The Business Year

Dr. Saleh bin Said Masan

OMAN - Industry

Dr. Saleh bin Said Masan

Undersecretary for Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion

Bio

Dr. Saleh bin Said Masan was appointed Undersecretary for Commerce & Industry at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion in August 2020. He is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates. Prior to taking up his ministry post, Dr. Saleh was an elected member of the Omani Shura Council from 2015-19 and Chairman of the Council’s Economic & Financial Committee. He is also the former Head of Planning at Sultan Qaboos University. Dr. Saleh has lectured in Economics at universities in Oman as well as overseas and has published a number of economic research papers in international journals. He holds a BA from Sultan Qaboos University, an MA with distinction in Development and Economic Policy Analysis from the University of Nottingham and a Doctorate in Economics from Loughborough University.

Focusing on manufacturing, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion fully expects the industrial sector to drive further innovation, growth and exports as well as create exciting career opportunities.

Can you talk us through the ministry’s recently announced investment opportunities in the in- dustrial sector?

The 50 industrial investment project was launched in May by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion in partnership with Petroleum Development Oman, Madayn and the Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry. This comprehensive plan offers investors attractive tax breaks, reduced rent, fast-tracked licenses and duty waivers and is expected to attract investments worth about OMR200 million. The initiative focuses on opportunities in food production, paper and plastics, mining and quarrying, chemicals, construction and petrochemicals. Other investment opportunities are available in metallic and nonmetallic products, rubber and rubber products, metallurgy, waste disposal and management, assembly of heating and cooling units and electrical equipment. The ministry is actively promoting these opportunities to attract both local and foreign investors, as well as provide all the necessary support and guidance required by businesses interested in participating in the program. This important industrial initiative will also help boost non-oil exports. We are, and must always remain, a strong trading nation, though we need to look at diversifying our export markets, preparing us for any future shocks to trade networks. Looking ahead, we want Omani businesses of all sizes and types to think of themselves as exporters from the very outset. In partnership with public sector stakeholders, we will be looking to give businesses the right tools and create the right conditions to help our non-oil exporter numbers grow. We understand that a vibrant Omani manufacturing base leads to more research and development, innovation, productivity, exports and jobs. It also helps raise living standards.

How do you see Oman’s manufacturing sector evolving and what role will technology play in its success?

From car batteries, AC units and steel cables to fragrances, footwear, marble kitchen tops, laptops and pasta, the products manufactured in the Sultanate are diverse. Our manufacturing sector employs over 206,000 people and Oman-made goods are exported all over the world. Indeed, manufacturing is a key contributor to the Sultanate’s growing and ambitious economy and key to the success of Oman Vision 2040. And breathing new life into the sector is the growth of niche micro-manufacturers from hand-made confectionary, organic cosmetics and personal care products to women’s fashion to precision engineering, where innovation in design creates products that capture the consumers’ attention. Though small in size, many of these urban-based micro-manufacturers are becoming an economic force to be reckoned with. Moving forward, smart factories will be at the heart of Oman’s Industry 4.0 revolution, using technology to change supply chains and production lines, bringing a much higher level of automation and digitization to their operations. Local manufacturers, large as well as micro will be using AI, self-optimizing and self-configuring machinery to complete complex tasks, delivering superior cost efficiencies and better quality goods. Industry 4.0 is also about creating exciting, new career opportunities for Oman’s youth. The majority of manufacturing facilities are now modern, exciting and hi-tech operations. In fact, opportunities in this important sector are growing exponentially for Generation Z. This generation has a strong appetite for automation, data and digital collaboration and will be the drivers of the sector’s next phase of development.

How do you assess the interest of local and foreign investors in various PPPs when it comes to commerce and industry?

The private sector has the potential to add considerable value in either the delivery or financing of services through PPPs by providing more efficient procurement, a greater focus on consumer satisfaction and life cycle maintenance, seeking new sources of investment as well as fostering economic development. Modelled on international best practices, and since its launch in 2019, Oman’s PPP law has clearly enhanced the Sultanate’s appeal as a competitive investment destination in areas such as waste-to-energy, transport, ports, healthcare, education, and renewable energy. Indeed, PPP is one of the cornerstones of Oman Vision 2040. However, PPPs are not new, Oman has a long history of using the PPP method, especially in the energy and water sectors. Moving forward, PPPs will play an important role in Oman’s post-COVID-19 recovery.

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