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Permit expatriates to bring families


Relocating to a foreign land is exciting. At the same time, an adventure for many is necessary, especially if one is taking up new employment. Many leave their loved ones back home and settle down in a new land. This is a global phenomenon.

An expatriate plays a big role in the socio-economic development of the country he works in. The story of expatriates in Oman is no different. One quick look at the socio-economic history of the Sultanate in the past nearly half a century speaks volumes on the contributions and influence exercised by expat communities in the country.

The people from Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh form the majority immigrants who have become part and parcel of Omani society.

While no one has two opinions about the benefits of hosting expats in Oman, there are a few downsides deterring the growth of expat community in the country in recent years.

Inability to meet the aspirations of Omani youth in finding employment in some sectors, especially in highly demanding technical and corporate sectors, has been of much concern. This situation has forced the government to review its expat employment policies.

The expat population, which forms 45 per cent of the population (2,056,367, according to NCSI), has alarmed the authorities.

Meanwhile, a fall in oil prices has hit industrial and economic growth of nations dependent on oil revenue and the decision to curtail expat employment on various fronts and restricting family status facilities have come into force. Many hail this move as a pragmatic decision.

In the long run this could prove to be a boon, but in view of the recent economic crisis following dropping oil prices this is not an appropriate step.

In the last couple of years, many expatriates, especially from the Asian countries, have sent their families home. Others could not bring their families to the Sultanate due to visa regulations and the RO600 limit. The economic and social aspects of these developments require immediate review and redress. It will surely contribute to Omani economy to keep their families in the Sultanate.

The outflow of foreign exchange from Oman has touched new heights of almost RO 6 billion annually. Permitting expat employees to bring their families will not only help reduce this outflow of funds for family maintenance, but also increase domestic market spending.

Sectors such as private housing, education, health, consumer product market and tourism are boosted by the expatriate population.

The other downside of not having the family or loved ones is the development of behavioural problems which could be harmful to him/her and society. Many instances of mental breakdowns and anti-social behaviour have affected work and productivity.

Single males living in the neighbourhood is not viewed as appropriate in the traditional Omani society. These men don’t have specific residential areas outside the neighbourhood where families live. Nationals have been demanding a solution to the issue to ensure security.

Keeping in view of such socio-economic issues, restrictions on employees with less than RO 600 salary should be reconsidered as discussed in many social forums recently. Insistence of the rule is not helping prevent violation of rules.

Hence, a review of the policy and decision is the need of the hour to strengthen the economy and evolve suitable and practical ways to control expat population.

Ali Al Matani

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