establish.
Urging the private sector institutions to reduce the number of employees in the work environment to work through virtual channels, in line with the decisions of the Supreme Committee in charge of dealing with the pandemic of the emerging Coronavirus Covid-19.
Urging private sector institutions to comply with hygiene and prevention requirements.
After studying the economic conditions and aspects affected by the private sector as a result of the precautionary measures for the outbreak of the emerging Coronavirus COVD -19, the Chamber presents a set of recommendations related to stimulating some economic aspects.
Common roles and efforts:
The Chamber held a number of important meetings with decisionmakers at the various government bodies and participated in preparing a number of incentive recommendations for the current economic situation, which include:
The Chamber called on the Central Bank to urge the various financing institutions, banks and financing companies to take in to account the current conditions of private sector institutions by postponing the installments to companies and employees working in the private sector for a period of six months without accumulating interest, make the process of receiving deferral requests more smooth and flexible, grant companies emergency loans equivalent to at least 3 months of fixed monthly expenses without interest or symbolic interest and without additional guarantees until they exceed the liquidity crisis and are able to pay their obligations, especially the salaries of workers, re-scheduling of loans in general, loans of those affected by the current situation and small and medium-size enterprises of which owners hold (Riyda) card special, by give them a grace period without accumulating interest in order to alleviate the economic burden facing this group, and reducing fees and the percentage of using electronic payment machines (POS) to encourage companies to reduce cash transactions.
The Chamber recommended that food commodities, medical supplies, disinfectants and sterilizers be exempted from customs duties if any, exemption from payment of late fines of social security dues with the possibility of posting dues during the crisis period, exempting companies and factories from land rental fees and usufruct for a period of six months, extendable for another six months, consider reducing and postponing the payment of electricity and water bills during the period.
The Chamber recommended to the authorities responsible for storage places, industrial areas and cities to reduce field inspection of the goods in a manner that does not conflict with the security requirements, stop fines for storing in the port and shipping companies, keeping shipping media companies and commercial shipping companies open because they are related to ports and not lock them down so that the import and export movement is not affected, and excluding factories from closing or from reducing the number of workers, especially those related to the production of food, sterilizers, disinfectants, medicines and medical supplies.
The government, with its various agencies, issued the first package of facilities, and it is expected that there will be another package due to the great impact on the private sector in particular and society in general.
The Chamber stands side by side with all government agencies, as a member of the economic team emanating from the Supreme Committee chaired by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and membership in relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the General Administration of Customs at the Royal Oman Police, the General Authority for Consumer Protection, the Food Reserve Authority, the Asyadand Oman Aviation Group to secure all the needs of the local market, to prevent any artificial increases in prices, and to ensure the provision of raw materials for the products required in cooperation with all factories and global suppliers.
The Chamber expresses its thanks and appreciation to the private sector as individuals and institutions for their interaction, interest, national sense and their speed response by providing all support and assistance to face the current crisis that the country is going through.
Continuous efforts and fruitful integration:
With the effects of the pandemic rapidly changes, the Chamber highly appreciates the great response of the Supreme Committee in charge of dealing with the pandemic in general, especially in the economic aspect and taking a number of decisions to package the facilities, listen attentively to the Chamber as the main representative of the private sector and invite it to attend some meetings whenever needed, it also considers with appreciation the cooperation from the concerned authorities in the economic affairs and the continuous coordination with it to discuss some solutions to address the economic impacts based on the meaningful dialogue in the framework of achieving the national interest that is compatible with the roles, interests and responsibilities of all parties.
It should be noted that the coordination of the chamber and the integration of its roles with those bodies are carried out through direct communication channels at the level of unit heads and depend on a scientific methodology to submit proposals based on the preparation of economic reports dependent on monitoring and analysis, those efforts undoubtedly are fruitful in achieving positive results, as work is currently underway to study the Chamber's proposals in several aspects, the most prominent of which are the financial, banking and tax measures, fees, rents, services, electricity and water prices, regulating the labor market, in addition to supporting small and medium enterprises and enhancing local added value programs and other aspects.
The Chamber is aware that the current economic situation affects all economic sectors, whether at local or international level, although there are sectors at this stage that will be affected more than others, such as tourism, hospitality and retail, especially those small and medium enterprises. However, the crisis will affect more sectors such as industry, companies of all rankings, and large companies as well due to the lack of financial flows.
And in communication with the Supreme Committee, the Chamber calls all private sector companies when making their financial prospects, other needs and calculating financial flows that their expectation should be made in the worst conditions based on the continuation of the precautionary measures for a period of 3 months until mid-June approximately.
Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry has extends its appreciation to the government of His Majesty the Sultan represented in the Supreme Committee in charge of dealing with the pandemic of the outbreak of the emerging Coronavirus COVID-19, thanks to the Ministry of Health and all health workers in public and private sectors, the Sultan’s Armed Forces, Royal Oman Police, and the security bodies for their endeavors, sincerity and hard work in serving Oman.