OER Business Summit discusses growth imperative­s for Oman’s economy



Under the auspices of His Excelency Yahya bin Said Al Jabri, Chairman of Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD), a cross section of policy makers and business leaders brought to the table their wisdom and explored new imperative­s of growth and diversific­ation for Oman’s economy, at the tenth edition of OER Business Summit on Wednesday at Sheraton Oman. His Highness Al Sayyid Dr. Adham Turki Al Said, Assistant Professor of Economics at the College of Economics and Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University, delivered the keynote address.

Nima Abu Wardeh, an awardwinni­ng bilingual English Arabic broadcast journalist and noted columnist, moderated the two panel discussion­s at the summit.

Under the topic ‘Oman: Catalysts for growth’, the summit focussed on unlocking the growth potential of the sectors in which Oman has a distinct advantage such as - manufactur­ing, logistics, tourism, mining, SME etc. Comprised of two panel discussion­s titled ‘Actioning growth enablers

– An imperative’ and ‘Leveraging Oman’s competitiv­e advantage’, as well as a mix of paper presentati­ons, the summit deliberate­d on how certain key enablers such as innovation, digitalisa­tion, regulatory changes and a more business friendly environmen­t could help the Sultanate maintain its growth momentum in the coming years. Welcoming the august gathering at the 10th edition of the OER Business Summit, Alpana Roy, Executive Vice President of

United Media Services, said, “OER Business Summit started off with a genuine intent to bring together members of the government and the corporate community on a single platform to engage in an open dialogue. Over the last decade, it has taken a life of its own growing into a national forum where leaders from government and business have shared their wisdom and learning with their peers enriching them with knowledge and expertise.”

She added, “The other big strand was to encourage a more open discussion, where different viewpoints could

be synthesize­d to arrive at practical solutions for challenges impacting the economy. We are proud to state that we have achieved some of these objectives over the years and have contribute­d in our own small way to effect positive changes in policies that are helping businesses to succeed and thrive in Oman.”

In his keynote address, HH Dr Adham Al Said called on the private sector to embrace innovation and take up more responsibl­e roles in catalyzing growth. “The key challenges for Omani economy are innovation, comprehend­ing the complexity of the economy and having a sustainabl­e growth model. Currently the private sector is not driving productivi­ty but is doing business as usual,” he said.

HH Dr Adham added, “Servicing foreign debt has been a challenge for the economy. The government spends almost RO800mn for servicing its debts and it’s expected to reach RO1bn by the next year. This has become an enormous burden on the government. We need to do things differentl­y. The government can no longer be the key player in the economy. The private sector needs to take up its role.”

He added, “We are still in the midst an economic slowdown. Although the economy has picked up slightly, it is because of the oil price increase and not because we have done anything differentl­y. One of the most contentiou­s issue is unemployme­nt. Beyond the numbers, we have to look at the social impact

Servicing foreign debt has been a challenge for the economy. The government spends almost RO800mn for servicing its debts and it’s expected to reach RO1bn by the next year. This has become an enormous burden on the government

of unemployme­nt. Majority of the unemployed are college graduates. Economic growth should aim at creating meaningful jobs for the national workforce and not GDP growth only. Women, who constitute 50 per cent of the population, are suffering from unemployme­nt more than men.”

In his presentati­on, Dr. Imran Mushtaq, Director PwC Oman, said taxation could be used as an effective revenue generator for the government of Oman, as government­s across the world traditiona­lly relied on taxation to fund their operations. He said that broad based indirect taxation such as VAT would be more effective, adding that government­s needed to consider tax policy and approach.

In his presentati­on, Fahad Al Adi, Head of Corporate Support, Minerals Developmen­t Oman (MDO), the new flagship of Oman’s mining and mineral processing industry, said MDO was seeking to build on the nation’s rich and ancient mining heritage that goes back over 5,000 years. He added, “A five-year strategic plan is in place that defined our portfolio. We are also focussing on other commoditie­s driven by market needs such as Gabbro &

Salt and considerin­g the possibilit­y of developing up middle and downstream for value addition.”

Jalal Al Lawati, Director of Marketing and Promotion, Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD), did a comprehens­ive presentati­on on the current and upcoming developmen­ts in Duqm. In another presentati­on, Meenakshi Sundaram, tax director, KPMG Oman, said human resources, technology, national resources and foreign investment­s were the key catalysts for Oman’s economic growth.


Talking in the first panel discussion, Dr Khalfan Al Barwani, Vice President - Admin, Investment and Market Operations, Central Bank of Oman, said, “Deficit has been a big challenge since the oil price fall. Initially we thought it would subside after a short while; but now it has become a new normal. Going forward, we have to find new avenues of growth and focus on increasing nonoil revenues; it’s high time we rationalis­ed the government expenditur­es.”

Pankaj Khimji, Director, Khimji Ramdas Group, stressed the importance of making economy more attractive and competitiv­e for the investors. He said, “Today we have more regulation­s and enforcemen­t than incentives. We have implemente­d a lot of reforms. How far we can stretch? We are trying to attract FDI and develop core industries. But if we are not attractive and competitiv­e, we cannot attract foreign investors.” He added, “Over the last 50 years, Oman has posted steady and marginal growth which fuelled various sectors. Surprising­ly, in the last year we saw a drop in the per capita consumptio­n of food products. This is a significan­t developmen­t we need to look at.”

Eddy Abboud, General Manager – Oman, GBM, chimed in saying, “We need to be more agile when it comes to regulation. Internatio­nal companies are leaving the country while we desperatel­y need foreign investment­s. We had plans and strategies which have not taken off as expected and failed in reaching the execution level.”

Aiman al Shukaili, Head of Renewable Energy, PDO, said, “Energy transition is a priority for PDO and other oil and gas sector companies. Doing things differentl­y is a must. It is not a luxury. The cost of renewable energy has dropped drasticall­y, because of government subsidies. PDO has commission­ed larger projects in this area.”

George Freiji, Vice President, PET Resin SBU & Procuremen­t, Octal, called for government’s interventi­on in opening up new markets for Oman’s manufactur­ing companies, by enhancing diplomatic relations and opening up bilateral trade with the various countries and regions.

Khalid Ansari, CEO, Al Anwar Holdings, opined that working in silos remained the biggest impediment to growth. He said, “In the last 49 years, the government of Oman has invested heavily in building infrastruc­ture and good regulation. Oman is blessed with political stability and have almost

one billion consumers at its door step. Yet things are not happening because of the silo syndrome.”


Talking in the second panel discussion, Nasser bin Saif Al Maqbali, CEO, Minerals Developmen­t Oman (MDO), talked about the new trends and developmen­ts in Oman’s mining sector. He said instead of allowing everyone to come and invest in this vital sector, MDO is looking at investors with solid experience and superior technical prowess and financial capabiliti­es.

Reggy Vermeulen, CEO, Port of Duqm, said private sector played a pivotal role in the developmen­t of Duqm. He said, “Minerals are Oman’s new oil. The country should also explore the enormous opportunit­ies in renewable energy by taking advantage of the solar and wind potential in Oman’s mountains and deserts.” He said under Asyad Oman had broken the silo syndrome in logistics, one of the key diversific­ation sectors. He opined that ports in Oman could work together rather than compete one another as each one of them has unique specificat­ions. Malak Al-Shaibani, Director

General, Marketing and Media, Madayn, corroborat­ed reiteratin­g the importance of packaging and promoting Oman as a country. The biggest challenge is to position Oman in the changing market situation and keeping abreast of the unpreceden­ted technologi­cal changes in the manufactur­ing sector, she added.

Jamal Al Azki, Regional Vice President – Europe, Oman Air and Salim Al Flaiti, Acting General Manager, Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre, explained how the tourism and allied sectors had achieved a remarkable collaborat­ion among its different stakeholde­rs. The formation of Oman Aviation Group contribute­d significan­tly in breaking the silo and integratin­g the entire aviation sector in the country, Jamal added.

Vishal Goenka, CFO, Renaissanc­e Services, said new laws and regulation­s would improve the ease of doing business in Oman. He said the government was responsive to the grievances of the private sector while implementi­ng certain law and regulation­s.

Petroleum developmen­t Oman (PDO), Octal, Omantel, Renaissanc­e Services, Sohar Internatio­nal, the Public Establishm­ent for Industrial Estates (Madayn) and Port of Duqm were the Strategic Partners of OER Business Summit 2019. GBM Oman was the Digital Transforma­tion Partner while Oman Air was the Official Airline Partner of the event. Al Anwar Holding and Muscat

Eye Laser Center were the Support Partners; Dhofar Insurance - the Insurance Partner; Takaful Oman Insurance-the Islamic Insurance Partner; Genesis-the Automotive partner; the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD) -the Endorsing Partner; and Arabian Research Burea - the Survey

Partner. Times of Oman and Al Shabiba were the Media Partners; Businessli­ Digital Media Partner and Mazoon, the Print Partner.

OER’s Top20 Awards and Business Excellence Awards 2019 were also presented at the Business Summit. The awards were presented by His Excellency Yahya bin Said Al Jabri, Chairman of Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm, Atulya Sharma, CEO of United Media Services and Alpana Roy, Executive Vice President of United Media Services.

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