18-Nov-2021, The Business Times
ONE of the most economically vibrant countries in the Middle East's Gulf region, Oman has a dynamic pro-business environment. Under the leadership of its ruler Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, the country's robust and diversifying economy is guided by Oman Vision 2040, the Sultanate's blueprint for sustainable growth and success.
Politically stable and tranquil, Oman is a good destination for foreign investors with a highly competitive offer. Its infrastructure is ranked among the best regionally, and the country has a multilingual and skilled workforce, and an abundance of natural resources, among others.
Foreign investors can tap the many resources of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, which is dedicated to helping businesses make the most of the wealth of opportunities that Oman presents. From startups and small and medium-sized enterprises to multinational companies, the ministry offers all businesses an extensive portfolio of support services and expert assistance.
"Whether you are looking to set up in Oman, find a local partner, ramp up your company's exports or develop your enterprise in any way - our team is here to ensure that you get the maximum value from being a part of our growing and ambitious economy," says Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion Qais bin Mohammed Al Yousef.
The ministry is committed to promoting the business benefits of Oman to a global audience. Its team of seasoned and knowledgeable investment and export professionals has worldwide contacts. Its experience, expertise and global reach help companies of all sizes reach their potential.
Working with its business partners, the ministry provides quality digital services as well as an enabling legislative and policy framework that attracts investment, increases trade and strengthens industry in order to enhance sustainable growth, and a knowledge-driven competitive economy.
To boost foreign investments, Oman announced a new Investor Residency Programme (IRP) for expatriates on June 23, 2021. The programme has been designed to attract high-impact foreign investment, help create jobs and enhance growth.
It offers two extended residency programmes through real estate and commercial investment on a renewable 5 and 10-year basis, subject to applicants meeting specific criteria.
The programme targets areas such as manufacturing, tourism, mining, as well as the enabling sectors represented by the green and circular economy.
The IRP is part of the new routes for investment under Oman Vision 2040, a roadmap for economic and social development launched by Sultan Haitham in December last year. Alongside other enhancements to the commercial environment, such as the provision of quality digital services and the streamlining of procedures and processes, it shows Oman's determination to become even more competitive globally, increase trade, strengthen industry and empower the business community.
Last month, the Investment Services Center at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion started receiving applications for the IRP electronically, according to the ministry. Up to 22 investors of different nationalities got their investment cards during the activation ceremony of the IRP.
Interestingly, Oman is giving priority to the development of the information communication technology sector in the country. It is already known to be a pioneer in the introduction of e-Government solutions. In 2002, Oman became the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region to offer electronic identity cards to its citizens.
A prepaid e-Purse function was added to Oman's e-ID card in 2009, allowing citizens to pay for government services electronically. Electronic voter authentication and identification features were added in 2011.
In the 2020 United Nations' (UN) E-Government Survey, Oman was ranked 50th out of the 193 countries surveyed. It was ranked 16th in the world in the 2020 Global Cybersecurity Index that covers 175 countries.
Latest data shows that there were 4.92 million Internet users in Oman as at January this year. The number of users in the country rose by 259,000 between 2020 and 2021, registering an increase of 5.6 per cent. And the Internet penetration stood at a robust 95.2 per cent as at January this year.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2021 Inclusive Internet Index, Oman is the second most Internet ready country in the GCC region, and was ranked 13th globally. Further, there were 6.2 million mobile phone connections in Oman in January 2020 - equivalent to 124 per cent of the total population.
Looking ahead, the Oman Vision 2040 calls for the enhancement of the national technical capabilities, the construction of vital ICT infrastructure as well as the improvement of e-Government services. The government has prioritised the development of ICT and the sector is well placed for growth. Indeed, the focus on creating a smart society powered by smart IT infrastructure is driving significant investment in the country.
GENERATE NEW BUSINESSES
Going forward, opportunities in Oman's IT sector will include, though not limited to: ICT training, 5G networks and the expansion of fibre networks, e-health, e-learning, cloud computing and data centres.
Oman Vision 2040 is helping the Sultanate to transition from a "take, make, use, and dispose" to a "make, use, return and re-use" model. This shift is expected to generate new businesses as well as create new economic opportunities while contributing positively to the environment as a whole as Oman moves to creating a circular economy.
Meanwhile, a top UN agency has ranked Oman's ports as No 1 in the world last year based on their highly efficient speed in handling cargo containers. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's (UNCTAD) annual index for 2020, which looked at the development of maritime transport last year, container vessels' stay in the Sultanate's ports averaged only 12.5 hours, including all entry, exit, loading and unloading operations.
The UNCTAD ranking caps efforts by Oman's new integrated logistics provider Asyad and its partners in the public and private sectors to facilitate procedures in the country's ports and introduce many world-class electronic solutions in the handling operations.
Contributing to Oman's No 1 position is the implementation of the National Logistics Strategy 2040 which aims at making the Sultanate a global logistics hub, notably by opening new direct maritime routes and forging alliances with international maritime firms to provide direct connection with Omani ports.
The UNCTAD report - which uses weighted average port call hours, shows that following Oman in the top five rankings were the United Arab Emirates, Poland, China and Saudi Arabia.
The report stated that the Sultanate also benefitted from the electronic procedures devised and endorsed prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. This included pre-dated electronic clearance in business operations, electronic processing of cargo data 48 hours in advance and the expansion of electronic services for the exchange of documents and payments.
Meanwhile, the Oman News Agency has reported that the Sultanate of Oman has been named as a member of the UN's Economic and Social Council for the period 2022 to 2024 after receiving a majority of votes when the UN member states met in New York in June.
Mohammed Awadh al-Hassan, the Sultanate's Permanent Representative at the UN, says in a statement: "This is yet another podium ascended by the Sultanate in the international arena. The opportunity will be utilised to develop economic and social sectors in the Sultanate within the context of Oman Vision 2040."
The UN's Economic and Social Council is the third highest UN body after the General Assembly and the Security Council. It supervises the economic and social plans of member states. For the Sultanate, the strong world support for its membership bid is seen as a recognition of its role and status.