Oman marked 46th National Day on 18th November 2016
The Sultanate is nowadays celebrating its 46th National Day, the 18th of November anniversary, which remains carved deeply in the memory of the Omani people, and whose benign reality projects itself everywhere on the landscape. This historic date represents a major turning point in the life of Omani citizens.
Since the outset of the Omani modern renaissance under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said 46 years ago, Oman has entered into a new stage of its glorious history. The country was on a tryst with the launch of a comprehensive strategy to establish a prosperous present and a promising future.
The renaissance strategy covered all aspects of life and its outreach prevailed at all levels-on the domestic front and on external relations, thus offering the Sultanate an admirable status among sisterly and friendly countries in this region and in the world at large.
Because Oman has a deep-rooted history and a prominent location, it has always played a vital role at different epochs. The prudent vision of Sultan Qaboos drew insights from Oman’s history and its strategic location.
The Sultan has had a dream of establishing a modern state that enjoys peace, security and stability and achieves a better life for the Omani people. Not only that, this vision inspired the leader’s aspiration that peace, security and stability might prevail in the Gulf region, the surrounding region and the world at large, so that all countries and their peoples would enjoy constant growth and prosperity.
The National Day represents an opportunity for the Omani people to express their deep thanks and gratitude to the builder of modern Oman. It is also an opportunity to ponder on the achievements and objectives of various types of national action.
The renaissance accomplishments are actually a source of pride for all and they are an incentive to exert more efforts to achieve further achievements. Attention to be accorded to citizens and provide them with all the basic services should always be placed on top of development plans, the Sultan confirmed.
The year 2016 forms a turning point in the Omani development track with a view to safeguarding achievements made over the past 46 years in accordance with Vision 2020 objectives. These objectives include providing jobs for Omani youths, focusing efforts on social solidarity through education, training, health and human resources development and improving economic diversification through the development of promising sectors: converting industries, logistics services, transport, tourism, fisheries and mining.
Over the years of the blessed renaissance, Sultan Qaboos has shaped the Omani foreign policy in accordance with solid principles founded on consistency, balance, clarity and rationality in establishing relations with countries of the world and in tackling various regional and international issues. This Oman foreign policy stems from the country’s strategic location, its deep-rooted history and its spirit of belonging and solidarity with Arab and Islamic world.
In various local and international occasions, Sultan Qaboos has reaffirmed the fundamentals and principles of that policy when establishing friendly relations with different countries of the world. The Sultan laid emphasis on joint cooperation, exchange of benefits and interests, establishment of good relations with neighboring countries, non-interference in the internal affairs of others and mutual respect for the rights and policies of countries.
Oman advocates commitment to principles of justice, fairness, peace and harmony, the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and the safeguarding of security and stability in the region. This is in addition to respecting international charters and treaties, commitment to rules of the international law and supporting issues of legitimate cause in global arenas. Omani diplomacy implemented the enlightened thought of Sultan Qaboos in developing good foreign relations and utilizing that for the service of national development and the settlement of many regional and international issues and crises.
The Sultanate has been enhancing efforts for peace and continuously supporting peaceful initiatives in various regional disputes, working for rapprochement so that these issues could see a successful end that guarantees the intactness of countries and the interests of their peoples on the basis of participation, justice and equality.
Based on the stock of confidence accorded to it by conflicting parties, the Sultanate has thus exerted efforts to push forward the Yemeni negotiations and develop rapprochement between disputing parties, mainly to remove the cause of the ongoing war in Yemen.
Since the beginning, the Sultanate tackled the Yemeni crisis in a clear and frank manner. Its sincere initiatives in this regard began in Muscat in August 2015 and continued through negotiations in Kuwait on April 21, 2016. Oman’s action derived insight from a prudent vision that perceives the deep impact of conflict in the sisterly state of Yemen.
Oman also acted from a conviction that a delay in establishing peace will cost the next Yemeni generations decades of suffering. Human suffering in Yemen has already become enormous and the country’s infrastructure has been demolished. The impact of the conflict in Yemen is also crippling political, economic, security and social ties in Yemen and beyond. The turmoil in Yemen is one of the main conflicts in the Middle East that derails development by increasing the armament race is causing further tensions.
Search and rescue: Following the directives of Sultan Qaboos, the Sultanate also contributed to finding and releasing foreign hostages who went missing in war zones. This is in addition to Oman’s initiatives to rescue the lives of many other people through its reception of those injured in the Yemen war and providing them with treatment. The injured were offered assistance mainly as Yemenis, irrespective of which camp they belong to. This gesture is based on the concepts of good neighborliness, fraternity and cooperation that distinguish the Omani diplomacy.
A similar gesture was made towards resolving the Libyan political issue. Oman hosted a meeting of the main consultative authority of the Libyan constitution in which 32 members of the authority took part. The talks were hosted by the city of Salalah with effect from the 18th of March 2016 and lasted three weeks in a quiet environment seeking to end the rift between the Libyan people. The Omani efforts met with success because the talks led to the production of constitution draft to be presented to the Libyan people for a referendum.
State of Institutions
Coordination and cooperation between the legislative and executive authorities constitute the salient features of Omani Shura, a methodology to achieve the interests of citizens and the homeland through the implementation of programs of development and review of performance-thanks to an ever-expanding participation of citizens in the decision-making process.
The opening of the Supreme Court’s edifice on May 25, 2016 came in complementation of the judicial institutions’ schema and serves as a symbol of Sultan Qaboos’s attention towards providing a suitable environment for justice practice in the Sultanate and his concern for the setting up of amenities to facilitate citizens’ access to their rights.
The Council of Oman (with its bicameral bodies of State Council and Majlis Ash’shura) has been helping in implementing development program and finding solutions to economic and social obstacles. The Municipal Councils emerge as another consultative arm that offers views and recommendations about means to develop municipal services.
Economic Development and Food Security
In the backdrops of dwindling oil prices and their impacts on the country’s budget, the Sultanate has adopted a host of measures to guarantee the soundness of the state’s financial position. It capitalized on enhancing economic growth by continuing developmental projects of economic and social priority and by providing proper support to furnish an encouraging environment for private sector investments.
In the meantime, the Sultanate continued to maintain basic public services. The state’s budget this year focused on a set of procedures, namely: increasing the flexibility and sustainability of the fiscal system, rescheduling public resources by increasing oil revenues’ contribution to the state’s total revenues and, diminishing dependence on oil resources and raising the capacity of state-owned companies by founding holding companies whose job is to draft plans and strategies in accordance with new governance principles.
Estimated total revenues in the 2016 budget stood at RO 8.6 billion, of them RO 4.56 billion as net oil revenues, RO 1.6 billion as gas revenues and RO 2.4 billion as current revenues.
In the first half of 2016, the Sultanate’s oil production increased to 1 million barrels per day as against 970,000 bpd in the corresponding period in 2015. Accordingly, Oman’s crude and condensates rose by 182 million barrels per day by mid-2016, compared to 175.6 million barrels per day by mid-2015.
In the meantime, oil exports rose from 154.8 million barrels to 164.5 million barrels. However, the average price of Oman Crude dropped to $35 in the first six months this year, from $59.3 during the corresponding period in 2015.
A new economic development this year (2016) has been the addition of Ras Markaz area to the Special Economic Zone in Duqm (SEZAD), raising the total size of the economic zone from 1,745 square kilometres to 2,000 square kilometres. The Ras Markaz area will be developed to receive crude storage activities. Oman Oil Company looks forward to making Ras Markaz a global crude storage terminal.
The plant will be set up in a number of stages and its storage capacity in the first phase will range from 6 million barrels to 10 million barrels. A 1,600-hectare are has been allocated for the storage plant. This area will allow for the setting up of storage facilities that will accommodate 200 million barrels of crude, which will expand the basis of development of refineries and petrochemicals in the SEZAD.
In addition, SEZAD signed, this year, a cooperation and land development agreement for the setting up of the Oman-China Industrial City at Duqm, with its investments standing at $10.7 billion. The industrial city will accommodate 35 projects on an area of 1,172 hectares.
SEZAD offers a variety of incentives to investors. These include a 30-year income tax exemption (renewable), exemption from customs tax for goods imported to the SEZAD from abroad and for goods exported from SEZAD, a 50-year land development (usufruct) right, also renewable, and it is also allowed that the full capital of a project is owned by a nonOmani entity. Investors get all sorts of permits, clearance and approvals through the SEZAD’s one-stopshop that offers various incentives to SEZAD investors.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Civil Service issued a decision allowing government sector employees to take leave for the setting up and management of their private projects. In addition, (pending) decisions pertaining to the allocation of 10 percent of government tenders and procurements to SMEs were activated.
Within the view that the 9th Five Year Plan (20162020) is the last phase of the Omani economic vision (Oman 2020), it is understood that what will be achieved within the framework of Tanfeedh will constitute a solid foundation for the future and will pave the way for the next Strategic Vision (Oman 2040), which is being drafted now.
A tremendous boost to the country’s socioeconomic drive was the issuance of Royal Decree No. 48/2016 on the promulgation of the National Training Fund. This development goes in line with the national development needs now and in the future and it symbolizes the Sultan’s keenness to put to action the objective recommendations and studies aimed at optimizing the use of human resources.
Program such as Tanfeedh, which caps the 9th Five Year Plan, and Royal decrees and other Royal directives reflect the Sultan’s deep understanding and concern for the welfare of citizens.
The Sultanate is taking steps to set up a network of tarmac roadS to connect all governorates with a view to facilitating the movement of citizens and residents across the country and activating trade and the industrial and tourism sectors, besides connecting the Sultanate to neighboring GCC states.
Some of the major roads being carried out by the Ministry of Transport and Communications are: Bidbid-Sur dualization (phases 1 and 2) which extends 249 kilometres, the Batinah Expressway, from Batch 1 to 6, which stretches 273 kilometres, the dualization of Jibrin-Ibri road, second segment, 90 km, the Sinaw-Mahout-Duqm road, segments 1 and 2, 181 km, the Ibri-Yaqul carriageway dualization, second phase, 34 km, the Nizwa-Thamrait highway dualization, phase 1 and 2, 240 km, the dualization of Barka-Nakhl road, 39 km, the dualization of Mahda-Rowdha road, 58 km and other road projects.
In 2015, the first phase of a public transport framework study for Muscat Governorate was carried out. This study aims to develop and interactive schema that serves all segments of society in accordance with the topmost quality standards with a view to resolving traffic jams, diminishing environmental impacts and ensuring road safety.
The plan is being executed by operating some public transport routes through Oman National Transport Company (Mwasalat), which managed to transport more than 2.1 million passengers since the inauguration of its new logo in November 2015 till the end of July 2016 at a rate of 10,000 passengers a day. The company seeks to develop its services in the fields of cargo operations, electronic booking of tickets, opening of integrate communication centres, introduction of wireless internet and increasing the number of routes operated to Al-Dakhiliayh and other governorates of the Sultanate.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications is working to draft legislations to regulate land transport activities after the promulgation of Land Transport Law by Royal Decree No. 10/2016, which aims to provide the best services for transport of people and goods.
This year the Sultanate started the implementation of Oman Tourism Strategy (2016-2020) which aims to provide 500,000 jobs, increase the volume of expected investments to around RO 19 billion12 percent of them to be allocated to the public sector. The strategy also aims to raise the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP by 10 percent by the year 2040, besides developing the local economy and SMEs.
The tourism strategy focuses on making the Sultanate one of the most visited tourism designations by 2040 by targeting 11 million international tourists and local visitors per annum. It also targets the utilization of 14 tourist gathering spots like forts, castles, heritage attractions, nature reserves, Beduin settlements, coastal lands, deserts of graded colours, the Sindbad home, relics from the iron age and bronze age, wadis, springs, mountain villages, modern Omani villages built to fancy ancient houses, the Empty Quarter desert, the frankincense route and the wildlife prairies of Dhofar.
The growth of activity of the tourism sector can be gauged by the increase of hotel establishments from 297 in 2014 to 318 establishments in 2015. During 2015, the revenues of 3-5 star hotels stood at RO 192.1 million as against 191.5 million in 2014. The number of hotel occupants stood at 1.2 million, while hotel occupancy was 57.3 percent.
As a result of the attention accorded to the tourism sector, the Sultanate occupied the 16th position in the global ranking of fast growing tourism destinations. The Sultanate was the only country to figure in this rating among Arab states due to its rich tourism, historical and modern landmarks, coupled with services extended to tourists.
The Council of Oman
Autumn in Salalah
Sultan Qaboos Bin Said
The Supreme Court of Oman
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Royal Opera House Muscat