Oman marked 46th Na­tional Day on 18th Novem­ber 2016

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

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.

For­eign Pol­icy

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.

Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cils

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.

Trans­port

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.

Tourism

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

Bahla Fort

Al-Duqm Port

Al-Bus­tan Palace

The Supreme Court of Oman

Sul­tan Qa­boos Grand Mosque

Royal Opera House Mus­cat

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