OMAN - Industry
Minister of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion,
Qais Al Yousef was appointed Minister of Commerce, Industry & Investment Promotion in August 2020. Additionally, he serves as Chairman of the SME Development Authority. Prior to assuming the role of Minister, Al Yousef was Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry and CEO of the Al Yousef Group. While heading the Chamber, he served as Deputy Chairman of the Public Authority of Manpower Register and sat on a number of Boards and Committees, notably The Research Council, Oman Vision 2040 Steering Committee, Consultancy Board for the GCC Supreme Council and the Public Authority for Charitable Organizations. Earlier in his career, Al Yousef spent over 20 years in a variety of senior executive roles in the private sector with interests in oil and gas services, industry, logistics, insurance and financial services. Al Yousef holds a Master’s in Business Management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University and a BA in Economics from Williams College. He has also attended executive development programs at Harvard Business School, London Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
I have had many, many conversations with businesses, business representative organizations and SMEs from across Oman since I took on my role. It is clear that this has not just been a tough year, but the toughest of years, not least for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. His Majesty’s government remains focused not just on protecting people’s health but also on rolling out policies and initiatives that safeguard livelihoods and help businesses pull through the pandemic. In particular, this includes Oman Vision 2040, the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) together with the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan (MTFP) 2020-24, and the 10th Five Year Development Plan (FYDP) 2021- 25. The ESP supports the economy by offering interest-free emergency loans, tax and fee reductions and waivers and the flexibility to pay taxes in instalments. The Central Bank eased financial conditions through lower interest rates and liquidity injections, deferred loan payments and relaxed requirements on capital buffers and liquidity ratios. In fact, the ESP is a direct result of crucial conversations held with local and international businesses. These are all historic steps taken to ensure the right support is in place to help firms get through the crisis, protect and create jobs, rebuild Oman’s economy and secure the Sultanate’s economic future.
I am pleased to say that this has been positive. For example, the IMF’s Article IV Report statement on Oman reads upbeat, welcoming the strong and decisive leadership of His Majesty and the economic reform measures he set out in the MTFP. It notes Oman’s considered and ambitious approach to driving greater economic efficiency across the economy, putting expenditures on a sustainable path, reducing bureaucracy, boosting public-private partnerships, increasing non-oil exports as well as attracting foreign investment. In fact, Oman climbed 10 places to 68th in The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Index. The index ranked Oman 64th globally and first in the GCC in cross-border trade and 32nd globally and second in the GCC for starting a business activity. This is a notable achievement.
The ESP along with other SME support packages have triggered an uptick in the number of new businesses. Set up by entrepreneurs, many of these businesses are responding to the changing needs of a socially distanced Oman, such as online retail, home delivery services, app development and many more. In 2020 alone, 12,176 industrial licenses were approved – inclusive of both new and renewal licenses – as compared to 9,161 in 2019, an increase of 32.9%. And at the end of June 2021, the number of SMEs registered with the SME Development Authority rose to 54,804, an increase of 23.2% YoY. While on the whole, the pandemic has proven devastating for small businesses worldwide, the positive trend in entrepreneurship could bode well for job growth and economic activity once recovery takes hold.
Oman Vision 2040 has identified the low-carbon economy as an area of opportunity and we can all agree the next “normal” will be different. From a business perspective, the increasing number of catastrophic, climate-related events we are witnessing all pose a commercial and economic risk and a stark reality for companies in every industry and region of the world. The transition to a low-carbon economy is underway providing Omani companies with exciting opportunities to create climate risk-related products, services and supply chain innovations that will attract local as well as international customers, investors and employees. To stay competitive, businesses across the Sultanate are putting people, planet and profits at the heart of their post-pandemic strategies.
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