Ushering in second renaissance

His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik restructured his government through 28 royal decrees issued on August 18 marking the most significant government reshuffle in 50 years, removing more than five governmental entities and merging more than 10 ministries

Oman Vision 2040 is the foundation of the second Renaissance with its pillars of decentralisation, diversification of sources of national income, attractive economic environment for foreign investment and more job opportunities for young Omanis.
The late Sultan Qaboos, during his nearly 50 years as head of state, brought immeasurable progress to Oman and reshaped this country into a sparkling oasis of peace and stability. That the Sultanate is today prosperous and secure, is a monument to his decades of singular resolve and sweat.
There is no doubt that Sultan Qaboos will be missed dearly not only in Oman, but also in countries across the globe.
Immediately after ascending the throne, his successor His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik vowed to uphold the principles of his predecessor. He called for efforts for further development of the country and pledged to continue working towards raising the standard of living of the people.
In a speech on February 23, 2020, His Majesty Sultan Haitham clearly outlined the most important principles and steps that would guide his governance of the country.
The Sultan also pledged to “take the necessary measures to restructure the state’s administrative apparatus” in order to “achieve good governance, performance, integrity and accountability.” He has adopted an approach which delegates more power to other parts of government.
He restructured his government through 28 royal decrees issued on August 18 marking the most significant government reshuffle in 50 years, removing more than five governmental entities and merging more than 10 ministries.
The number of ministries was reduced from 26 to 19. The changes came as part of efforts to address the nation’s looming challenges, including unemployment, fiscal deficit, and maintaining a foreign policy of neutrality amid regional conflicts.
The changes to the government apparatus were based on the following criteria:
 a new government apparatus with the aim of achieving the Vision 2040
 reduction of centralised government and giving power to the governorates
 ensuring the effective and efficient management of the public sector
 clarifying the competencies of each of the government entities and efficient use of manpower
 provision of high quality government services
The Sultan’s measures turned the page in other ways as well, reorganising ministries, liquidating many state bodies, and appointing new heads for various government-owned institutions. He also relinquished portfolios of foreign affairs and finance.
Whilst this may not be a full devolution of power, the move demonstrates His Majesty’s aim to move away from purely personal rule and an increase the delegation of executive power. This change will undoubtedly streamline decision making and reduce bureaucratic delays which have been a source of frustration in Oman.
His Majesty the Sultan has appointed Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al Busaidy as the Foreign Minister, replacing the veteran Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah. Sayyid Badr is no stranger to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as he has been working at the ministry for many years, with his most recent post being the Secretary-General of the Ministry.
Royal Decree 94/2020 establishes the Ministry of Economy, some nine years it was abolished.
The new ministry seems in keeping with the government’s commitment to directing its financial resources in the most ideal and sustainable manner to ensure the reduction of sovereign debt and an increase in revenue.
The Sultan also named some elected Majlis Ash’shura members as new ministers, integrating them into his new government. This suggests a sensitivity to public opinion as some of them have been very active in public seminars and on social media.
The announcement of the royal decree regarding Oman’s accession to the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is seen as an encouraging sign by experts.
They also view this decree as an indication of more legislative and legal reforms to come. Several regional and international civil society organisations also welcomed Oman’s accession to these conventions, considering it a step towards a greater commitment to human rights.
This was followed by an important step concerning workers’ rights, namely, the abolishment of Article 11 of the Foreigners’ Residence Law.
This legal provision had obliged workers to obtain a no-objection certificate from their employer to move from one job to another within the private sector, which was considered by many international organisations to be a form of human trafficking.
While His Majesty Sultan Haitham’s ruling style has been calm and deliberate, the steps he has taken during his first 100 days as head of the state have occurred quickly from the perspective of Oman’s citizens.
“These changes have come at a difficult time for Oman, they give an idea of how His Majesty Sultan Haitham wants to shape his rule and his priorities as he seeks to marshall the continued growth of Oman,” says a report by Trowers & Hamlins.

 

SAMUEL KUTTY
@samkuttyvp