FUTURE PLANS

Oman 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Talal Al Rahbi, Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Planning (SCP), on its key responsibilities, ensuring a more sustainable policy, and the importance of economic diversification.

HE Talal Al Rahbi
BIOGRAPHY
HE Talal Al Rahbi was appointed Deputy Secretary General of SCP in 2013. In 2016, Al Rahbi managed the inception of a five-year program for national economic diversification, under the banner Tanfeedh. Among many board and representative positions, Al Rahbi currently serves as Chairman of a new Oman Technology Fund; Deputy Chairman of the Public Authority for SME Development; board member of the Oman Rail Company, Public Authority for Electricity and Water, Public Authority for Craft Industries; and member of the Oman Vision 2040 Committee. He also served as First Deputy Chairman of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2010-2013).

What is the mandate of the SCP in development plans and future visions?

SCP was established by virtue of Royal Decree No. 30/2012 on 26 May 2012 and is chaired by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. SCP is mandated with the power and authority to develop the strategies and policies that are required to achieve sustainable development in the Sultanate of Oman. It is also mandated with setting the regulations required to give effect to such strategies and polices and to apply the same in an endeavor to achieve the economic diversity and optimal utilization of the available natural and human resources. SCP is responsible for setting a sustainable long-term national strategy based on the available natural and human resources and sustainable development needs and requirements; setting future concepts, general tendencies, and the policies and mechanisms required to achieve sustainable development; setting the national urban strategy and approval of the general policy for urban planning in view of the approved development plans and in accordance with the economic, social, and environmental considerations; setting the national strategy for statistics, census, and information; setting standards and criteria to determine the priorities of the developmental plans and methods of developmental planning in such a manner to guarantee the balance between the economic and social aspects of development; approving the annual developmental budget; approving the five-year developmental plans and their financial allocations; periodically evaluating future strategies and plans in addition to the general tendencies and five-year plans in view of the economic, social, and other variables; setting principles for economic communication on the regional and international level; and all other tasks and duties entrusted thereto by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Considering the forecasts and priorities for the country, how will planning for Vision 2040 take into account unknown variables, such as oil prices and new technologies?

As an oil producing and exporting country, where oil revenues still comprise a major share of total government revenue, Omani economic policy considers the vulnerability in international oil prices, and all precautionary measures have been taken. These oil price challenges have necessitated the financial authorities—especially when implementing the next plan and Future Vision 2040—to move toward adopting substantial fiscal consolidation methods, as well as prudent fiscal sustainability policies. These measures will maintain the overall fiscal balance by gradually establishing the specialized fiscal institutions, maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability, promoting financial sector development, maintaining an accommodative monetary policy, and adopting a structural balance system so as to smooth oil price volatility. Such structural balances will help in the assessment and solutions of the impact of the oil cycle on revenues and expenditures. The financial authorities are currently reviewing said approach and moving toward establishing a gradual fiscal adjustment program and strengthening fiscal institutions to safeguard the economy from fiscal vulnerabilities due to oil price fluctuations and ensure long and medium-term fiscal sustainability.

Where do you see the Omani economic diversification campaign heading in the next five years?

Oman seeks to accelerate the pace of economic diversification in a manner that reduces the national economy's reliance on oil whether in revenues or exports and mitigates the repercussions of external shocks resulting from the fluctuation in oil prices in the global market. This requires reconsideration of previous economic diversification policies and altering the approach to benefit from the achievements realized in previous development plans. The achievements realized include those in areas of infrastructure and logistic services, and those provided in terms of ports, airports, and transport services, in addition to maximizing the usage of natural resources in the Sultanate. At the same time, we seek to benefit from the unique and advantageous geographic location facing the countries of the emerging economies in East Asia, and also acting as a gateway to East African countries.