LEADING THE ECONOMY

Oman 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Al Raffd is working overtime to ensure that Omani SMEs have every opportunity available in the market to succeed.

Tariq Al-Farsi
BIOGRAPHY
With more than 15 years experience in personal, commercial, and investment banking across the world, Tariq Al-Farsi helped incorporate two Islamic banks in the UAE: Noor Bank (Dubai) and Al Hilal Bank (Abu Dhabi), in addition to the first Islamic bank in Oman, Nizwa Bank. He joined Al Raffd after working as the GM of Nizwa Bank. Previously, he was the GM of Noor Investment Group, and a senior member of the lead team at Sharjah Islamic Bank, National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah, and HSBC. He obtained his bachelor’s in business administration and hotel studies from the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, Egypt, and has attended numerous graduate courses, including some at INSEAD.

In which sectors of the economy are you seeing the most promising SME growth?

Current government plans have identified promising economic sectors for SMEs in line with our future vision. The youth are constantly encouraged to invest in basic sectors such as tourism, industry, logistics, and information technology in order to increase employment opportunities and minimize Oman's dependence on oil revenues. As such, they contribute largely to gross domestic product, consumption, job opportunities, investment and exports, and social justice. SMEs are also able to lead the national economy with the smallest capital. In line with these trends in promising sectors, the fund is keen to finance programs in tourism and industrial and commercial agencies in order to support youth innovation, stay abreast of the current economic trends, and promote economic diversification. In order to maximize these, the Al Raffd Administration Board has its sights set on 30 projects for the coming year that will contribute to the advancement of the national economy.

How does the Al Raffd Fund work in partnership with other SME-promoting organizations such as Riyada and Sharakah?

We help finance SMEs through partnerships and memorandums of understanding that are coordinated to ensure maximum transparency.

How can technology make Omani SMEs more competitive with larger companies and regional SMEs?

The use of modern technology is absolutely essential, especially to smaller firms. Their ability to cope with intense competition is entirely related to their use of technology, whether in management, organization, or marketing. It also plays a significant role in manufacturing since it ensures the quality of the product and service being provided. The more modern the technologies employed in SMEs, the higher their competitiveness and ease with which they are integrated into the global economy.

In manufacturing, what incentives are needed for SMEs to be created, and for large companies to buy their products?

The Sultanate attaches great importance to this sector. The Small and Medium Enterprise Development Symposium was held in February 2013, which approved a number of incentives for establishing SMEs, especially in the industrial sector. These included allocating plots for agricultural, industrial, and commercial purposes; requiring companies executing large projects to allocate at least 10% of the tender value to SMEs; giving priority to enterprises whose headquarters are registered in the governorate where the project is implemented; and allocating reasonable plots in different governorates for building business centers and incubators for SMEs. As for purchasing SMEs' products, the foregoing symposium also recognized that SMEs are entitled to 10% of governmental tenders, which gives them continuous opportunities to provide their products and build working relations with various government agencies, not only in industry but in every sector. The fund has developed a special financing program for industrial projects with a financing ceiling of OMR200,000 through streamlined procedures and free guarantees. It also provides business contracts in the industrial sector for those with high operating costs. SMEs can also start their business with large companies by providing them with high quality products and services that enable them to compete.