The Sultanate of Oman will celebrate the 52nd National Day on Friday (November 18). Omani people will mark the Renewed Renaissance and its glorious reign under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, who affirmed his constant quest to advance Oman’s modern cultural and economic status and his keenness to make Omani citizens as true partners in their country’s comprehensive development.
His Majesty the Sultan’s vision for the future of this benign land reflected positively on the integration of government departments with private sector establishments and civil society institutions. This has in turn brought about tangible results in different social, economic and political fields.
The attention that His Majesty the Sultan accords to the study of decision-making mechanisms is aimed at serving the country’s supreme interests. The outcome was a set of decisions, the most prominent of which the restructuring of the Council of Ministers on June 16, 2022. The decision was the second one after His Majesty the Sultan assumed the reins of power. It affirmed His Majesty’s resolve to follow up the efforts exerted to improve government performance towards the realisation of Oman Vision 2040. The establishment of the Supreme Judicial Council, under His Majesty’s own chairmanship, was yet a step forward in founding a system capable of achieving the loftiest standards of justice, impartiality and transparency in line with pillars of Oman Vision 2040. The step also combines all parties of litigation into a single judicial scheme.
The Royal Decree on enhancing the role of the governorates constituted a major step in achieving the modern approach to decentralise local administration. It empowers Oman’s 11 governorates, defines their roles in development and defines their economic and social priorities to benefit from the comparative advantage among governorates. Decentralisation also streamlines service procedures for citizens, an objective underscored by His Majesty the Sultan upon his chairmanship of the Council of Ministers on October 11, 2022. In the meeting, His Majesty the Sultan stressed the importance of coordination among units of the States’ Administrative Apparatus and the governorates, the acceleration of electronic transformation, interconnection among governorates to streamline procedures, facilitate the execution of transactions, develop the quality of government services and address the existing challenges.
A decision was issued to add two new wilayats to Oman’s administrative division — namely by according the status of “wilayat” to both “Al Jabal Al Akhdhar” and “Sinaw”, raising the total number of wilayats in Oman to 63. The decision was aimed at attracting investments, developing resources and upgrading services and activities in the two wilayats.
His Majesty the Sultan’s keenness to hold direct meetings with shaikhs and dignitaries of Oman constitutes a strong manifestation of the leader’s keenness to get firsthand knowledge about citizens’ needs, despite the existence of public institutions such as the Council of Oman — a legislative monitoring body — and municipal councils, which undertake developmental and service roles in their respective wilayats.
The Royal-meet-the-people gatherings affirm His Majesty the Sultan’s sincere desire to implement decentralisation and make it the most straightforward administrative application for the future in governorates.
The new administrative setup offers governors and governorates direct authority to run their internal affairs, including planning and implementation of missions. This makes affairs of the governorates are more closely associated with the districts themselves, their governors and their municipal councils.
Much hope is pinned on elections of municipal councils, due to be held on December 25 for local voters and December 17, 2022 for citizens voting abroad. The tasks of municipal councils keep pace with the Royal vision of His Majesty the Sultan and the role that the councils are expected to undertake.
Royal Decree No 38/2022 introduces amendments to some provisions of the Municipal Councils Law, which aims to facilitate their missions in different governorates. This was stated by His Majesty the Sultan who has affirmed that time is ripe for decentralisation of decisions pertaining to local communities. This brought to the limelight the role of governors and the role of municipal councils.
His Majesty the Sultan’s emphasis on interaction between governors, municipal councils, Oman Investment Authority and Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry assumes a special significance. This interaction gains more impetus after the Governorates Development Programme’s allocations were increased to RO 20 million and the addition of new development projects to previous projects endorsed for implementation during the rest of the10th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) whose worth exceeding RO 650 million in different sectors. The Royal vision will spur economic growth and contribute to the continuity of services and the completion of infrastructure. It will also boost private sector activities and provide more employment opportunities for citizens.
Last January, Oman implemented the “System of Individual Performance and Institutional Proficiency” (Ejada) in 57 government institutions. The system, which covers about 175,000 government employees, aims at generating a quantum leap in government performance by enhancing the efficiency of human resources and improving the level of government services.
The Government Digital Transformation Programme is an executive arm of a digital economy and a basic enabler in achieving the priorities of Oman Vision 2040. It contributes to the establishment of a flexible and innovative government apparatus based on principles of governance and providing high-quality performance and smart government services.
Indicators for measuring the performance of the programme include raising the percentage of automation of government services from 34 per cent in 2020 to 80 per cent by 2050, with the expected investment volume for implementing the programme set at RO 170 million, which will be invested in improving procedures, re-engineering government services, improving digital infrastructure, and empowering national competencies in the field of digital transformation.
The Sultanate of Oman has attached a great importance to protecting the environment and preserving its various natural resources. His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik endorsed the year 2050 as a date for achieving zero carbon emissions. A national plan prepared for this objective includes the establishment of Oman Sustainability Centre, based on the outputs of the Carbon Management Laboratory. This serves as a major step that aims at diminishing the impacts of climate change, striking a balance between sustainable development and effects of climate change, establishing a knowledge-based economy, benefiting from clean technology to achieve sustainable development and developing a diversified mix of energy sources.
His Majesty the Sultan issued directives to expedite the development of an early warning system and implement the best urban planning methodologies to limit the impacts of climatic conditions, disasters and related epidemics. This affirms the attention accorded by His Majesty the Sultan to the human being — Omani citizens and expatriates alike.
Royal Decree No 54/ 2022 establishes the National Natural Park Reserve in Musandam Governorate. The park is aimed at achieving sustainable development by preserving natural resources, sustaining biodiversity and protecting wildlife and geological diversity. The park is the first one of its kind in Musandam Governorate and 22nd in Oman.
The presence of Omani women in all fields and their impressive contribution to Oman’s comprehensive development constitutes a direct outcome of the attention and care that women have received. This was confirmed by Her Highness the Honourable Lady Assayida Ahd Abdullah Hamed al Busaidi, Spouse of the Sultan of Oman, on the occasion of Omani Women’s Day, which falls on October 17. It reflects the achievements the women have made in all fields and in different practical and scholarly sectors.
HH Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham al Said, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, also stressed that Omani women showed their mettle over time as essential partners in Oman’s march prosperity, as desired by His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik. HH Sayyid Theyazin made the statement during the inauguration of the logo and identity of Women’s Club for Sports and Cultural Innovation.
His Majesty the Sultan also accorded attention to the establishment of Omani women’s societies and rehabilitation centres for people with disabilities, both governmental and private, in all governorates of Oman, so that all could play their roles in domestic development. His Majesty the Sultan gave directives to provide appropriate financial support to those institutions and develop them. The result was that the Omani Women’s Societies Development Laboratory launched 19 empowering and investment initiatives, with a set of themes in mind to achieve progress. The themes include governance, the application of laws and legislation, a supportive environment, funding and investment.
ROLE OF YOUTH
His Majesty the Sultan is following up efforts made by the government to care for young people and highlight their contributions. On the occasion of the Omani Youth Day, HH Sayyid Theyazin stressed that “youth are among the most important pillars of Oman Vision 2040, which seeks to achieve sustainability and prosperity for the present generation of Omanis and the future generations.”
Addressing the citizens, His Majesty the Sultan affirmed the need to adhere to the principles and values of society and to be proud of their identity, “the core component of our personality”. He added that the national identity constitutes one of the pillars of the history of this benign land, given the impacts of technology and information revolution on the world, including the spread of negative thoughts and alien customs.
His Majesty the Sultan stressed that openness to the world must be “in a balanced, clear-cut manner. We have to interact with technology positively, lest we might lose our originality or forget our identity”, His Majesty explained.
He added that “The upbringing of children does not take place through social networks. Raising children is an essential part of the origin of Omani society. The success of the community lies in the fact that our children get imbued with our customs and traditions and adhere to the family and society.” In this context, His Majesty the Sultan commended the effective role of Omani media in preserving and documenting Omani culture.
His Majesty the Sultan also underscored the role of education and vocational training sector in supplying the labour market with skilled national human resources. His Majesty advised that an integrated executive plan for the development of this sector be prepared in cooperation with some international institutions. He also called for aligning technical education and general education tracks so that the outputs from general education (technical specialisation) would benefit from the Education and Vocational Training Programmes.
The innovation system in Oman functions through the integration of a number of entities, most notably the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, and the Central Bank of Oman. The system works towards converting acquired knowledge into innovative applications that can be turned into commercial projects and registered as property rights — and thereby be entitled to receive partial funding that enable them to embark on entrepreneurial ventures.
Oman has exerted efforts to cut down the period of intellectual property registration and change its registration mechanism to allow beneficiaries to register global intellectual property from Oman. These efforts coincide with national programmes that contributed to transforming graduation projects into start-ups.
Oman’s efforts have become a model in developing ways to finance nascent companies of all sizes and needs. This is accomplished through various programmes, including direct financing, business accelerators programmes and business incubator programmes that gave rise to business incubators in various governorates, besides merging a number of institutions to form the Industrial Innovation Academy. The academy will transform knowledge into innovative project.
As a result of these efforts, Oman occupied 10th place globally in the education segment of the Global Innovation Index 2022. The ranking advanced Oman by 34 places over last year. Oman also ranked 19th in the Business Policies Index.
Oman presses ahead with the approach charted by His Majesty the Sultan to implement economic measures and streamline procedures. This was achieved despite the economic impacts brought about worldwide as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and other global crises. On top of these measures was the medium-term Fiscal Balance Plan (2020-2023), which proved practical through the results it achieved, supported by the 10th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) in line with Oman Vision 2040. This approach was emphasised by His Majesty the Sultan who expressed his satisfaction with the positive change in the course of the state’s financial performance and Oman’s ability to meet its financial obligations.
During this year and until the end of August 2022, the Sultanate of Oman was able to pay off loans and replace some high-cost bonds with low-cost ones valued at more than RO 4 billion. It also cut down the size of the public debt by about RO 2.4 billion as at the end of August 2022, to stand at RO 18.4 billion, thanks to government measures taken to support economic recovery.
The ratio of public debt to the GDP decreased to 46.5 per cent. This enabled the government to diminish public debt risks and reduce the cost of public debt interests to be paid in the future by about RO 127 million, besides improving the credit rating and other benefits to consolidate economic growth.
The increase in added value in oil and non-oil activities at the end of the second quarter of 2022 contributed to the growth of the GDP value at current prices by 30.4 per cent, touching RO 20.4 billion, compared to RO 15.6 billion at the end of the corresponding quarter in 2021.
His Majesty’s directives during his chairmanship of the Council of Ministers last March — to keep pace with global transformations in the field of green hydrogen and allocate appropriate sites for its production — will enhance foreign investment opportunities, localise this technology and benefit from its multiple uses to produce electrical energy and provide thermal energy for local industries.
To lend support to low-cost clean energy solutions, Ibri Solar Energy Project opened last January 2022 as the first solar power plant to be connected to the main electricity grid with the aim of diversifying sources of renewable energy, maximising the contribution of clean energy projects, boosting the national economy and attracting investments.
His Majesty the Sultan’s directives to add more than RO 650 million to implement additional development projects over projects already endorsed in the 10th Five-Year Plan 2021-2025 and his Royal instructions to increase fiscal liquidity for budget allocations by RO 200 million will contribute to promoting economic growth, completing infrastructure, supporting private sector activities and providing more employment opportunities for citizens.
Fitch agency’s raising Oman’s credit rating and Moody’s amending the country’s future outlook from “stable” to “positive”, while at the same time fixing the rating at Ba3 confirm the Omani government’s commitment to implementing government measures within the framework of the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan to control financial conditions and benefit from the rise in oil prices. This enhances the confidence of investors in the stability of Oman’s investment climate and the ability of the country to fulfil its obligations. It also affirms the strength of the banking sector.
The foundations upon which Omani foreign policy is based — notably good neighbourliness, respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in internal affairs, positive cooperation, mutual interests, justice, dialogue, humanity, and support for international peace and security — have made the Sultanate of Oman a reliable international partner at the local and global levels.
Oman’s status among entities that are active in resolving regional crises and the country’s presence at international events related to this matter is a direct outcome of the soundness of its foreign policy foundations. At the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Oman reiterated that its solid political approach is based on a deep and stable vision and a vast experience derived from its heritage and human history. Oman also affirmed that the pillars of its foreign policy are standing on solid grounds of truth and justice, boosted by positive cooperation and ties of friendship with all, with the prime aim of contributing to the consolidation of international peace and security.
Oman is also convinced that “establishing and maintaining peace in the world is necessary for the good of peoples, and that this stance can be maintained only if it is based on firm rules of justice and solid foundations of cooperation and harmony among all nations with the aim of engaging positively with countries of the world for a promising future of mankind.”
The vision of His Majesty the Sultan is based on Oman’s maintaining positive cooperation with all in various spheres and in a manner that promotes mutual interests. The results of the vision were manifest in His Majesty’s visits to a number of countries, including the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Qatar, the United Kingdom and Federal Republic of Germany.
A number of state leaders visited Oman, including Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdallah II of the Kingdom of Jordan, President Abdel Fattah el Sisi of the Arab Republic of Egypt, President Ebrahim Raisi of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Samia Suluhu Hassan of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi, President of Zanzibar. The visits culminated in signing of partnerships and memoranda of understanding, as well as executive programmes in investment, trade and other areas.
Oman also promoted the principle of humanity in its foreign policy and played an active role in serving contemporary issues regionally and internationally, most notably realising the truce in Yemen that paved the way for the safe return of detainees to their countries. Oman took keen interest in reiterating the call upon the international community to exert more efforts and to establish means of effective dialogue to stop human rights violations, whatever be the motives and causes. Oman also stressed the need to establish stability and prosperity for all nations and peoples on the basis of justice and equality.
In this context, the Sultanate of Oman believes that the realisation of a fair and comprehensive peace in the Middle East requires the establishment of a Palestinian state on all its lands occupied since 1967. Oman stressed its rejection of all forms of systematic violations, expansionist domination and arbitrary arrests of Palestinians. — ONA