Muscat: One of Oman’s top business chiefs has thrown his weight behind the two-year visa ban for expats without a No Objection Certificate (NOC), branding arguments about the negative effect on the Sultanate’s economy as “mere exaggeration”.
Writing exclusively in the Times of Oman, Said bin Saleh Al Kayoumi, chairman of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), said each country has the right to promulgate laws that are consistent with its vision and that serve the national economy. Al Kayoumi insisted that labour protection practices in Oman are among the best in the world and said of the two-year ban, “there are more pros to the decision than the cons”.
He said there are many examples of business suffering due to some unhealthy practices of domestic workers. Often companies train their staff but they quit as soon as they receive a better offer.
He also said the visa ban rule “protects employers from the greed of employees” who come to know their companies’ trade secrets and know-how.
His words will be welcomed by some industry leaders, but Sunday’s front page story in Times of Oman on the Royal Oman Police advising bosses they could be more generous with NOCs received tremendous attention, being shared hundreds of times on Facebook and attracting more than 150 comments, the majority of which called for a change in the law.
Here is the full transcript of Said bin Saleh Al Kayoumi’s statement to the Times of Oman: OCCI is making steady efforts to enforce Article 11 of the expatriate residence laws, thanks to the government for positive response.
“Article 11 in the Passport and Residence Act in Oman states that the employment visa will not be issued to any foreigner who has previously worked in Oman but has not completed two years from the date of last departure. The Inspector General may not enforce this article when the public interest requires so.
The OCCI has been calling for the enforcement of this article (11). Arguments about its negative effect on the Omani economy are mere exaggeration.
The pros are more than the cons of this decision.
The Sultanate, as it is the case with any other country, has the right to promulgate national laws that protect its people and economy. This right does not contradict with international conventions.
Moreover, the enforcement of the decision ensures stable work environment, especially for SMEs, and limits non-regularised employee turnover. It also limits the illicit trade which harms the Omani economy. It also protects employers from the greed of employees who have been exposed to their companies’ trade secrets and knowhow and as well deter them from disclosing confidential information.
The examples of suffering from the practices of domestic workers are many. Many companies also train some of their staff until they get a driving licence. After getting this licence, he will submit his resignation because he got a better offer or he may lease a vehicle and do illicit trade.
Unfortunately, some employees blackmail their employers because they know the trade sectors. If this decision is not implemented, some may act badly.
As for the concerns about the image of the Sultanate and honouring its commitments to international conventions it has signed, it should be noted that the Omani Labour Law is favouring the employee. Having said this, such a stance should not prejudice the national economy.
It should be noted that the Sultanate’s practices in terms of labour rights are among the best in the world and even far better than the situation in many advanced countries. It is, thus, illogical to request the Sultanate to enforce laws that are not enforced in their own countries. If we have a quick look at the laws of the countries that call for freedom of trade, we will find that they have strict labour laws that in some cases target specific nationalities. How can such countries request us to enforce law that they are not enforcing?
After the expiry of the two years’ period from the date of departure, the employee has the right to come back to the Sultanate at any time. Moreover, the employee may come back to work in the Sultanate any time after departure if he received an NOC from his employer.
On the other hand, International Labour Organisation is in discussions about setting minimum wages and providing employees with a decent living. A number of labour exporting countries to the Sultanate insist on setting a minimum wage. We are respecting the laws of these countries; therefore they are required to respect our laws. Some of these countries ban the entry of some Omani exports to their countries to protect their industries. It is also our right to take whatever decision to protect our country as long as it does not contradict with the international charters.
We have to point out that those targeted by this decision are not humble labourers. The OCCI advocates giving simple labourers the right to come back to the Sultanate at any time. The targeted category includes leaders and those occupying senior technical and managerial positions. We may seek the opinion of the employer to take a decision on the same. We affirm here that if OCCI believes that any employer is manipulating this right, it will support the humble labourers’ right to come back any time.
The OCCI, as a representative of the private sector organisation, is making steady efforts to enhance the growth of the different sectors and provide whatever possible support to serious investors. The OCCI is ready to facilitate the investors’ procedures and exclude them from the implementation of such an article, subject that they prove their seriousness and willingness to come back for investment.”