Interview: Qais Mohammed Al Yousef

How does the Vision 2040 development strategy encourage private sector growth?

QAIS MOHAMMED AL YOUSEF: Vision 2040 seeks to develop a competitive economy with the private sector as the true driver of growth. Since 1970 the private sector has expanded primarily due to contracts with the government. Initially the government was responsible for managing the risk, operations and follow-up for major projects, while the private sector was only focused on execution. However, through the establishment of public-private partnerships (PPPs), the government is now transferring the risk to the private sector under certain guarantees. Today 80% of funding for projects under the Tanfeedh initiative comes from private investment, while 20% comes from the government. PPPs, along with foreign direct investment and privatisation, will improve Oman’s business environment and make it more conducive to private sector development. Together, these initiatives will allow the private sector, funded by both Omani and international investment, to deepen engagement.

What are the most innovative aspects of the Tanfeedh initiative in terms of diversification?

AL YOUSEF: The Tanfeedh initiative is not a single product, but rather a tool for managing projects by quickly identifying and resolving issues. It is essentially a project management office under the jurisdiction of the Implementation Support and Follow-up Unit, the body in charge of Tanfeedh oversight. Projects related to Tanfeedh fall under three criteria: economic diversification, job creation and GDP expansion. Once issues are solved and projects completed, the cycle continues. Tanfeedh is an ongoing and dynamic process. While projects will end, the initiative will not. Under Tanfeedh each development plan targets specific sectors. For example, in the ninth five-year development plan, which runs from 2016 to 2020, the focus is on logistics, fisheries, tourism, manufacturing and mining. However, in the 10th five-year development plan spanning 2021 to 2025 – the first plan under Vision 2040 – a review will be conducted to determine what sectors are prioritised.

In what ways is Oman working to promote small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)?

AL YOUSEF: Since 2013 the government has been working to promote SMEs in the economy. In January of that year Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said held the first SME symposium at Saih Al Shamekhat in Bahla. Soon after, the Public Authority for SME Development was created and the ecosystem has expanded steadily since. SMEs are supported through training and capacity-building programmes and are given opportunities to participate in exhibitions and delegations abroad.

As an organisation, the OCCI helps SMEs by promoting their brands, providing training workshops and participating in trade delegations, and has been working on creating SME entrepreneur clubs, the first of which will be established in 2019.

Which non-oil sectors under Tanfeedh are poised for growth in the short to medium term?

AL YOUSEF: There are multiple sectors targeted in the current development plan that exhibit considerable growth opportunities. Manufacturing is primed for advancement not only because Oman has a strong, skilled workforce, but also because many local products already meet international standards. To expand exports, the OCCI has been working with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ithraa and the Public Authority for SME Development to promote local products to the GCC and East African countries.

Manufacturing development is intertwined with that of logistics, as our ports and roads facilitate manufacturing and exports, and provide tailor-made solutions for investors looking to enter Oman. In addition to manufacturing and logistics, tourism, health care, education and renewable energy are promising and are expected to post notable gains throughout the coming years.