Interview: Peter Young
What role is the private sector expected to play in the Logistics Vision 2040, and how is the government developing strategies to encourage this?
PETER YOUNG: The private sector’s role is critical to the success of the Oman logistics strategy. The strategy itself was developed by a group of some 65 individuals from both the private and public sector. The government’s role is to act as a key enabler by improving the delivery of government services, particularly in the area of trade facilitation. The involvement of the private sector at every level is critical and will ultimately determine the success of the strategy.
Whatever improvements a government makes, whether it is in increasing the ease of doing business, building the physical infrastructure, or facilitating training programmes, it is the private sector that will benefit and create economic growth and employment for the country as a whole.
It is therefore simply not possible to have a meaningful strategy that does not include the private sector. If the government wants to raise standards in logistics, say in training or the adoption of technology, it must initiate programmes with a focus on targeted investment and develop legislation that will be adopted by the industry. The private sector also has to invest its capital, resources and manpower to support the government in getting these measures adopted across the country and the industry.
How is the Customs environment being streamlined, and what can be done to ensure that import/export procedures are more efficient?
YOUNG: There are considerable efforts being made in this area, and Oman Customs is making major progress. However, trade facilitation is not confined to Customs, but requires the active participation of a great number of government entities, some of which are sometimes unaware of the impact that they can have. This is why the trade facilitation program is a top priority. It involves streamlining and automating all of the processes and procedures which impact the transport and logistics industries. At present seven ministries have been prioritised, and they are working hard against tight deadlines to ensure that Oman quickly becomes one of the most logistics-friendly countries in the region. As a first step, the Oman logistics centre has catalogued approximately 3000 government-to-business processes, 250 of which directly impact the movement of cargo.
The challenge is to systematically review and streamline each of these processes across the various ministries and to stop more being added. The government determined that there should be only one approval required for any government service, that it should not be necessary to visit a government office to receive the service and that payments should be electronic. It is also important to review how initiatives implemented by government impact the private sector. For example, a new government computer system, while streamlining the process for a government department, may also add additional layers of work for the private sector. This simply reinforces the role of the private sector in the implementation of the logistics strategy.
In what ways is the government working with educational and vocational institutions to offer opportunities in logistics for young Omanis?
YOUNG: The modern concept of logistics is fairly new to Oman. The transport and logistics sector is not seen as a natural career choice. Part of the strategy seeks to address this, not only by creating an awareness of the opportunities, but also ensuring that the necessary vocational and higher education programmes are in place and that they match the requirements of the industry. It is equally important that processes are consistent and conform to the best international standards.
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