Oman’s business environment needs further strengthening: ISFU

Conrad Prabhu –
Muscat, MAY 1 –
The high-powered Implementation Support and Follow-up Unit (ISFU) driving the Omani government’s economic diversification strategy has lauded measures adopted by various ministries and stakeholders in enhancing the Sultanate’s business environment, but at the same time, has called for ramped-up efforts to boost the country’s global investment appeal.
ISFU, which operates under the auspices of the Diwan of Royal Court, made the observation in its newly published 2018 Annual Report detailing the progress made in the delivery of numerous projects and initiatives across nine key economic sectors and strategic programmes. These comprise: Manufacturing, Logistics, Tourism, Labour, Finance, Fisheries, Mining, Energy, and the Business Environment.
“Although various parties, in cooperation with ISFU, take positive steps to improve Oman’s business environment, they still need to increase their efforts so they can keep pace with the rapid growth and development of the global business environment. This is advised in order to avoid a decline in the indicators of improving the business environment when compared to other countries. It is necessary to improve the business environment in the Sultanate by establishing controls and setting a specified period for the Ministerial Council and the stakeholders in the relevant laws,” a high-level Independent Advisory Review (IAR) panel appointed by ISFU stated.
The panel, consisting of reputed and well-established professionals and subject-matter experts from the government, academic and private sectors, has been tasked with providing a “constructive and independent assessment” of the work processes adopted by ISFU and other sister-entities in the delivery of strategic projects and initiatives in accelerating Oman’s economic diversification.
Furthermore, in order to improve the business environment, the Independent Advisory Review panel called for the institution of a “mechanism” for activating legislation in conjunction with administrative procedures after it is issued.
“This needs to happen in addition to designing an electronic map of the legislative cycle methodology that determines the period required to study laws from the drafting stage through to issuance,” the panel stated.
The inclusion of ‘Business Environment’ as a Tanfeedh initiative in its own right was aimed at enhancing Oman’s attractiveness as an investment destination, according to ISFU. The Business Environment Team is currently in contact with more than 15 governmental institutions to secure their support in the implementation of the outcomes of its deliberations. Importantly, given the pivotal role of real estate in business and investment decision-making, the Independent Advisory Review panel has called for greater clarity with regard to regulations governing property and real estate matters.
“Bringing clarity in real estate development mechanisms is a key factor in attracting investors, as investors need to know the urban development strategy to be able to plan investments,” the panel noted. “This is a challenge that has thus far not been addressed in the initiatives tasked with improving the business environment.”
“Based on its importance as an economic indicator to analyse the movement of the real estate market, a requirement to provide statistics for the index of building permits has been implemented. A suggestion has been put forward that the procedures and timescale for the issuing of building permits should be unified across all governorates of the Sultanate,” it added.