Muscat: On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of National Day, the Observer spoke to Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al Busaidy, Foreign Minister.
“First of all I would like to wish everyone a Happy National Day, not just to fellow Omani, my brothers and sisters who are citizens, but also to all friends of Oman, living here in Oman and abroad. Our hearts are welcoming and as soon as circumstances allow, we would expect to see you soon. I also wish to take the occasion to wish the whole world a happy festive season that is coming up,” he greeted the nation and the world.
When asked about his thoughts about Oman on the occasion of its 50th National Day, Sayyid Badr reflected, “My first thoughts, having lived through this period of our history, are about how much our country has changed and developed since 1970.
This National Day is therefore a good occasion to look back with both pride and gratitude at what our country has achieved in that time, and the extraordinary work that has been done, under the visionary leadership of late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, in the cause of national development.
“I think, in particular, we should be proud and grateful that through this period, in which the modern nation of Oman was formed, and the foundations of our contemporary way of life were laid, such careful attention was paid to maintaining features of social and cultural life that are both precious and distinctive.”
“I am thinking in particular of all those small but important things that make everyday life beautiful and which are not just about doing business and making progress: taking the time to welcome visitors and friends; spending time with family; making time for music or poetry.
“Above all, I have been reflecting on the importance we continue to give to the principles of tolerance. I am very happy that we have preserved this in the country.
“At a time of much conflict, much of it caused by people who find it difficult or impossible to live with or near people whose lives and beliefs are different from their own, we have succeeded in making Oman a nation in which tolerance for difference and respect for the cultures of others still prevails.”
In regard to difficulties that could lay ahead, he pointed out that there are challenges both at home and abroad.
“Of course, they are related. Above all, the world faces a future in which economies are somewhat uncertain. In Oman, we can no longer rely on the present structure of the economy — the structure we created for the years of relatively high government revenues from oil and gas. Now the country needs to take bold steps to make sure that the future is secured.”
“Put very bluntly: new sources of income need to be found and substantial reductions in expenditure need to be achieved. As the government implements policies and decisions, it also makes sure the social umbrella that protects the most vulnerable among us remains intact.
“We all have a collective responsibility to make sure that citizens do not suffer disproportionately from the hard times that may lie ahead.”
He further added that he is confident that under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, Oman will be able to build structures through which we can all support each other.
“I know that those who have been fortunate enough to achieve wealth and prosperity will make an appropriate contribution to this collective endeavour, and government policy will be guided by the absolute priority the government gives to ensuring that low income families are supported,” he added.
When asked about Oman’s key foreign policy directions, Sayyid Badr said, “I am happy to say that the longstanding principles of Omani foreign policy remain in place: our commitment to dialogue, to good relations with all our neighbours and to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. I am optimistic that there are opportunities for more positive developments in the years ahead.”