INFORMING THE PUBLIC

Oman 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Y&S gives an overview of the implications of Oman's recently enacted laws that will drive investment into the country.

Mohammed Al Yahyaei
BIOGRAPHY

Mohammed Al Yahyaei is the Managing Partner and Senior Attorney at Al Yahyaei & Salt Law Firm. He specializes in both commercial law and employment law. He graduated in law studies from the Sultan Qaboos Academy in Nizwa. Prior to establishing his law practice, Al Yahyaei worked for the Royal Oman Police. Al Yahyaei holds an LL.M in commercial law from the University of Sultan Qaboos. He is an excellent speaker and delivers lectures in law. He has guided the law firm forward, step by step, to become one of the leading law firms of Oman. The firm has several branches not only in Oman but also in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Iran.

What are the firm's key areas of focus?
Y&S positions itself as an experienced Omani law firm able to provide commercially relevant legal support and advice in line with international best practice. Our areas of expertise are litigation and dispute resolution, corporate-commercial, oil and gas, employment law, banking and finance (including regulatory and securities law), intellectual property, telecommunications, healthcare, insurance, property and real estate, consumer protection, and criminal law. We are privileged to count a number of major Omani and international banks and corporations amongst our client base.

What is your assessment of the new FDI Law aimed at improving the foreign investment structure in Oman?
Whilst it is our understanding that the new Foreign Capital Investment Law offers a number of incentives to non-Omani investors and expands the investment sectors open to such investors, the executive regulations to be issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will be key to assessing the impact of this law and the extent to which it will improve the foreign investment environment in Oman. This new law will not affect existing legal provisions and legislation with respect to GCC investments, the Special Economic Zone at Duqm, the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (Madayn), or free zones. The law provides that Omani courts will have jurisdiction to hear disputes between an investment project and third parties on an expedited basis.

What are the main implications of the new PPP Law and the Privatization Law for Oman's business environment?
It must be noted that the executive regulations for these laws have yet to be issued. As such, the below implications are based on a partial view of Oman's PPP and privatization regulatory regime. First, the Public Authority for Privatisation and Partnership (PAPP) is responsible for overseeing PPP projects in Oman and awarding tenders, so it will have a great deal of power in this business landscape, as a specific appeals process will be created for disputes relating to the tender process, project award, or project implementation. Nonetheless, the applicable government ministry will remain responsible for the management of a PPP project. Second, any PPP project must have Ministry of Finance approval prior to launching, with such approval given if the concerned project conforms to Oman's strategy and development plans. As these requirements are not defined, PPP projects may be undertaken in a wide array of areas. Third, PPP projects shall not be subject to the Omani Tenders Law, and direct approaches may be undertaken for certain PPP projects without a tender, subject to the Council of Ministers' approval. PPP projects may have a duration of up to 50 years, which is generous by regional market standards. Fourth, in the case of privatizations, Omani employees must be transferred and remain on the same terms of employment as pre-privatization for a period of five years. Lastly, and most importantly, the PPP Law and the Privatization Law both clearly state that 100% foreign ownership is allowed. It is unclear what minimum share capital requirements shall apply and what limits shall apply on government participation but we await issuance of the related executive regulations. There will be, understandably, controls on the share capital of project companies (including in respect to the creation of security or sale of shares).

How can the Sultanate further develop the skills of its lawyers and legal consultants?
Oman's legal landscape features legal practitioners who are practising law and students who are studying law in various colleges. Both face international and national issues. Now is the proper time to establish training entities to develop the skills of those who handle extensive legal work, whether arbitrators, legal advisors, or litigators. We have put this goal in our strategic plan and hope to commence it shortly.