PATH TO PROMOTION

Oman 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Azzan Al Busaidi is an expert in competitiveness and economic growth. He was appointed CEO of Ithraa in 2019 after 17 years spent covering managerial roles in the organization. Al Busaidi was previously Ithraa's director general of planning and studies and is a strong advocate of the potential of digitization. He holds an MBA from the University of Strathclyde and a BSc in Economics from Sultan Qaboos University.

Azzan Al Busaidi
BIOGRAPHY

Azzan Al Busaidi is an expert in competitiveness and economic growth. He was appointed CEO of Ithraa in 2019 after 17 years spent covering managerial roles in the organization. Al Busaidi was previously Ithraa's director general of planning and studies and is a strong advocate of the potential of digitization. He holds an MBA from the University of Strathclyde and a BSc in Economics from Sultan Qaboos University.

What does Oman offer investors, and how have you helped investors coming to Oman?
Today, more than ever, there are many reasons to invest in Oman. Beyond the rich possibilities the sectors at the heart of our economic diversification strategy (such as manufacturing, tourism, fisheries, mining, and logistics), an undoubtedly strong part of the Sultanate's FDI appeal are the measures taken to create Oman's attractive business and investment landscape. Amongst these is the creation of important infrastructure, such as excellent roads, award-winning airports and state-of-the-art ports, flourishing industrial estates and technology parks, and our free zones. An additional attraction for investors is Oman's portfolio of new business-friendly legislation covering foreign investment, PPPs, insolvency, and commercial companies. With factors such as these, it is no surprise substantial investment is making its way into projects across the nation. Take Duqm's Special Economic Zone Authority, the destination for a USD4.6-billion multi-source project financing venture between Oman Oil and Kuwait Petroleum International to develop, construct, and operate the Duqm Refinery. At Ithraa, we are passionate about helping our private sector capitalize on economic growth everywhere in the world. To this end, we support Omani businesses to ensure they can compete in an increasingly challenging global marketplace. On both export and investment fronts, it is worth noting the government's first-class services offered to both local and international firms. The Ministry of Commerce & Industry's (MoCI) Invest Easy is a great example of how we are streamlining the process of setting-up and running a business locally. We have also recently launched the Invest in Oman portal, a platform dedicated to driving and facilitating investment in Oman, connecting local project owners, investors, and entrepreneurs with the international business community.

How do you help industrial players increase the competitiveness of the Made in Oman brand overseas?
Omani-made products and services are enjoying tremendous international success. Non-oil exports are worth around OMR3 billion and can be found in over 130 countries. In addition to our in-house activities, services, and resources, we have partnered with the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Madayn on the Omani Products Exhibition (OPEX), a series of large-scale, international trade shows designed specifically to renew and revitalize the promotion of Oman-made goods overseas. Given the feedback we have received from participating firms, these trade efforts are paying dividends and helping change the way Omani non-oil exporters do business. As a result, now more than at any time in our history, Omani firms are selling more goods internationally.

How would you define the profile of investors sought after by the Omani government?
Historically, we have attracted large and long-term investors. However, today we are talking to a much broader investor audience, enticing them with opportunities in our growing SME space. Attracting and retaining inward investment is important to Oman's economic ambitions. We want the Sultanate to be a place where business can grow, succeed, and thrive. And we want it to be a place where great ideas and innovations turn into great products and services. As the new foreign investment legislation clearly shows, Oman is more determined than ever to deliver the pro-business environment international investors require.

How do you envision the government's role in Oman's economy in the future?
The process of privatization has been underway for some time, especially in the utilities and telecommunications sectors—an approach that seeks to enhance the utilization of resources, attract foreign investment, reduce costs, as well as share wealth across society. Still, the government continues to play a key role in the economic development of cities, towns, and villages across Oman, implementing a wide variety of policies and measures that bring opportunities and prosperity to these communities and ensuring a secure and stable environment in which economic development can flourish. Indeed, as we move toward becoming a digital economy, the public sector not just in Oman but around the world, will be even more active. From cybersecurity to technologies such as IoT and AI, governments will play a crucial role.