Sultanate building relations with Europe: Official

Muscat: David McAllister, Chairman of EU Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Oman is a unique country, in a unique location which bridges Africa and Asia and is increasingly building relations with Europe. In his article published by The Parliament, he said: “Last December, as Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, I had the opportunity to lead an official visit of MEPs to Muscat, immediately followed by a visit to Baghdad. Oman is located at the crossroads of some of the toughest geopolitical interests, in a region troubled by conflicts for far too long. Yet from the moment we arrived, we immediately felt the kindness of the Omani people and saw the beauty of the country, in a preserved and protected environment. With this in mind, it is important to highlight the country’s crucial role in helping to stabilise the region. Oman is playing a key — and neutral — role in helping to resolve the conflict in Yemen.”

Oman is supporting the UN political and humanitarian efforts to end this catastrophic war and brokered several sets of talks among the different warring factions in the conflict. The Sultanate acts as a facilitator in the region, he added.
Oman has also been important in bringing the Iran nuclear agreement to fruition, hosting initial talks between the US and Iran. In addition, Oman’s recent efforts in working towards a solution for the Middle East peace process have also been highly valued, McAllister said.
On the economic front, he said the Sultanate is seeking to become a key logistics hub for the Middle East region and it has turned towards Asian development models for inspiration.
“Currently, China and other important Asian countries are investing extensively in developing the port facilities at Duqm, Salalah and Suhar as well as in additional infrastructure projects.”
Oman was the first country among its GCC neighbours in the region to develop forward-looking plans and visions for reducing its dependence on hydrocarbons and diversifying its economy.
The Vision 2020 has formed the backbone of an economic diversification plan that focuses on promoting growth in five key sectors — manufacturing, transport and logistical services, tourism, fisheries and mining.
2020 is now just round the corner, so the country is now launching its new long-term plan, Oman 2040. This forward-looking plan will pose challenges for the country; it will question the social contract granted by hydrocarbon revenues combined with running a persistent fiscal deficit. Citizens have benefited for many years from financial advantages and subsidies. “The authorities are working to get more Omani nationals to work to reduce the dependence on foreign workers.”
Creating jobs will be crucial for the next generation. These models now need to be revised and implemented to reflect the new realities of reducing the country’s dependence on hydrocarbons, he added.