What are the strategic priorities of the Oman Chamber of Commerce in 2020, and what factors are driving those priorities?
The government and the chamber in particular have always played a wide array of roles since their inception, but Vision 2040 is looking to empower the private sector in particular. This means the private sector will be given a leadership role to start operating independently from the government. Most interestingly, by 2040, the government will have a full economic digital transformation, and all investments leading to this digitization are underway. However, in order for an economic digitization to happen, the chamber should restructure itself to be prepared for all the challenges as well as opportunities. For that reason, the chamber is now in the process of creating its first strategy. The first is to empower the private sector to fit Vision 2040 by supporting digital technology and innovation. This new step the chamber is taking will certainly bring a new organizational structure, new teams, and, most importantly, a new culture.
What is required for this transition of publicly owned assets to go into the hands of the private sector in a sustainable way?
First, we will increase the number of functional managers with specialists wherever necessary. Then, we will appoint vice presidents and directors, who will have more operational duties rather than administrative. In addition, a 2017 royal decree put the chamber's laws in place, outlining the role of the chamber, its mandate, and how the board is elected. In that way, the chamber must always be consulted by public and private sectors when putting forth new laws, addressing challenges by the private sector, the Omanization program, and exports and imports.
Where do you see the main challenges in consulting in Omani society today?
The current status quo of the economy created challenges that led to a lack of liquidity, both globally and locally, as well as an imbalance in the the supply and demand for Omani products. The two challenges add up to another main challenge, which is creating new job opportunities. For this reason, we want Omani companies to have a global reach in foreign markets by creating a network in the global market through B2B, exhibitions, and other marketing initiatives. We are also seeking to use e-channel platforms that will help remove restrictions present in the market and allow us to produce products that can reach a global scale. Finally, the chamber will have an active role in company registration, producing production licensing, and conducting the necessary training for businesses that require it.
What is the key for family businesses in the changing economy and in targeting KPIs for Vision 2040?
Family businesses are one of the main economic drivers in emerging economies. When we discovered oil, and liquidity flowed into the market, some people took the opportunity and started their own business. The challenge now lies in transforming this opportunity and extending it to the next generation. It is quite challenging to do, and different tools have been used such as IPOs, boards and trustees, and standardization of governance procedures to ensure long-term sustainability.
What strategic direction is Oman taking in 2020, and why should foreign investors be watching it closely?
If we look at Oman's history since 1970, there has been a great deal of cumulative learning experiences. We have many successes and failures, but we learn from our experiences. We are aiming to diversify our economy away from oil because we are part of the global economy and its market dynamics. We cannot be sure we will do it perfectly, but it is extremely important to plan ahead to make Vision 2040 a success story, by ensuring fairness, transparency, and good utilization of resources.