INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Oman 2018 | DIPLOMACY | B2B

Engaging with global institutions has helped Oman to achieve meaningful outcomes across various areas of the economy.

Roberto Azevêdo
ROBERTO AZEVÊDO
Director-General
World Trade Organization
Nadir A. Mohammed
NADIR A. MOHAMMED
Country Director of the GCC Countries in the Middle East and North Africa region
The World Bank

Given that Oman wants to become a logistics hub by 2040, what efforts can the WTO provide to ease this process?

Roberto Azevêdo The WTO offers a unique platform for Oman to put its trade issues and priorities on the table and work to push them forward. Indeed, the organization can play an important role in helping the country reduce its trade costs and boost its competitiveness, diversification, and participation in global trade in many ways. The WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement is significant. Oman is also part of the Information Technology Agreement, which eliminates tariffs on a range of IT products. In addition, Oman is working to join the Government Procurement Agreement. Besides its economic significance, Oman's participation in these deals shows the country's commitment to the multilateral trading system, as well as a robust vision for the country's future. I hope that Oman will continue to take full advantage of the forum the WTO provides.

To what do you attribute Oman's continuous improvement in the Doing Business Index, and how can the country continue improving its performance?

Nadir A. Mohammed Oman maintained its 66th ranking among 190 countries in the Doing Business 2017 report of the World Bank. It remains the third-best country to do business in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region after the UAE and Bahrain. Oman jumped 127 spots on the Starting a Business component to become number one in MENA and number 33 globally, and improved four places on the Trading Across Borders component to become number 67. To improve or even maintain these rankings, Oman needs to further improve and continuously update policies, legislations, procedures, and practices governing the business environment. The Oman Private Sector Growth Assessment, prepared by the Supreme Council for Planning in 2016 with World Bank assistance, concluded that enhancing competitiveness and productivity will be a key challenge, particularly among smaller firms that require assistance to enhance the skills of their employees and take better advantage of available technology.

Given the need to diversify its economy, what measures should Oman take in order to secure more trade agreements?

RA Trade negotiations are never easy. They require parties to be open-minded, flexible, and creative—as well as ambitious and pragmatic—to find common ground and create win-win results. Oman has displayed many of these qualities during its WTO membership negotiations. The country joined the WTO in 2000 after a process that lasted four and a half years. In fact, the country's decision to enter the WTO sent a strong signal to the global community that Oman is committed to this framework of global trade rules that provides stability, predictability, and transparency—which are vital ingredients for doing business across borders. The country should seek to build on these qualities—and on its position in the WTO—to continue to negotiate new deals and benefit its citizens.

What is the current state of engagement between the World Bank and the Sultanate in regard to supporting public-private partnership (PPP) efforts, and cooperating to prepare Vision 2040?

NAM The ninth Five-Year Development Plan (2016-2020) envisions a larger role for the private sector in economic development through a new privatization program, development of SMEs, strengthening PPPs, and bringing further improvements to the investment climate. About 52% of total investment will come from the private sector. Vision 2040 is also expected to focus on PPPs. International experience has shown the importance of having a clear legal framework to enable private participation in infrastructure and social service delivery. Such a legal framework provides also clarity on the role and responsibilities of key public institutions, as well as key processes that all PPP projects will follow. The World Bank is supporting efforts by the Policy Unit of the Sultan's Court to put in place such a legal framework, including a new PPP law and Executive Regulations to facilitate the efforts of all Omani entities in this regard and help achieve the objectives of the ninth development plan.