Bahla: The Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Development Symposium, being held in response to the Royal Directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, continued its activities at Saih Al Shamekhat in the Wilayat of Bahla in the Governorate of Dakhiliyah yesterday in the presence of a number of ministers, undersecretaries, honourable members of the State Council, members of the Majlis Al Shura, officials, businessmen and women, and SME owners.
The first session operated under the theme 'Policies, Laws, and Procedures', aiming to revise the current process of proposing corrective measures through various pillars related to existing policies, laws, and procedures.
The session also highlighted the deficiencies in the current laws and regulations and the need to revise these laws and regulations to meet the needs of the next stage of the country's development and to encourage partnership between the private and public sectors.
Dr. Darwish bin Saif Al Maharbi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health for Administrative and Financial Affairs and the main speaker at the first session, pointed out that emphasis has been placed on providing a supportive environment for implementing laws, policies, and regulations that assist SMEs to grow.
He added that discussions had uncovered impediments due to the lack of clarity in policies and laws. Many participants also complained of being hindered by lengthy procedures and inadequate financing channels.
Replying to a question on the need to revise the laws and policies that support SMEs, Dr Al Maharbi said that support for SMEs is not limited to financial aid; it also includes revamping laws and regulations and improving abilities through training and education.
He stressed the importance of being focused during the next stage if the procedures, policies, and laws in question intend to create a generation of entrepreneurs or to find a solution for jobseekers. Dr. Al Maharbi said there are two sets of laws: those that resolve current problems and eliminate difficulties and those that bypass potential future problems.
During his turn at the podium, Yousef bin Ali Al Harthy, General Manager of Information Gear Company and the head of the first session, said a proposal had been made to expand the use of e-governance to facilitate procedures, reduce time spent on processing transactions, and facilitate access to sites where transactions can be processed and costs can be reduced.
He added that there is a desire to set indicators that enable officials to achieve the stated goal of developing the SME sector. In the same context, Eng. Salah bin Mohammed Al Shanfri, CEO of Oman Holding Food Investment Company, noted that the session focused on simplifying policies and regulations, which form a framework through which SMEs can become active.
He pointed out the importance of having simple procedures that help SMEs to achieve the required growth and benefit from available opportunities. He said that ideas have been discussed to establish an entity for SMEs, promulgate supportive laws for SMEs, and dedicate 10 per cent of tenders to SME owners.
The second session discussed 'Finance and Investment'. It focused on revising the work programme and funds that support SMEs, reviewing the available financial aid and processes for developing and assessing the ease of completing finance procedures, and providing SMEs with new finance opportunities.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the SME symposium, the entrepreneurs' exhibition continues to receive visitors from various segments of society. The exhibition, which showcases a number of entrepreneurial initiatives, aims to brief the public on possible opportunities for starting businesses and the support provided by various organisations in the Sultanate.
One of these is 'Sharakah', which is provided by the Fund for Development of Youth Projects. Maher Al Mahrouqi, project specialist for the Fund, said, "Sharakah invests in start-ups, turning them into profitable ventures that create jobs. It provides financial support in the form of loans, equity support, and discounted facilities. It also provides advice and support to new businesses, seeing them through their start-up period."
He added, "This takes the form of assistance with preliminary feasibility studies, business plans, and the identification of business risks. Once a start-up has its plan in place and meets our criteria, we provide financial aid and support along the way."
With inputs from ONA