Engagement with stakeholders imperative

BADER AL KIYUMI –
baderalkiyumi@hotmail.com –

The International Monetary Fund recently hailed the government’s economic strategy and the need to fast-track economic reforms and legislations. This is in light of the boom in economic and investment sectors. The number of successful projects by Omani and foreign investors has increased considerably during the last decade.
The Sultanate has economic policies which reflect the control of public debt, inflation and exchange rates. Coupled with this is the set of new laws which support investments and are in line with international standards.
Furthermore, Oman is distinguished by its flexible tax system that allows exemptions on the profit of foreign investment projects for a period of five years and renewable for a further five years.
In the recent years, the Sultanate has also witnessed a positive transformation in sharing information with the society. An offshoot of this is that several ministers and CEOs have social media accounts and directly communicate with the people.
In this regard the recent statement by Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Futaisi, the Minister of Transport and Communications, needs introspection.
The minister recently shared the ministry’s plans and policies to develop the transport sector in the Sultanate. This chiefly pertains to schemes prior to execution of infrastructure projects.
“The ministry will design plans and policies and will work as a strategic planner while the new authority will focus on the daily work,” Al Futaisi said. The minister’s statement also reinforces the need to work hard to design a plan to establish a feasible metro network in the Sultanate. Thanks indeed to all efforts taken by the ministry to develop the road networks.
This seems to be the need of the hour. We need decision makers who are able to share information and opinion with the citizens quickly. We need strong communication strategies between decision makers and citizens.
The initiative which has been taken by the Council of Ministers to inform public about its achievements and instructions to different authorities is considered as one of the best ways to develop the investment sector. Sharing information before and after implementation will remove ambiguity and unnecessary rumours that spread from time to time.
I am optimistic that this will encourage investors to come into the country.
Infrastructure is also considered to play a main role by investors inside and outside the country.
In this regard, the problem also relates to road networks in the country. Public transport plays a vital role to link different regions. Most of them are concerned about the system and effectiveness of the transport system.
During my visit to London, I was immensely impressed by the wide public transport network available there. During my stay, I used to commute by buses and by London Underground to travel from one place to another. Their public rapid transit system which serves London and the adjacent counties is really comfortable and a great way to get around. This however did not cost me much compared to hired taxis.
According to a research published in 2014, the public transport in UK increased the business efficiency through saving time and improved reliability for business travellers, freight and logistics operations. It was revealed that a 5 per cent reduction in travel time for all business travel on the road network in UK could generate as much as around £25 million on cost savings.
Investors are very particular about government plans and spending with regard to infrastructure. However, the visit by decision makers to work sites will greatly help to understand the challenges.
Last month, most of the social media and newspapers scooped up Dr Al Futaisi travelling on Mwasalat bus and taxi news.
The minister’s tweet of a picture of himself in a Mwasalat as a ‘successful option for travelling’ sent strong signals. Through this test ride, the minister best understands the need to do more for the transport sector in the Sultanate.
I appreciate the initiative taken by other ministers and CEOs who pay visits to the sites. I am reminded of the Minister of Commerce and Industry who visited SMEs to understand their suggestions and opinion. Similar is the case with the Minister of Information, who works to support journalists through visits to media organisations in Oman and abroad. I wholeheartedly applaud the efforts taken by the decision makers who are set to take the opinion to the next level.