I had an opportunity to attend an evening organised by Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) this Ramadhan. The event was important as it focused on World Trade Organisation (WTO), and how the private sector in Oman engages with it and gets benefitted.
The issues came up during the deliberations were highly significant as they also highlighted the level of the participation of Omani private sector in the meetings the WTO and other such international organisations concerned with economy. These international forums have direct impact on investments, exports and imports. Not only this, the decision taken at these platforms also affect production and manufacturing in each country. They also determine how to deal with foreign markets according the rules of international trade of which all businessmen should be aware, if he or she really aspires to enter into world markets.
The Omani private sector needs to do some level of introspection and self-assessment on the reasons why it remained aloof from what is happening at the world level and why they did not try to benefit from these international trade forums. They did this despite they had ample opportunity to improve their capacity and enter international markets. Whey they remained indifferent of the outcomes of the negotiations held at world level and did not participate in economic lobbies on issues of their own concern and defend their own interest?
They should have done this as these decisions and negotiations carried out by international trade and economic organisations directly influence imports and exports.
The evening organised by the OCCI was valuable. Hilda al Hinai, Director of the Sultanate’s office at WTO in Geneva, presented a working paper which surprised many when she highlighted what the Omani private sector lacks and just because of its reluctance to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the meetings of international organisations. Otherwise, this could have helped the economic sector by matching with the developments taking place in e-commerce, lobbies of international organisations led by global IT companies. They should have understood the extent to which countries benefit by actively taking part in the efforts to guide the world trade and influence economic and commerce activities in countries.
There was pin-drop silence in the hall when Hilda al Hinai spoke as if there was a regret and remorse on the loss suffered by the Omani private sector by not participating in these international activities with a positive mind.
What the director of the Sultanate’s office at WTO, highlighted here may have worked for the businessmen as an eyeopener on how to benefit from international participation in future. This was enough to reveal the information gap with regards to what was happening at international organisations and how private sector could explore opportunities by opening offices and appointing people to direct economic policies, and follow what is happening during discussions at these forums on economy and how to take advantage and manage international economy and avoid road blocks in entering international markets.
There was a problem because we have the habit of not heeding to international frameworks and laws discussed and approved by the WTO.
At this point, the private sector should train Omani youth who are working in various companies or graduates in Economics and Commerce in these organisations so that they can support them in their intentional works and get benefit of the volume of information and knowledge available in these meetings.
If the international organisations give importance to the work of the private sector, it means that it opens wider horizons for entrepreneurs, and removes all obstacles.
The government is making efforts to address these problems. But these efforts do not mean that the private sector should be ignorant to what happens at international forums. There is no substitute for information and there is no way gaining awareness except active presence in all these organisations.
We hope that the private sector will take this issue very seriously. The points raised at the OCCI evening are of utmost importance for the private sector. Those who are playing a role in giving the economic policies a direction would not stay away from the world trade meetings.