Muscat: In response to the Royal Directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Development Symposium kicked off yesterday at Saih Al Shamekhat in the Wilayat of Bahla in the Governorate of Dakhiliyah under the patronage of Sayyid Khalid bin Hilal bin Saud Al Busaidi, Minister of the Diwan of Royal Court.
The three-day symposium aims at putting the contents of the Royal speech at the Council of Oman on November 12, 2012 into practice, instilling entrepreneurship culture in Omani youths, linking education to the labour market's requirements, diagnosing hindrances in the development of the SMEs and proposing solutions to the difficulties.
The symposium aims at encouraging women to set up their own businesses, developing entrepreneurial skills and reviewing the success stories of entrepreneurs in different economic fields, analysing the causes of failures, revising the legislations and policies for the SMEs, proposing amendments to them, searching financial opportunities, technical support programmes and their help in creating a conducive environment for the growth of the SMEs. The symposium will focus on entrepreneurship culture, available opportunities, support programmes, polices and procedures and exploring the investment climate. It will also discuss these themes in detail through an interactive dialogue.
This seminar has been organised on account of the important role played by the SMEs in the economic development. Different countries around the world have shown growing interest in the SMEs because they contribute to diversifying the economy, creating new job opportunities, supporting innovation, and have the capability to meet the growth agenda.
Through the symposium, the government seeks to discuss the status of the SMEs in the Sultanate and the impediments in its growth. The outcomes of the symposium will be utilised in drafting realistic policies that will be implemented during the current five-year plan and in the future plans.
Sultan bin Salim Al Habsi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Planning and member of the Main Committee for the Symposium, said that this symposium comes in response to the special attention accorded by His Majesty the Sultan to encourage SMEs, which are vital for economic diversification and growth and for creating job opportunities for Omani youths.
Al Habsi exhorted the private sector to take part in enhancing the economic activity for sustained growth. He pointed out that His Majesty the Sultan's interest in the development of SMEs was highly appreciated by everyone, whether in terms of reviewing and assessing the status quo, proposing initiatives, determining priorities and ensuring proper implementation in reality.
The Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Planning affirmed that the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), in coordination with the private sector, will play an important role in ensuring efficient implementation of the recommendations and incorporating them in the development plans.
Sayyid Khalid opened the exhibition and toured various sections. Public and private establishments interested in supporting SMEs are participating in the exhibition. Sayyid Khalid said the private and public sectors need to cooperate to ensure proper implementation of the projects.
In response to a question about the demands of entrepreneurs to have one entity for supervising all the SME stakeholders, he said if the symposium came out with such a recommendation, it would be discussed and incorporated.
On his part, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri, the Minister of Manpower said that it was important for the private sector to support entrepreneurs by adopting innovative ideas, and encourage and provide them with healthy environment for setting up projects. He called on the youth to benefit from the available business opportunities.
For the evaluation of progress after the two manpower employment symposia, Sheikh Al Bakri said that they were successful and came out with many recommendations that have been implemented. For example, Sanad Programme subsidised (43,000) male and female citizens working in the private sector.
He added that the number of workers in the private sector before the three symposia was 98,000. Currently, the number stands at 210,000. He said that the past experience proves that Omanis have the capability to work in the private sector.
The Minister of Manpower said that job opportunities created by the government last year led to the migration of Omani workers from the private sector. This provided opportunities for the expatriates to join the private sector and helped their return to the sectors that were Omanised.
He urged youths to benefit from the available opportunities in the private sector.
The Minister of Manpower said the labour market laws are regularly updated to keep pace with the development.
He said the government is keen to support any initiative if any one comes forward with a proposal. Sheikh Al Bakri pointed out that the Tender Board nurtures SMEs, and therefore, the owners of these enterprises should properly avail themselves of the opportunities.
Khalil bin Abdullah Al Khonji, Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), said the interest in the SMEs was growing. Currently, entrepreneurs represent 3 per cent of the 500,000 youths.
He said that laws should be made simpler and fund should be increased to encourage youths to venture into such projects. He highlighted the role of education in the success of such projects.
Al Khonji added that the government employees would be encouraged to process such projects quickly. "To this end, OCCI has set up a special department for SMEs, which will be supported by a committee of businessmen. It also created a department for communication among the government bodies and business owners. After the symposium, there will be an awareness campaign for the facilities provided by the Tender Board to the SMEs," he added
The first session of the symposium covered entrepreneurship and free business culture and the role of education. It reviewed a number of case studies for entrepreneurs and discussed hidden trade and how to reduce its impact.
Eng. Ahmed bin Hassan Al Dheeb, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Head of the Supervisory Committee for the Symposium, said that the first session focused on entrepreneurship culture, the reasons behind reluctance of youths to enter this field and the hindrances.
After the two sessions, two seminars were organised — the first dealing with entrepreneurship and free business culture, and the second session on the available investment opportunities and subsidy programmes.
Today, the symposium will discuss the policies, laws and procedures, as well as finance and investment. A number of ministers, undersecretaries, honourable members of the State Council and members of the Majlis Al Shura were present on the occasion.
With inputs from ONA