Muscat: Oman government's move to clamp a two-year ban on foreign workers to re-enter the country on a new employment visa will have major implications for corporate sector, feel some in industry.
They say it will affect its ability to hire locally experienced people for business growth, besides blocking the chances of expatriate professionals in earning better perks and procuring lucrative jobs.
However, it will definitely block unhealthy poaching in the corporate sector, especially among rival companies engaged in the same line of business, said businessmen and top-level executives from a cross section of the corporate sector.
"In my personal view, it is not a proper decision. The corporate sector has several advantages in hiring people with local experience, a good track record and local knowledge," Anwar Ali Sultan, director of W J Towell group, told the Times of Oman.
"It takes quite some time for a new employee to gain experience in the local market. It takes at least six months to one year to obtain a driving licence. All these are important for middle-level and senior-level employees," added Ali Sultan, who also said that he is not aware whether the government departments have discussed the issue with the business community before taking such a decision.
However, the 'two-year ban' on expatriate workforce in Oman is 'positive' and definitely benefits the private sector, according to a senior official at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).
"The decision will help the private sector as it will help minimise the number of hidden businesses that are taking advantage of the current situation," Redha Juma Mohammed Ali Al Saleh, vice-chairman for administration and finance affairs at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), told the Times of Oman.
According to Al Saleh, the decision was taken after consultations with the chamber. "The implementation of this rule was stopped for a while and now it is being implemented once again. We were part of the decision-making process." He said that it will help both the employees and the employers, adding that it allows the company to keep its workforce for two years and make the conditions of employees 'more stable'.
"It will enhance the overall performance of the private sector, and we hope all the parties will cooperate with the authorities to implement the decision," Al Saleh noted.
Echoing a similar view, Nassir bin Salim Al Busaidi, managing director of Oman United Insurance, said that several companies are facing unhealthy competition due to poaching, which, in turn, increases the salary levels and operating cost of companies. "The corporate sector and the economy are suffering (when employees change their jobs for better salaries).
It is for the benefit of the business sector," Al Busaidi said, adding, "If a company wants to hire experienced people, let them bring them from outside the country, rather than poaching from other companies. This harms the business sector."
Ramesh Mani, chief executive officer of Majan Glass, which has an employee strength of 240, said that the ban should be introduced on a legitimate basis. A ban on the basis of any criminal offence is meaningful. "A professional has every right to sell his services.
This restricts choices of companies in taking in people and the companies may end up losing," Mani said, adding, "It is not going to be a win-win situation, neither for the employee nor the employer."
"This (the new regulation) will affect the growth of companies. Since most of overseas appointments are on the basis of telephone interviews, we can come to know the actual skill level and expertise of an employee only after he joins the organisation.
And if the company management feels that the employee's performance is below their expectations, the company has to remove him from service," said B. Rajan, general manager of Al Jadid Exchange, which employs 170 people. He added that the company managements are in a better position to know their prospective employees if taken from within Oman. It will have an adverse effect on those who seek to change jobs, force them to continue with their job and the employees will not enjoy the bargaining power.
Another leading businessman, who did not want to be named, said that it was no surprise to him as the same system prevailed in the country six years ago. "It will stop people from jumping from one organisation to another. That practice will come to an end now," added the businessman.
Ajay Bhati, managing partner of Lighthouse, a leading business consulting firm, believes that such laws are not beneficial for either Omani business community or for expatriate workers.
"Oman is ranked 47th by a World Bank report (Doing Business) because of its policies that are not supportive of the business community and the prevalence of red tape in the government system. It is ranked 77th in terms of ease of starting a business," Bhati told the Times of Oman.
"The decision will promote vindictive practices like forced labour and making someone work against his or her will. For example, if any expatriate wants to leave a company and join another (in Oman), the employer would enforce a discharge and the employee will not be able to come back to Oman for two years. Therefore, in order to continue working here in the country, he or she would have to work with the same employer even if the working conditions are not good and/or force him or her to compromise on career aspirations," he added.
Column: Will the 2-year ban work in the best interests of Oman?