Interview: Khalifa Al Barwani
How can accurate information and statistics help attract foreign direct investment (FDI)?
KHALIFA AL BARWANI: Investors always look for accurate data and information because it helps them make the right decisions regarding investment levels, as well which sectors and locations to direct finances to. Population statistics are a simple example of this, as they are essential for allowing investors to identify the size of their potential market. Since its establishment in 2013, the NCSI has been producing and providing the country with timely and accurate data. This statistical data is usually produced by different government entities but transformed into useful information for investors. As the number of requests for new data sets and statistical information increases, the NCSI continues to work in close collaboration with various stakeholders, including ministries, public authorities and the private sector, to produce and provide a variety of new and comprehensive data. The NCSI also works closely with international organisations and companies producing business or economic reports about the sultanate to ensure that they reflect accurate and updated statistical data.
What opportunities do you see for improved data collection in terms of accuracy, depth and focus?
AL BARWANI: Modern technology has provided many different solutions for better data collection processes, and the NCSI is using this technology efficiently. Adopting modern technology has enabled the NCSI to better control the quality and accuracy of the data that we present. Analysing the data and presenting it in informative designs and outputs maximises its benefits and uses. For example, combining statistical data with geospatial data and presenting it via an application makes it uniquely beneficial for investors.
There are many opportunities to provide better data sets in the coming future to support investment decisions in Oman. All government entities are moving to adopt technology in their daily work, and so there will be more opportunities to use administrative records to provide better data. The upcoming census is one of these great opportunities where data from different government institutions will be combined to deliver the maximum benefit to investors and other users.
In what ways are accurate statistics important for improving the ease of doing business?
AL BARWANI: In the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2017” report, the sultanate was ranked 66th out of a total of 140 countries on the ease of doing business index, an improvement on 69th in 2016. One of the NCSI’s main tasks is to ensure that the statistical data in such reports is accurate and updated; therefore, we work with all of the relevant parties to make sure they are using the most up-to-date and accurate information. Oman also uses and analyses these international reports that rank the sultanate, and issues recommendations to certain governmental entities on how they can improve. Very often, a simple improvement in regulations or a quick change to legal regulations can affect the overall ranking of the country in a noticeable way.
How would you rate the state’s progress in providing e-government services?
AL BARWANI: The government of Oman realised the importance and feasibility of e-government and e-services early on, and has followed a robust programme with this in mind. Spearheaded by the Information Technology Authority, the eGovernment Transformation Plan strives to automate all government services and provide them online and via mobile technologies. As part of the strategy, current government service delivery and processes will be reviewed and re-engineered to improve the ease of doing business. The country has already seen some success in several government services, such as Invest Easy, which is an online portal launched by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 2014 to help set up and manage businesses in Oman.
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