Muscat: Despite COVID-19 pandemic, the projects and initiatives under Oman’s Tanfeedh plans have shown robust progress in achieving the key performance indicators (KPIs), the Economic Diversification Report 2020 reveals.
The National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification (Tanfeedh) is an economic initiative started to ensure both public and private sectors have a part in the government’s economic diversification plan as fixed by the Ninth Five-Year Plan in line with Oman’s Vision 2040.
This report helps in preparing the targeted economic sectors to cope with the requirements of Oman Vision 2040, and accelerate the economic diversification through identifying methodologies that include implementing projects and initiatives, and finding solutions to the challenges they are facing.
In order to reduce the dependence on the oil sector, Tanfeedh had identified several sectors like manufacturing, logistics, tourism, labour market and employment, business environment, fisheries, energy, mining and information and communication technology (ICT). The report further elaborates on the progress made by these sectors.
Despite the challenges COVID-19 pandemic, the manufacturing sector projects made good progress in 2020 due to huge efforts made by the projects’ owners and teams. As a result, the manufacturing dashboard, which contains 23 projects and initiatives, showed 61 per cent achievement in 2020. In addition, its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) reached 10.8 per cent in 2020.
Omani ports showed excellent performance, efficiency and reliability, as the general cargo handled from January to the end of December 2020 reached around 54 million tonnes, and the number of containers that were handled reached around 5.2 million, with an increase of 5 per cent compared to 2019.
Khazaen Project is one of the most significant integrated economic cities in the Sultanate. It is strategically located in the Wilayat of Barka between Sohar Port, Muscat Airport and Muscat City, and is being developed over 51.6 million square metres.
Moreover, after being a department under Oman Shipping Company, Oman Container Lines (OCL) expansion project was introduced in 2018, in order to become a specialised company in moving containers. In 2020, the focus was mainly on volume growth, service expansion, signing vessel sharing agreements and entering new markets. Also, OCL is offering value added services and reefer container services starting from 2021 onwards, in order to promote connectivity between Omani ports, introduce new direct lines to connect them with some regional centres, and attract major liner operators.
Tourism sector is one of the dynamic sectors directly affected by the local and international circumstances. In 2020, the sector, like many other sectors, was affected by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite challenges faced by the sector, the former Ministry of Tourism (MoT) worked hard towards achieving the milestones set for 2020.
Labour market and employment
The ISFU followed up a range of initiatives that serve to enhance the national workforce in compliance with the constantly changing labour market.
This is done by adapting policies and procedures, like recruitment in real estate, facilitation of part-time and temporary work and movement of labour in the private sector, in addition to enhancing recruitment policies in the ministries overseeing the economic sectors.
Also, the former ISFU, in cooperation with the former Ministry of Manpower (MoMP), worked on providing solutions in line with the economic situation, such as activating the former National Centre for Employment and establishing the Job Security Fund.
In addition, it supported the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through an initiative that lists the jobseekers in the logistics sector, and finding entrepreneurship opportunities.
The labour reconciliation committees were able to increase the percentage of labour disputes resolved at the ministry to above 60 per cent in 2020.
Business environment is one of the most enabling sectors for the national economy. The overall goal of the business environment team under the former ISFU was to enhance the investment environment, as well as facilitate the services within the sector.
In addition to the main dashboard of the business environment sector and the two separate dashboards developed in 2019: ‘Invest Easy’ and ‘Lean’, ‘Doing Business’ dashboard was introduced in 2020.
As all economic sectors in Oman, the fisheries sector was affected by the widespread COVID-19 in 2020. However, there were some success stories in 2020 where a number of projects have operated effectively despite the crises. For instance, the first commercial abalone aquaculture project in Oman was launched in December 2020. Moreover, commercial fishing continued to grow as the fishing fleet of Al Wusta Company maintained its fishing trips rate in 2020.
The Sultanate seeks to diversify energy resources, through implementing several alternative energy projects and improving their efficiency. This is for the aim of meeting the increasing need for electricity, in order for the participation of renewable energy resources to reach a range of about 20 per cent and 35-39 per cent of total power generation in the years 2030 and 2040, respectively. Consequently, the total investment in renewable energy will increase gradually in the coming years to support the shift to the energy mix, as per the target of Oman Vision 2040.
The mining sector in Oman has great potential in diversifying the national economy. The wide range of minerals in the country create significant opportunities for investors. Consequently, bringing more investments will help increase the national income, exports, and job opportunities for Omanis.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
All entities utilised technology as the safe haven to solve the challenges that faced the work environment, as the pandemic proved the importance of digitisation for all kinds of services.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) played a key role in managing the situation through providing several applications to deliver groceries, goods and restaurant orders, and such service providers were allowed to reach the areas that were locked down. In addition, technology companies benefited the most from the pandemic, especially the ones providing services that can be leveraged while staying at home, like digital broadcasts, video calls, and video-conferences. Moreover, the pandemic encouraged the entities to accelerate the pace of work in their projects, as commercial entities and individuals were allowed to provide video conferencing services, which increased the efficiency of working outside the office.
Knowledge transfer programme
Since its establishment in August 2020, the unit designed and held several workshops with government entities responsible for economic sectors. All these workshops were part of a comprehensive program to transfer knowledge, as well as sharing initiative development process, in order for relevant entities to complete the economic diversification initiatives and projects. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economy is monitoring the progress of Tanfeedh initiatives and projects and tracking its outputs to ensure that goals are achieved.
During these workshops, the unit shared the progress made in the implementation of economic diversification projects and initiatives, as they contribute to achieving Oman Vision 2040, in addition to exploring a methodology to follow up and support programs of vision priorities and preparing the entities for the next phase.
Moreover, the unit worked on the development workshops with the relevant entities, in order to design a framework for Attracting Private Investments and Enhancing the Presence of Omani Exports in Foreign Markets Programme (Invest in Oman), aiming at identifying investment projects and initiatives for every economic sector in the next three years (2021-2023).