By Vinod Nair
The current economic challenges have made the country and its population to think out of the box, said participants and visitors to Tanfeedh open days. There will also this unanimous opinion that the media has missed to highlight the finer points. “I don’t think the initiative such as Tanfeedh would have been held if it was not for the current economic crisis. There are some concerns from where the money would come for some of the projects listed/ suggested here. The private sector has shown its positive intent and there are no reasons to be doubtful,” said Mohammed al Busaidi, a Majlis Ash’shura member in an interaction with the Observer.
He said the announcement of the projects will be announced within by the second or third week of January. “It will not go beyond that,” he said. “This is the first time an open forum has been held for all section of the population, including expatriates,” said a private sector expatriate volunteer who helped set up the manufacturing lab.
An expert associated with the Finance Lab said that the upcoming coming budget will be not much different from the last year. “We can’t predict much of the oil prices but it will be tough for everyone. We are moving in the right direction and there is scope for hope.”
Dr Lee Sutherland of Oman Academic Accreditation Authority said there is much more than what has caught the media headlines. One among them is the Oman National Qualifications Framework (QNQF). Students, parents and employers will have a clear indication of what qualification holders will know and able to do at different levels and as a result of different types of education.
“This project will help fill around 10,000 senior and middle managerial positions with qualified Omani workforce,” Lee said. Saud al Salmi of the Oil and Gas Trade Union said some of the initiatives are very ambitious and innovative. He welcomed the suggestions such as the 20-per cent Omanisation for the part-time workers along with facilities such as the insurance cover. On the free movement of labour, he said in his personal opinion the NOC rule for expatriates should be relaxed, especially for those who fulfill their contract obligations. Of course, the employer’s concern should be also taken into account. “It will help especially new companies to look out for locally experienced projects,” he said.
Among the major initiatives, one proposal that missed the headlines is probably about the establishment of Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which will help Muscat emerge as a hub for world-class design for products, advanced apprentice centre, research and development and world class prototyping facilities. The centre will help sectors such as defence, railway, oil and gas, marble and ceramic processing and automobiles.
To be established in partnership with Universityof Sheffield by2018, the first phase will include development of prototype centre with machine tool facilities and development of training centre. The second phase to be completed by 2020 will be cluster of supply chain industries serving the wider Middle East and African markets by creating a manufacturing park. Phase 1 will be carried out by Sohar University
By Vinod Nair