Interview: Said Al Ka’abi

What recent steps have been taken to deal with the sale of substandard or counterfeit goods?

SAID AL KA’ABI: One of the biggest areas of change within the sector has come in the form of human capital development. We have taken steps to provide employees with training and field preparation exercises. The end goal is to ensure that quality goods are entering and being sold in Oman while simultaneously taking substandard goods off the streets. Today the sultanate has quality control specialists in most governorates. In 2012 this resulted in the seizure of more than 2m substandard or counterfeit goods. Additionally, we are creating awareness and educating our citizens about the hazards posed by expired and counterfeit goods. Tremendous efforts have been made to educate and alert all consumers and communities about the hazards that false and counterfeit goods pose to consumers’ health, as well as the social and economic harm they cause. Through lectures, forums, seminars and workshops, as well as awareness campaigns on the radio and television, Oman is educating its consumers on how to distinguish counterfeit goods from genuine goods. Through this strategy and a few others we are working together to create measurable change.

How much of the recent salary increase has been passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices?

AL KA’ABI: We have escalated our efforts to ensure that the prices of goods and other services are not affected or that prices are not raised without a valid reason. The PACP has the support of the government and other relevant bodies to ensure that the consumer is protected. We have adopted several price monitoring and control methods. Specific examples include field monitoring, the process of issuing price-raise regulatory orders and, when the authority approves any price raise, it is always after the vendor provides convincing grounds justifying the price increase.

PACP publishes prices of commodities sold at different shopping centres on its official website and has also launched a consumer guide smartphone app and a monthly newsletter. All these tools enable consumers to compare prices and select whichever is cheapest. Residents are encouraged to report any violations via our call centre, website or mobile applications. While salary increases are positive, we must work together to prevent inflated prices from affecting the market.

What input do producers have for the PACP regarding regulations they feel to be excessive?

AL KA’ABI: A functioning economy has three sides, which consist of the producer, the vendor and the consumer. In the end, all three are partners and the goal is to create a balanced market. A balanced market maintains consumers’ rights without causing any harm to producers or vendors. The laws are structured so that all parties have equal rights. The overall aim is to ensure that the local market continues to function normally and the community is spared of any practices that contravene the law. If producers and sellers have any criticism of regulations they feel are excessive, we are always here to listen and work together on a solution.

What imported goods can be locally manufactured and thus help reduce imports?

AL KA’ABI: Oman imports many foods and agricultural products. However, we also grow a wide variety of produce locally, such as dates, limes, bananas, alfalfa and wheat, among other things. Oman’s produce is also high quality. By investing more in agriculture development and projects Oman could benefit in the short and long term by reducing a segment of its imports and becoming self-sufficient in some areas of agriculture.

The sultanate has an excellent geographic location, as well as human resources and natural harbours suitable for manufacturing and industrialisation. These advantages form the basis for the complete system required for the growth of a sustainable industrial economy that can produce commodities such as agricultural and downstream products in the oil and gas sector.