Interview: Bader Al Nadabi
How can Omanisation be increased and implementation improved in the construction sector?
BADER AL NADABI: Omanisation is an important element of the economy, and Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said predicted the employment challenges that Omani youth would face. Though Omanisation policies have faced some social and economic hurdles, it is increasingly important that those policies be implemented, as they will help the economy meet its diversification goals established in the Tanfeedh programme. Some sectors, including banking and oil and gas, have made great strides towards achieving these goals. The construction sector, however, requires political dedication and challenging budget adjustments, and will therefore take more time to reach its objectives. The government can assist in smoothing these difficulties by providing subsidies to the private sector. This is the most significant monetary difference between local Omani and expat labour, specifically in the construction sector. Providing these subsidies may prove to be a formidable task, as the country is just now recovering from the oil price crash that has characterised the Omani economy in the last several years. However, maintaining strong relationships with geographically proximate countries that can provide cheap labour is a major advantage for Oman.
The government should not be limiting labour or imposing strict regulations, but should instead focus on strengthening those relationships by encouraging labour migration in general. At the same time, Omani youth need to be motivated to build competitive skills and disciplines, as well as to access the government funds that have been put in place to subsidise training and education.
What could the government do to improve the ease of doing business in manufacturing?
AL NADABI: Oman has undergone a period of rapid development; however, the manufacturing sector did not evolve at the same rate as other areas and remains underdeveloped. As a result of overlooking the industrial segment in the past, Oman faces ongoing repercussions and struggles to acquire raw materials and other primarily imported goods.
There needs to be greater focus in Oman on promoting manufacturing, as it is able to add value to all raw materials and natural resources the country is lucky to have. A greater focus on manufacturing will also encourage people to work from their home cities instead of migrating to free zones, thus preventing chronic problems with overcrowding.
In accordance with the Tanfeedh diversification strategy, the government should concentrate on promotion in order to attract additional investments to this sector. In response, development of the sector will result in the indirect expansion of other economically crucial areas such as transport and logistics, agriculture and industry.
There is a wide array of natural resources and minerals available to any manufacturing start-up venture, and all that is then required is promotion.
How can the government pursue a prudent fiscal policy while at the same time continuing to offer support to Omani exporters?
AL NADABI: The government will be able to maintain a prudent fiscal policy and support exporters at the same time by guiding policy towards what is of highest economic importance, and focusing on the strongest points of value for the policy.
Along with the creation and increase of taxes, it must be noted that this region still depends highly on oil. Therefore, there may be a brief period of recession expected every several years, and this is tied to the changing price of the commodity. In addition to this, the government must balance maintaining support for its exporters while at simultaneously upholding a prudent and sustainable fiscal policy.
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