EASY BUSINESS

Oman 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Dr. Ali bin Masoud al Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce and Industry, on increasing competitiveness and business opportunities with Iran.

HE Dr. Ali bin Masoud al Sunaidy
BIOGRAPHY
HE Dr. Ali bin Masoud al Sunaidy is the Minister of Commerce and Industry, having been appointed in February. He was subsequently appointed Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council for Planning. Prior to these appointments, he was Minister of Sports Affairs, commencing October 2004, and also held the position of Chairman of the Omani Olympic Committee. From May 1996 until October 2004, he served as Undersecretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. He is currently Chairman of the Oman Tourism Development Company (OMRAN) as well as Chairman of the General Authority for SME Development and Al Raff’d fund. He has a PhD in Economics from the University of Hull, UK.

What is your assessment of the last 12 months for the Ministry, in terms of what has been done to increase competitiveness in the country, especially for SMEs?

Our priority has been to increase competitiveness and the ease of doing business in Oman. In recent years, we lost a few positions in our competitive ranking in some categories that we are already trying to improve, like how easily you do business, human resources availability, certain laws, and regulations. The first and most important thing is that we have accelerated our Invest Easy Commercial Registration, which is an e-registration platform. During this year, we have launched a series of nearly 30 online services. The possibility for users to set up a business online is, without a doubt, a massive step forward for the sector. Electronic Commercial Registration speeds up process and reduces administrative procedures significantly. Through our platform, we also allow users to browse in our database without having to ask us for permission. People can thus obtain useful and up-to-date information about the market and the sector they operate in, in order to ensure safe online navigation. There is an interactive online link with the Royal Oman Police so that the registry automatically reads the users' ID cards, preventing any attempt of fraud. The system also has an interactive connection with the Ministry of Manpower for easy reference. Our customers must have a PKI on their phones to gain full access to our digital services use digital signature, which is now a legal form of authentication. By March 2016, Invest Easy users will be able to transfer all or part of their equities to each other through a PKI framework without having to visit our offices. Thanks to all these changes, foreign investors no longer have to come to Oman for setting up companies or changing company details or to submit end of the year accounts, etc. As long as we have the investors phone numbers supported by a PKI, we will grant them all remote access to our Commercial Registration Platform, and they will receive an SMS confirmation for each operation they perform. Finally, the Invest Easy Database will allow a greater level of transparency, as it is available to everybody.

What opportunities will come along with the Iran deal for the Omani commercial sector?

Our trading with Iran has been growing over the past three years, but still not up to our expectations. Now we have regular flights by Oman Air to Iran with a plan to increase the number of flights to many Iranian cities. The Oman Ferry Company has done a few calls to Iranian ports and is considering a regular service. However, the most awaited deal to close is the gas pipeline between the two countries. It will benefit both economies, as it could take years for Iran to build a new LNG terminal while Oman, as you know, already has one active LNG terminal in Sur with spare capacity for export on their behalf. If our industries agree a good supply and a good price, we could stretch our gas reserves even longer. Iran has a large market, and experienced Omani companies can benefit from construction and maintenance contracts and bilateral trade between the two countries can flourish. There is also the potential of using Iran to cross to other markets through a corridor that goes from Oman to Kazakhstan, and other countries. We can import meat, wheat, and other commodities while exporting petrochemicals. Of course, the whole world wants to make business with Iran, so Oman will have to compete by offering high-quality goods and services.