TBY talks to George Mathew, Managing Partner of RSM in Oman, George Mathew LLC, on competing with other auditing firms, FDI in Oman, and long-term national development strategies.

Where does RSM fit into the Omani market and how do you assess the evolution of your operations since its establishment?

George Mathew & Co has been operating as a chartered accountants firm in Oman since 1988 and presently changed its legal status to George Mathew LLC and is a member firm of RSM international, the 6th largest global audit, tax, and consulting network, operating in 120 countries, from over 790 offices and a combined staff of over 41,400. With RSM International being a global network, we at RSM in Oman adopt all the RSM methodologies and techniques for auditing and other professional services. George Mathew & Co has been associated with international networks from the inception of the firm in Oman, including with Spicer & Oppenheim, Arthur Young, and MSI. With effect from January 2011, George Mathew & Co became a correspondent firm of RSM and as of May 2014 has become a full member firm of RSM International in the Sultanate of Oman.

How do you distinguish yourselves in such a competitive audit firm market and what type of clients are you targeting?

George Mathew LLC's adoption of the RSM global standards, availability of expert consultants from the network worldwide, and personal attention by our senior professionals to the clients' needs are our distinct advantages. We are one of the few audit firms in Oman accredited by the Capital Market Authority of Oman, which entitles our firm to act as a statutory auditor of public joint stock companies, investment funds, licensed companies operating in the securities market, and insurance companies registered in Sultanate of Oman. George Mathew LLC, with local and international expertise, targets the provision of services to entities in all major sectors, whether private or public, domestic, or foreign.

Why is Oman considered to be a business-friendly economy, capable of attracting billions of dollars in direct and indirect foreign investment?

Oman's economy has seen a steady transformation to a stable economic and financial destination. Oman has a business-friendly environment, a modern business law framework, respect for free markets, contract sanctity and property rights, and relatively low taxes. The government of Oman has steady and ambitious long-term investments in the country's infrastructure, including free zones, seaports, airports, rail, and roads, as well as in its healthcare and educational systems and facilities. Oman actively seeks foreign investment. Oman promotes higher education, manufacturing, healthcare, fisheries, transportation and logistics, mining, renewable energy, and tourism as areas for investment. The Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Ithraa), the inward investment and export development agency, is tasked with attracting foreign investors and smoothing the path for business formation and private-sector development. The confidence of investors is reflected in the FDI inflows to Oman, increasing by 11% in 2015 as compared to the previous year. Oman is considered to be one of the ideal destinations for FDI.

With your experience in the market, is Oman walking on the right track towards economic diversification with initiatives like the 9th Five-year plan and Tanfeedh?

The key goals of the 9th Five Year Plan are to achieve an average annual GDP growth rate of 3%, create job opportunities, encourage SMEs and activate public private partnerships (PPPs). The 9th Five Year Plan (2016-2020) maintains focus on economic diversification, welfare, and the enhancement of social benefits, and at the same time drives to boost the private sector. To support this view, certain prime sectors have been identified: manufacturing, transportation, logistics, tourism, fisheries, and mining. These sectors represent untapped potential and the country's determination to diversify its economy. The National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification (Tanfeedh) is a working mechanism to achieve the goals of the 9th five-year plan, and overcoming the obstacles, if any, facing economic diversification. The Tanfeedh programme is an excellent opportunity to develop national talent and expertise, and to optimally utilize natural resources available in Oman. These initiatives are leading Oman to diversification, growth, employment generation, and a reduction of dependence on oil.