Interview: Sayyid Faisal Al Said

How successful has Oman’s diversification policy been to date, and what more needs to be done to showcase the sultanate’s industrial sectors?

SAYYID FAISAL AL SAID: Oman has exerted significant efforts to meet the key objectives for economic diversification in the Vision 2020 plan by increasing non-oil exports, upgrading the skills of our workforce and broadening private sector participation. Non-oil exports increased from 52.7% of GDP in 2001 to 72.2% in 2011. Many factors have contributed to this growth, the most significant of which are: developing investment and export studies and strategies for the sultanate, participating in international trade shows, providing internships for college-level Omanis to learn valuable work skills, and offering support and guidance to both public and private sector companies on inward investment and export matters. To continue with the expansion of export markets, the emphasis must be on developing the free zones in Sohar, Duqm and Salalah. These three sites have world-class infrastructure and strategic locations that appeal to emerging markets in Africa and East Asia. In 2012 India for the first time emerged as the largest destination for the sultanate’s non-oil exports, increasing Omani imports by 48% in a 12-month period. As mentioned before, participating in international tradeshows and introducing Omani companies to potential buyers and investors raises awareness of Oman-made products and services, as well as highlighting the sultanate’s offerings as a business destination.

How are the public and private sectors collaborating in the areas of job creation and human development to help absorb Oman’s growing workforce?

AL SAID: His Majesty Sultan Qaboos delivered a speech at the 2012 annual session of the Council of Oman on the responsibility of our youth and business community regarding Oman’s growth and development. It has been brought to the country’s attention that the public sector has limits with regards to job creation. Thus, young Omanis are being urged to look to the private sector for employment opportunities, while the government has also led a push for businesses to provide broader and deeper career training opportunities for Oman’s youth, a push that is aimed at making careers in the private sector more appealing and fulfilling. It is imperative that we nurture domestic talent. It is important that we encourage young Omanis to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics – areas of study that are crucial to Oman’s long-term success.

How is the sultanate looking to develop its international profile, not just as a tourism destination, but also as an attractive investment option?

AL SAID: A lot of effort has been put into increasing Oman’s connectivity, specifically in the seaports and airports segment. These developments will significantly strengthen Oman’s competitiveness and position us as a centre for regional and international trade.

As the economy continues to develop, what areas present the most significant opportunities?

AL SAID: The grand challenges facing the world today are climate change, population growth, energy, food security, health care and job creation. We must be positive about these challenges by seeing them as opportunities for Oman. Indeed, by promoting science, research and innovation the sultanate is searching for solutions to these problems. Several initiatives and programmes are actively working towards alleviating these international concerns, such as the symposium that was held in October 2013 to discuss ways to improve food security in the sultanate, the government’s expanded support for the creation of small and medium-sized enterprise to generate employment and the national goal of decreasing dependence on oil by harnessing more sustainable energies. The companies working to fix global challenges are doing more than running lucrative business; they are benefitting society and people across the world by improving lives and securing a healthier, more sustainable world for future generations.