Enduring unity has been the hallmark of Oman

Collectivism is an integral element of Omani society. Our continued success as a nation is a direct reflection of the enduring unity that has been the hallmark of our country and forms an inextricable part of our social fabric. 

National welfare has always been a priority not just for our leaders but for all our citizens as well. Our concerted efforts and perseverance have led to significant social and economic growth over the past four decades under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.  A steady increase in GDP led by consistent growth and new developments in finance, energy, retail, travel and tourism sectors gives us great hope for a brighter future and the true empowerment of our citizens.
2013 was an especially inspiring year. I could not help but feel an immense amount of pride when I witnessed several milestones being achieved across various sectors.

These achievements highlight the superior quality and consistency of my fellow citizens' efforts, along with the prudent use of the country's natural resources.  One of the most noteworthy events from this year was the issuance of the first sukuk in Oman. To complement this launch, the Muscat Securities Market announced a new and exclusive index to support companies operating on Sharia principles.  The energy sector has always been a central part of our country's economy.

The announcement of Oman's first solar plant was welcomed with much enthusiasm. Making use of favourable environmental factors such as high solar radiation and an advantageous geographical position, the plant is expected go online by June 2014 in the Wilayat Al Mazyunah in the Dhofar Governorate. Diversification within the energy sector is an important goal for Oman and is not limited to solar power. The government is also exploring wind energy generation, and I anticipate positive news about these developments in the New Year.

Another major development in energy is the new petrochemicals complex under construction by Oman Refineries and Petroleum Industries Company (ORPIC). This is in addition to the expansion of one of its refineries. Such initiatives will allow ORPIC to make optimum use of our country's hydrocarbons reserves and increase our petrochemicals production capacity from 200,000 tons to 1.4 million tons annually.

The nation is also pleased to continue welcoming foreign expertise and investment, and proud to present Oman as a promising prospect to other countries. British multinational BP recently announced a USD 16 billion deal to develop Khazzan's tight gas project over the next 30 years, which will include a 15-year drilling programme. All citizens can rejoice in the statement by Ahmed Bin Nasser Al Mehrzi, Tourism Minister of Oman, that the Tourism Ministry has commissioned a study to assess the state of the nation's travel and tourism sector. The study will evaluate the current industry landscape and projects, allowing the Ministry to create a viable strategy for the future. The government has already set the stage by making solid investments in the tourism sector, anticipating global tourism to the country to reach unprecedented levels in the coming years. Time and time again, visitors to our country have praised its culture of hospitality. It is a matter of national pride for us to share the many wonders and joys of Oman with more people in this 'global village'.

The significance of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector as the key engine for economic growth is finally gaining appreciation and validation. The past year has registered increased support for SME owners with banks introducing special financing programmes that are allowing entrepreneurs access to their capital requirements. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry's initiative to develop a One-Stop-Shop (OSS) project that will provide electronic services to SMEs and the private sector has been equally motivating. Muscat Securities Market, on its part, is now encouraging family-owned businesses to enlist to help raise capital and take their organizations to greater heights.

Moving into the area of human capital, Oman took significant strides in 2013 towards nationalizing its workforce, particularly in the private sector. Undoubtedly, the upcoming Oman HR and Nationalization conference in February 2014 will pave the way for fulfilling career opportunities for young Omani graduates, the leaders of tomorrow. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos' proactive vision to shape the Oman that we love today forms a vital part of the heritage of its younger citizens. 

One of the essential prerequisites for taking any country towards success is the political will to move forward. Continuing its on-going efforts to provide support to business across verticals, the Omani government's proposed investments in the construction sector is extremely well-timed. In addition to facilitating business in travel and tourism, retail and transport, this cash injection will go a long way towards improving the quality of life of the Omani people.

The author is the Vice Chairman of National Bank of Oman and an International Advisor to the Brookings Institution. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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