GREATER PARTICIPATION

Oman 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Armed with growing interest in private sector-driven export growth, the council is working hard to boost the number of Omani SMEs.

Talal Al Rahbi
BIOGRAPHY
Talal Al Rahbi was appointed Deputy Secretary General to the Supreme Council for Planning in 2013. In 2016, he 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, and as a board member of the Oman Rail Company, Public Authority for Electricity and Water, Public Authority for Craft Industries, and as a member of the Oman Vision 2040 Committee. He also served as First Deputy Chairman of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2010-2013).

What are the most meaningful investments to come from Tanfeedh Phase II's focus on the fisheries and mining sectors?

With over 3,000km of coastline on four different bodies of water, the Arabian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea, Oman's fish reserves are among the largest in the world. The government continues to invest significantly in the sector and is keen to encourage private sector participation as well. Over 90 initiatives and projects have been identified for the sector as a result of Tanfeedh Phase II labs, covering catches, aquaculture, and processing and exports. The investment value of the projects will amount to OMR1 billion, which will triple the sector's contribution to GDP by 2023. The initiatives and projects will create around 8,000 job opportunities for nationals by the end of 2023. The percentage of private investment will amount to 93%. To accelerate investment patterns in the mining sector, a specialized committee was formed to oversee the implementation of Tanfeedh Phase II outcomes. Over 43 initiatives and projects were identified with a total investment value of OMR813 million, which will triple the mining sector's contribution to GDP. These initiatives are expected to generate around 1,660 jobs for Omanis and raise total annual mining production from its current 100 million tons to 147 million tons by 2023. The private sector will account for 99% of total projected investment.

What regulatory changes have been made within the Phase II sectors to encourage growth and investment?

Oman is building an investor-friendly legislative environment, with no restrictions on repatriation of capital or profits, and key incentives, advantages, and measures to ensure transparency, clarity, and stability in policy and regulations. A new Investment Law will soon be introduced to enhance the business environment and create a climate conducive to the planned role for the private sector in the development process. A number of incentives to encourage investment were already in place, including custom duty exemptions on imports of plant equipment and raw materials, corporate tax holidays for up to 10 years, export credit insurance through Export Guarantee and Financing Agency, 70% automatic foreign ownership, and 100% foreign ownership for specific projects and economic zones

For fisheries and mining, how does the council balance commercialization with the need to maintain Omani employment and control over resources?

SCP believes that commercialization, if managed properly, has the potential to increase income, enhance social equity, and strengthen the security of local people. Therefore, SCP is formulating policies and institutional changes to provide the necessary incentives to develop partnerships between industry and community groups and local government bodies to ensure that commercialization can also sustain employment and livelihoods for rural and urban Omani people.

How does the council balance the advantages of foreign capital with the need to encourage Omani participation in financing and ownership activities?

While the country's oil revenues have contributed toward its rapid economic growth, the government has actively pursued development plans focused on diversification, industrialization, and privatization of the economy with the aim of attracting foreign capital. Joint ventures between foreign investors and private Omani investors are being encouraged and set up through SMEs. The attention is on the supply side, with SMEs acting as agents of commercialization and with Omani participation. SCP seeks to institutionalize the use of FDI, public-private sector collaboration, and PPP models to enable both foreign and local investors to work cooperatively toward national sustainable development and greater Omani participation in financing and ownership activities.

How does the council collaborate with the private sector to meet the most pressing needs and changes within the business community?

The government recognizes the increasingly important role of the private sector in export-led growth, and thus views the sector as an important partner in achieving economic growth and prosperity.