Times of Oman
Justice, citizenship and equality — thanks to His Majesty
November 18, 2017 | 12:58 PM
by ONA
Photo: ONA
 
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Muscat: The Sultanate of Oman celebrates the 47th anniversary of its Glorious National Day on Saturday, the 18th of November 2017.

For the Omani people, the 18th of November is a day of pride and renewed allegiance to the architect of Oman’s modern renaissance, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. It is an occasion in which citizens exhibit their joy over the achievements made, as well as their love and gratitude to their leader.

The celebration comes at a time the Sultanate is making progress in every field, inspired by the directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said who charted the roadmap of the renaissance and laid down its values which stem from the benign traditions of society. That’s how modern Oman has emerged as an edifice admired by the whole world, not least because of its civilised contribution to human experience and its dignified presence in regional and international arenas.

The achievements made in the domestic front stand testimony to the efforts exerted by the Omani government since the start of the renaissance, thanks to a raft of five-year plans and programmes whose objective has always been the Omani citizen.



Development took giant strides in all sectors, like public education, higher education, health services, social services, electricity and water, transport and communications, seaports and airports, and the labour market which values the efforts of both men and women.

The 18th of November Anniversary, which adorns the country every year, is an occasion relished by citizens because it represents the truthful traditions of a great leader who fulfilled his promise, despite the tremendous challenges that faced the country’s revival to its centuries-old prominent position worldwide. Right from the start, the Sultan set up solid foundations for national unity, which is a prerequisite to any sustainable development.

The Sultan also promoted the values of justice, citizenship and equality. He established the pillars of the promised ‘state of institutions’ within the framework of a modern country where citizens enjoy safety and security and where a climate of stability prevails, benefiting all and guaranteeing the rights of all under the sovereign rule of law.

Over the last few decades, the domestic progress raised the standards of living of citizens, thanks to the execution of elaborate sector-based policies focused on ideal use of resources and allocations.

State Budget 2017 takes into account the need to safeguard these achievements and enhance them within the context of priorities, the most important of which is to maintain the level of basic government services like health, education, training, electricity and water, telecommunications and social security assistance.

Last year, the Sultanate began implementing the 9th Five-Year Plan (2016-2017) in the backdrops of difficult economic conditions that prevailed in the country, and other oil producing and exporting countries of the world, due to the decline of international oil prices that prevailed since mid-2014, and the resultant reduction in the contribution of oil and gas in the Gross Domestic product.

Oil is still the main source of income, but these conditions prompted the government to study new options, including cutting down government spending, speeding up the completion of main infrastructure projects, undertaking measures to maintain the competence of the national economy, increasing exports, achieving a good level of economic diversification, urging government units to offer better services and establishing long-term partnerships with the private sector as recommended by the 9th Five-Year Plan.

The five-year plan focused on five main promising sectors for partnerships with the private sector, namely converting industries, logistics, tourism, mining and fisheries. The plan also required diminishing dependence of government companies on government funding of projects and, instead, seeking funding for investment projects from local and international markets in accordance with novel solutions.

Within this context, the government has embarked on a practical executive programme code-named “Tanfeedh”, which seeks to improve investment climate, enhance the private sector’s role and increase the rates of investment in promising sectors specified in the 9thFive-Year Plan. The aim is to support the process of economic diversification, increase the rates of employment and achieve financial and economic stability in the medium term and boost social development.

It is worth noting that the International Monetary Fund has hailed the smart financial measures undertaken by the Sultanate’s government to cut budget deficit, including raising the efficiency of the tax system, rationalizing current spending and making reductions in capital spending. Commenting on regional economic prospects for the Middle East and Central Asia, the IMF noted that the Sultanate is exerting great efforts to encourage foreign investment.

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, who presided over a Council of Ministers meeting last May, expressed his satisfaction with the rates of economic and social growth and valued the government’s efforts to maintain the standard of services to citizens, despite the challenges. He commended the role of youth in the development march and underlined the need to upgrade their skills.

In mid-October 2017, the Sultan presided over another meeting of the Council of Ministers during which he lauded the efforts made to tackle the economic conditions brought about by international developments. He took note of the positive impact of these efforts in helping the Sultanate achieve appropriate rates in investment projects, while at the same time maintaining the services rendered to citizens.

The Sultanate’s commercial balance sheet 2017 posted a surplus of OMR492.5 million, according to preliminary statistics issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information. In 2016, surplus in the Sultanate’s commercial balance sheet hit OMR1.395.3 billion. That year, the value of commodity exports (like oil and gas) stood at RO5.840.3 billion, while non-oil exports value stood at OMR2.398.8 billion.

Among many oil and gas projects, the Sultanate this year announced the completion of the first phase of Khazzan gas production project. The majority of production from this project will go to the local market, while a small proportion will be sent to the LNG project in Sur from where it will be exported.

Education: Since the outset of the Omani renaissance, education was accorded great attention by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.

Statistics show that 588,399 students attended classes in the beginning of school year 2017-2018 at 1,129 government schools around the country. More than 16,000 students attend the Sultan Qaboos University, and the figure forms only part of the 135,493 higher education students in public and private institutions. As many as 6,297 Omani students study at universities and colleges abroad.

Health services in the Sultanate also developed considerably over the recent years. The Sultanate has 74 hospitals, of which 49 belong to the Ministry of Health, 6 operate under other government departments and 19 belong to the private sector. The Ministry of health also runs 206 health centres and polyclinics. Another 60 primary healthcare centres belong to the government, but they are not run by the Health Ministry. This is in addition to 1,105 clinics and diagnostic health centres belonging to the private sector.

The number of doctors at Ministry of Health establishments stood at 5,875. This is in addition to 13,700 workers in technical and administrative jobs, 14,587 nurses and 323 dentists.

The Sultanate, which conducted the second stage of immunization against measles (for people aged 20-35), is rated by international institutions as one of the leading countries in the field of wide-scale immunization. Oman took first place among 127 countries in the management of vaccines. The Sultanate is selected as the best model and it serves as a training centre for health workers from different countries.

In the field of employment, the Council of Ministers announced in a statement last month (October 2017) a programme to provide 25,000 jobs for Omanis in public and private establishments. The programme, which begins in December 2017, is the first stage of a long-term employment policy.

Food Security: Oman accords attention to the development of a comprehensive food security system, which includes ‘strategic storage’ of commodities, the liberalization of commodity imports to maintain the stability of prices, subsidizing some commodities, increasing food production and establishing a number of government companies entrusted to carry out this programme.

As part of the progamme, Mazoon Dairy, affiliated to Oman Food Investment Holding, signed an agreement recently for the setting up of a composite dairy project in Al Sinainah, Wilayat of Al Buraimi, to the tune of OMR28 million. Production will begin by the end of 2018.

Urban planning: Oman is embarked on a project to implement a long-term national urban development strategy which serves as a guide to all types of future urban development programmes. The project comes within a policy to maintain the sustainability of urban development in all governorates of the Sultanate, besides enhancing social and economic prosperity.

The Sultanate is carry out a National Energy Strategy, which seeks to diversify sources of energy and lay out a comprehensive plan for the mining sector, renewable energy and natural resources, all with the prime aim of enhancing economic diversification.

Electronic Governance: The Information Technology Authority (ITA) is designing infrastructure that helps government units to achieve digital transformation of their services as part of a strategy called eOman. E-Government is one of 7 pillars which support the digital strategy. Besides setting up infrastructure for the strategy, the ITA also conducts training and looks after the security of information. As a result, as many as 1,100 government departments and their branches offer 234 full-fledged e-services within the government network.

Foreign policy: In its relations with other countries, the Sultanate is adopting an approach based on values of peace, co-existence, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, as well as respect for principles of justice, equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of others. Oman is an advocate of settlement of disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with United Nations Charter and rules of the International Law with the prime aim of fostering confidence, mutual respect and good neighborliness in a manner that safeguards for nations their security, stability and prosperity.

Within this context, His Majesty the Sultan reiterated Oman’s support for all efforts made to establish peace and stability in this region so that its countries could continue their march of progress.

In the field of exchanging views at the highest ranks, Oman received President Hassan Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran (on 15 February 2017), Emir of Kuwait Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmed al-Sabah (on 20 February 2017), King Abdallah II of Jordan (on 14 May 2017) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (on 17 May 2017).

The Sultanate has always expressed its opinion clearly in international events about the need to maintain peace and dialogue as “the collective responsibility of all nations”, represented by the United Nations Organisation. Oman demanded that the UN be given a strong role to protect humanity from conflicts and wars. It pointed out that the continuation of political and economic disputes is the result of failure of the international community to honour its responsibility in assisting under-developed countries to achieve progress. This, the Sultanate observed, produced many problems, including global immigration, anarchy and instability in many regions of the world. It called for strong cooperation to address these issues.

In its speech before the UN 72nd General Assembly held in New York, the Sultanate called for the international organisation to be enabled to again lead the process of peace and development worldwide through the activation of its agencies, the assistance of all countries to achieve sustainable development, and the promotion of culture of cooperation, dialogue and peaceful co-existence.

The Sultanate also condemned all forms of terrorism, irrespective of its justifications. It reaffirmed its support for all efforts aimed at eliminating this phenomenon through proper action in accordance with international resolutions, treaties and agreements.

Environment protection: In global recognition for the Sultanate’s efforts to preserve the environment locally, regionally and internationally, the UNESCO announced the success of Singapore National Parks Board in taking first place and meriting the “UNESCO Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation 2017”. The award is the most prestigious international prize in this field. It has been designated, since 1989, by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and it has been awarded every two years since 1991 to institutions that excel in the field of environment conservation. The Singapore National Parks Board was presented with the prize during the World Science Forum in Jordan November 7-11 this year.

This year, the Omani march of renaissance led by His Majesty the Sultan enters into a new stage, inspired by achievements made over the past 47 years. It continues to gain momentum, thanks to the confidence instilled in the people by their leader, His Majesty the Sultan.

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