Interview: Khalil Abdullah Al Khonji

How can investment be increased in the value-added, industrial manufacturing segment?

KHALIL ABDULLAH AL KHONJI: The OCCI is looking to increase value-added investment with the aim of developing higher value projects and diversifying the services provided in various sectors. This includes the industrial sector, which plays a large role in boosting economic development. The projects implemented in this sector are highly important and they generate significant income. We are calling upon all private sector companies working in the manufacturing field to establish new projects and to extend current ones. They should also strive to transfer technology, information, knowledge and expertise when attracting economically viable foreign investments in industry, to benefit from these partnerships and enhance the expertise of Omani businesses. The more technology, information, knowledge, expertise and know-how they acquire, the more value-added domestically manufactured products there will be.

Which industries have been identified as priorities for increasing private sector start-up finance?

AL KHONJI: We are always striving to ensure private sector initiatives and projects include industrial, tourism and real estate sectors, so as to encourage and enable them to play a role in advancing and stimulating the economy. Without focusing on a particular sector we would rather participate and contribute to the achievement of development goals, and provide more work opportunities for Omanis. As for government investment, the sultanate is planning to invest in tourism, information and communications technology, alternative energy, maritime sector, minerals and other areas, and we hope the private sector will participate as well. The mining sector in particular is considered vital. The OCCI has established a special committee for industry and mining in order to identify the challenges facing the development of both segments. The committee is also looking at ways of enhancing the presence of Omani cadres and at how they should be upgraded and trained.

How are local industry and service providers coping with competition from international firms?

AL KHONJI: Oman is working in the framework of the open market policy with regional and international markets in order to achieve real economic development. Accordingly, the presence of foreign companies in the local market is encouraged. Local businesses should take advantage of this presence and create links with those companies that have huge expertise capacities. This is turn would benefit local private sector companies through market competition, as they strive to provide services and products of the highest efficiency and quality. The government has also established a range of mechanisms regulating the market, including providing support to local companies in the implementation of many development projects. This is in addition to supporting national products and other facilities and privileges, which are essential to ensuring free and fair competition between local and foreign companies.

To what extent are GCC states achieving greater cooperation? Where can Oman play a leading role?

AL KHONJI: GCC member states are making continuous efforts to support industrial interdependence and enhance their industrial strength in various economic sectors. In 1980 the GCC approved a unified strategy for industrial development among member states, with the aim of achieving industrial development on the basis of complementality and increasing the contribution of the industrial sector. The strategy has since been modified to cope with developments contributing to the revitalisation of investment in industrial sectors and the establishment of large industrial projects. Yet, the current debate revolves around the need to modify the strategy according to changes in the market, which requires adopting a new strategy focused more on the economic and industrial reality of each GCC member state. Oman could play a leading role in the mining and quarries sector, since the country has vast mineral riches not being exploited to their potential.