THE RIGHT ADDRESS

Oman 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Having introduced an e-census, vastly improved the ease of doing business, and cut more than a modicum of red tape, NCSI is making Oman a far more attractive place to do business.

Dr. Khalifa Bin Abdullah Al Barwani
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Khalifa Bin Abdullah Al Barwani has been CEO of NCSI since 2013 and is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Executive Committee of the General Authority for Manpower Register, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and several other boards and committees in Oman. He holds a PhD in population studies from the University of Liverpool in the UK.

How does the National Competitiveness Office work within NCSI?

In the past year, Oman has moved up 14 spots in the World Economic Forum's Competitiveness Report, a major achievement for the country. This is due in large part due to the NCSI's National Competitiveness Office. The office is a committee that was created by the cabinet and is a combination of ministers and the private sector that have been tasked with improving the ease of doing business in the country. The office's aim is to continue to encourage foreign investment in this market. In practice, the committee works to make sure processes are not complicated for investors and the private sector, while also ensuring that unnecessary procedures are removed. The Competitiveness Report and the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking are both important benchmarks that we use to keep Oman's policies in line with what the most advanced and competitive economies are doing. The National Competitiveness Office is working to continue improving Oman's ranking in these reports and expects to see more achievements in the coming years.

Why has competitiveness become a focus of NCSI's operations?

The oil price drop in 2015 changed the government's approach to developing the economy. The government has worked to increase the country's revenues through the promotion of non-oil sectors, especially those identified by Tanfeedh. To promote these sectors, the government worked to incentivize investment and increase competitiveness and the ease of doing business. Our role is to track the progress and advise on how laws can be changed to promote competitiveness.
What is NCSI's role in promoting trade with other countries?
We are trying to lay the groundwork to enable the private sector to better utilize data. The best way to do that is to make it readily available. Manafeth is a platform NCSI has developed to do just that—to publish and make available online trade data detailing Oman's imports and exports. From that data, it is helpful for businesspeople to focus on where the market's weaknesses are and help them identify new areas of business to open. Enabling the detailed data, with specific categories, opens possibilities for both companies already in Oman and those interested in entering the country. One of the most important benefits we are seeing is that Manafeth's data allows local manufacturers to monitor the moving demands of the market. Highly imported items are now more easily identified, which will lead to higher local manufacturing. There will soon be a mobile application to access this data. It is a branded platform that we want to encourage.

How has the NCSI worked to improve its census data?

We have introduced and are continuing to improve the e-census. Previous censuses focused on statistical data that gave snapshots of a specific time. This new e-census moves more toward sustainable and moving data; it is not a snapshot, but live, updated data. We have built a huge database for this information. The census actually talks about how to link data to talk to each other, bringing it all to one hub. This methodology will help the government craft policy, and companies conduct business. Regarding business, the e-census will enhance market knowledge and allow companies to make better decisions. It can provide extra information that a new business may need regarding demographics and what options are available. We have seen how important big data is for companies worldwide, so we are doing the same for companies operating in Oman.

How important is it to establish an effective address system in Oman?

Having a physical address is important everywhere in the world. When it comes to business and tourism, people need an address for where they want to go. Once the address system is in place, many SMEs will start to work much better. This is why NCSI is leading the effort to complete a national address system by 2020.