Muscat: Omani citizens have welcomed the Social Security Scheme launched by the Ministry of Finance, with the endorsement of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik.
Hilal Al Amrani, a businessman from Wilayat Sohar in North Al Batinah, said the initiative showed the efforts being taken by the government to help local businesses during the challenging times of the pandemic.
“When you find His Majesty issuing these decisions, you realise that our Sultan and the government have great interest in supporting businesses and SMEs to help them overcome the difficulties we currently face,” he said.
“I can only thank His Majesty the Sultan for his support, and his confidence and determination in our ability to overcome all the difficulties we experience currently.”
Adding to this, Mohammed Al Badi from Wilayat Saham said, “This has come at a time when many of us who have been affected by the coronavirus are in need of such assistance. These decisions by His Majesty are a message to every citizen that although we might be affected by the pandemic, our Sultan displays a keen interest in the welfare of his citizens, and Omani society.
“This gives us reassurance of His Majesty’s closeness to us, and shows us he is aware of the challenges we face in light of the pandemic,” he added.
“I am very proud of what His Majesty has provided for us. This shows we have a leader who is compassionate, caring, and listens to his people and society,”
Among the plans of the Social Security Scheme (SSS) are improved support to programmes run by the Ministry of Social Development to handle cases relating to insolvency, and the absolving of debts linked to the soft housing loans programme of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning, for citizens who earn less than OMR350 a month.
All outstanding dues of citizens enrolled under two initiatives – the Sanad Programme and the Livelihood Resources Programme – are also to be written off. Furthermore, through Oman Development Bank, interest free financial incentives are to be provided to those involved in sales and mobile services, homemakers, taxi owners licensed to operate in hotels and airports, women’s empowerment projects, and those employed in the fisheries sector.
Emergency financing will also be provided to holders of Riyada cards through the SME Development Authority, while those who have applied for the Job Security Benefit scheme and meeting its criteria will receive extended benefits. Applications of people that have been received beyond their deadline will also be considered. This extension is to run until the end of 2021.
The package was developed under the directives of His Majesty the Sultan to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, in collaboration with other government bodies, to study and assess the situations companies find themselves in, owing to the adverse economic climate.
The step also enhances the stability of the labour market and ensures companies continue to contribute towards supporting balanced economic growth, per the role of the private sector concerning Oman Vision 2040.
The SSS was also welcomed by Dr Hammoud bin Ahmed Al Yahyai, the chairman of the Social Services and Development Committee of the Majlis Al Shura, who said, “This is important to maintain a decent and stable standard of living for Omani society, ensuring the institutionalisation and proper targeting of social aid, which will make it easy for some families – including people with disabilities and the elderly – to meet their housing and living standards.”
“We hope that job seekers are also included within the benefits provided under the job security scheme, and stress the need to support national efforts in creating an integrated database for better distribution of social protection,” he added.
Laila Al Najjar, the Minister of Social Development, speaking to Oman TV, said, “These initiatives are complementary to each other in stimulating companies in helping them carry out their economic roles, as well as helping society by protecting people from the challenges they face.”
Dr Khalfan Al Shuaili, the Minister of Housing and Urban Planning, called these measures a ‘gracious blessing’, and added, “we will work to put these into practice so that we can help achieve the aspirations of our society.”
Redha bin Juma Al Saleh, chairman of the OCCI, said, “The package of social protection initiatives issued by His Majesty to help resolve issues related to the economy, and the provision of social facilities, will have positive effects in the short and long-term on companies in the private sector. The emergency financial programme will help entrepreneurs grow and develop their businesses, raise their contribution to the economy, and enhance their role in employing Omani nationals.”