Interview: Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Bakri

How can the ministry make the private sector more attractive for Omanis and encourage them to actively seek jobs in the sector?

ABDULLAH BIN NASSER BIN ABDULLAN AL BAKRI: We are working closely with the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents the private sector’s institutions and enterprises, and directly with the private sector itself to align the government’s mandates with national manpower requirements. During the first forum discussing employment of national job seekers in 2001, an initiative has been started to establish the Omanisation joint sectoral committees covering all economic fields. Here, we saw the formation of 12 sectoral committees, with representatives from both the public and private sectors, covering a wide range of employment sectors from construction and hydrocarbons to health care and education.

The sectoral committees are tasked with the formation of general policies within their sectors, with a focus on the future development of the labour market, and on developing policies that will help achieve Omanisation targets. The goal is also to encourage Omanis to seek careers in the private sector that will allow them to utilise all skill sets and specialisations. As the required skill sets evolve over time, the tripartite committee – the government, employers and employees – will share the responsibility of suggesting appropriate reforms to meet the changing demands of the labour market.

What concessions is the ministry making for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to incubate their growth?

BAKRI: The Ministry of Manpower offers a package of services to support SMEs. The services include the protection of wages, a social protection system, business leadership programmes and facilities for recruiting workers from foreign countries. The Ministry of Manpower also collaborates with the Public Authority for SME Development and the Public Authority for Social Insurance to implement developmental decisions. The goal is to create an environment which allows entrepreneurs to start and successfully run their own businesses.

Moreover, the ministry allocated many service counters for SME owners in Muscat and other governorates, where they can take advantage of a special application form which allows them to recruit foreign workers. They are also excluded from certain labour restrictions and can take advantage of training services, which we offer through partnerships with several institutes of technology. We understand how important it is to incubate SMEs, since the owners of these enterprises buy into the self-employment social insurance system, which strengthens our country’s pensions and ultimately contributes to the overall economic growth of the sultanate.

What are Oman’s key advantages when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI)?

BAKRI: Oman has many things to offer when it comes to attracting FDI, such as political and social stability, production facilities such as industrial estates, free zones and special economic zones, a very strategic location, airports and roads, and attractive investment laws. Moreover, Oman is following a policy of free trade, and is actively updating legalisation to keep up with the trends that are guiding open economies around the world.

The government pays special attention to infrastructure projects including roads, public utilities, ports and telecommunications, in its policy to achieve economic diversity. In the path to achieving these goals, Oman allows for the recruitment of foreign workers to run these projects. By working to defeat the constraints that face FDI in Oman, the ministry strives to provide manpower for national and foreign institutions that work on development projects.