MUSCAT: On Monday, the Sultanate will begin a new year of its renewed Renaissance under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, who ascended to the throne on January 11, 2020. On this occasion, the government and people of the Sultanate affirm allegiance and loyalty to His Majesty who has set his sight on reinforcing the Sultanate’s status among the nations and maintaining its national interests in accordance with the goals and paths of which were identified by the Oman Vision 2040 which seeks to achieve qualitative changes in all spheres of life.
Since the very first day of his rule, His Majesty confirmed his sincere endeavour to set up a new phase of Oman’s renewed Renaissance that meets with the requirements of the upcoming period and fulfils the aspirations of the Omani people as well as preserve the achievements that took place over the past five decades.
His Majesty the Sultan has over the past months taken a number of steps and procedures needed for the implementation of the Oman Vision 2040 which was launched at the beginning of January 2021 and will be executed in four consecutive plans beginning with 10th Five-Year Development Plan (2021-2025).
This plan has drawn up ambitious and clear-cut national goals linked to executive programmes that seek to restore momentum to economic growth and achieve balanced socio-economic development under the Royal guidance and directives of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik.
The Oman Vision 2040 is based on four main pillars. The first pillar comprises education, scientific research and skills, health and citizenship, identity, heritage, national culture, well-being and social security and youth empowerment. The second pillar consisits of ‘an economy with competitive climate, economic management, economic diversification, financial sustainability, labour market and employment, investment and the private sector, international cooperation, development of governorates and sustainable cities and IT technology.
The third pillar is environment with sustainable resources. The fourth pillar is a state with responsible authorities related to the legislation, judiciary, oversight, governance of the administrative apparatus and resources and projects. All these pillars are in line with the strategic orientation towards a society proud of its identity and culture and committed to citizenship.
10TH FIVE-YEAR PLAN
The 10th Five-Year Development Plan is based on the mechanisms and programmes of economic diversification, boosting the contribution of non-oil sectors and activities with a target of an average 3.2 per cent annual contribution to GDP through focus on promising economic sectors such as technology-based manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, food and agricultural industries, transportation, storage and logistics. The plan targets to boost the private sector’s contribution to the economic sectors with high in-country value and complementing value-production and supply chains, boosting the contribution of small and medium enterprises.
With the aim of reinforcing the Oman Vision 2040, the measures initiated by His Majesty the Sultan included upgrading the state administrative apparatus, reformulating the Council of Ministers for the implementation of the development plans that would enhance government performance and boost its efficiency as well as modernising laws and legislation.
In October, 2020, His Majesty the Sultan, within the framework of his keenness to redirect the Sultanate’s financial resources and prioritising fiscal balance, approved the Medium-Term Fiscal Balance Plan (2020-2024) laid down by the government. The plan is aimed at achieving a fiscal balance between the state’s revenues and public spending by the end of 2024, and preparing the financial conditions that support the launch of Oman Vision 2040.
His Majesty gave his Royal directives to speed up the construction of an integrated social security scheme with the aim of protecting low-income and social security families from the impact of the economic measures. The Royal orders also included the execution of several development projects in different governorates to the tune of RO 371 million.
The State General Budget for fiscal year 2021 focused on guaranteeing the sustainability of the basic social services and maintaining a spending level no lower than 40 per cent on social services. His Majesty, upon presiding over the Council of Ministers’ meeting in December, affirmed that he had followed up the preparation stages of the Tenth Five-Year Development Plan (2021-2025), the State General Budget for fiscal 2021, the initial executive plan of the Oman Vision 2040.
His Majesty also approved recommendations to set up two pension funds, one for the civil and private sectors and the other for the affiliates of the military and security bodies, and the amending of the minimum years of service required for early retirement to 30 years, and laying down a unified retirement system for newly-appointed employees in the government units and the private sector with retrospective effect for employees who have not completed 10 years of service.
As part of the continued Royal attention to boosting digital competence and accelerating transformation to e-government, His Majesty affirmed his follow-up on the government’s efforts in this regard with the aim of expediting procedures to achieve the aspirations of citizens, residents, investors and businessmen and empowering the strategic, economic and developmental sectors in the Sultanate. His Majesty gave his Royal directives to speed up the implementation of the national unified electronic portal for e-government services.
At the beginning of 2021, the Ministry of Finance, in response to the Royal directives, announced a package of incentives to citizens and the private sector during 2021.
The incentives include loans from Oman Housing Bank, with the annual sum designated for annual borrowing during 2021 to be increased to RO 100 million, from RO 60 million in the bank’s budget in the same year. This will take the number of approvals for citizens’ loans to 2,250 from 1,350. The step will shorten citizens’ wait for their turn in obtaining housing loans.
Also, as part of the incentives, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning will help prepare for the distribution of 23,000 plots in different governorates and wilayats of the Sultanate.
Other incentives will exempt borrowers from Oman Development Bank and the Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises from loan interests for one year (2021).
In his Royal address delivered to the nation in February last year, His Majesty laid down the most important principles and basics for the upcoming period of the development march. His Majesty focused on several issues that included the importance of youth in the nation-building process voicing his attention to listen to the youths and identifying their needs and aspirations which, His Majesty, affirmed will be given due attention.
His Majesty also stressed the importance of the small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurship sector especially the projects based on innovation, artificial intelligence and advanced technologies
In his Royal address delivered by His Majesty on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the blessed National Day, His Majesty affirmed his continued support to the health, social and economic sectors so that they can provide healthcare and educational services with high efficiency and competence being one of the priorities of the upcoming period.
Support for education
Stemming from His Majesty’s keenness to identify the requirements of the educational sector across the Sultanate and providing a supportive climate for education, His Majesty gave his Royal directives to the Diwan of Royal Court to finance the construction of 6 schools during the upcoming period at an amount of RO 8.85 million.
Testimony to His Majesty’s attention to the national manpower, he issued Royal orders for taking necessary steps to establish the Job Security Fund (JSF), to which His Majesty granted RO 10 million as a foundation bid to set up the fund’s system and encourage society to participate at a later stage. The initial phase of JSF officially began in November, 2020.
Within the framework of reviewing the state-owned companies and improving their performance, His Majesty issued Royal Decree No 61/2020, on the establishment of Oman Investment Authority (OIA), as a unified investment body comprising investment, monitoring and executive entities. The establishment of OIA marks a significant step that will certainly contribute to augmenting investment revenues and improving the Sultanate’s international credit status.
Stemming from His Majesty’s attention to continue with boosting economic growth and development, His Majesty gave his Royal directives in June for the implementation of developmental projects worth RO 300 million including the development of a multi-purpose fishing harbour in the Wilayat of Daba in Musandam Governorate.
The governorates and municipal affairs system promulgated by Royal Decree No 101/2020, embodies the Royal attention accorded by His Majesty to boosting development in the governorates and reinforcing the role of the governors.
His Majesty affirmed that the government will continue to accord more attention to the governorates and grant more powers to the governors to enable them undertake their responsibilities in stimulating the economy, trade and investment away from centralisation.
Dialogue with masses
In order to deepen communication with the people across the Sultanate, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in September last year met with a number of shaikhs and dignitaries of Dhofar Governorate in Salalah. The meeting stemmed from His Majesty’s keenness to meet citizens in order to identify their needs and listen to their observations and proposals regarding development services.
LEASH ON COVID-19
With the aim of containing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, His Majesty issued a Royal order to form the Supreme Committee under the chairmanship of the minister of interior for tackling the developments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
His Majesty commended the Supreme Committee and the government authorities whose efforts resulted in alleviating the impact of the pandemic. His Majesty hailed the efforts of health workers and the people’s commitment to the precautionary measures set by the authorities.
On the front of foreign policy, His Majesty confirmed that the Sultanate will remain as it was during the reign of late Sultan Qaboos, affirming that the Sultanate will contribute to solving disputes by peaceful means, and will continue its role as an active member in the United Nations respecting its charter and working side by side with the member states to achieve international peace and stability and spreading economic prosperity across the world.
His Majesty confirmed that the Sultanate supports the principles of tolerance, collective work and peaceful coexistence. His Majesty affirmed that the Sultanate underscores the peaceful settlement of conflicts on the basis of the UN principles and charter and the international laws.
The Sultanate of Oman under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik will confidently and competently continue its renewed Renaissance march and will work hard to boost development and achieve the wise visions laid down by His Majesty the Sultan for the interest of Oman and its people and for a more prosperous future. — ONA