Expatriates of different nationalities still find Oman an ideal place to work despite the current economic uncertainty.
The Sultanate is still among the cheapest countries in the world, certainly in the region as well. Cost of living here is reasonable and it has always been during the last 46 years. The reason expatriates find it even more attractive is because of the wonderful multi-racial community that coexists in harmony. The ever changing Oman has a vibrant feeling and a safe environment to raise children too. The local culture and heritage are compatible with the background of most expatriates.
Perhaps Oman attracts most expatriates, who are looking for a laidback atmosphere. The fact that it does not have the razzmatazz some countries have makes Oman an ideal place to live and work for those, who are looking for tranquillity and an easygoing life. But Oman is not just a magnet for foreign workers, but business people as well, who still find it profitable to operate here. It is not uncommon for an expatriate, who comes here almost penniless to own a thriving trade within a decade of arriving here. The evidence is in the trades that line up the shopping streets of Muscat.
To attract more people to do business here, Oman is expected to pass a foreign investment law that would allow expatriates to establish SMEs (small and medium enterprises), with an investment of just OMR150,000 without a sponsor. It will be a further boon that should make Oman more attractive than it is now, in terms of investments. Contrary to the belief of many, higher domestic petrol prices and a freezing of wages have not hurt the Sultanate’s reputation as an ideal work destination.
During the first six months of this year, the private sector employed nearly 1 per cent more expatriate workers than in the first six months of 2015. It may be a modest increase, but is very encouraging.
Most of the expatriates are still here, even though the private sector was expected to cut down on staff recruitment. So it is not a one way sentiment. Employers are showing the willingness to hold on to their ‘assets’ to ride the rough economic weather without compromising their operations. At the same time, private companies, despite holding on to their expatriate staff, have still managed to create enough jobs for Omani nationals. This is another advantage for the country, which continues to promote consistency and working partnerships between the locals and expatriates, who are working alongside each other.
On the other hand, Oman should be grateful for the confidence expatriates have in the country to stick through the hard times. It proves that both sides have faith in each others’ abilities to rise to the challenge. It is a partnership that has worked well for decades and it is the same partnership that will continue for many decades to come. We may recall the 1970s when Oman had no infrastructure, but expatriates still came in large numbers to build a country and to lift it from relative obscurity.
People may argue that expatriates get the financial benefits of staying here, but it is their faith in the country that provides the weight to the development to a nation that still has a lot of ground to cover. The majority of expats also recognise the benefits of not having to pay taxes, as all of them associate the country with a lower tax system. Almost all of them would say they have more disposable income here than in their home countries. However, having said that, expatriates spend more money in their adopted country than at home.
A simple calculation would reveal that tens of millions of rials a year would be missing from circulation if 1.8 million expatriates pull put from Oman. There are no official statistics, but it is safe bet that more than half of their incomes end up in the local market every month. In conclusion, expatriates currently weather the storm convinced that the good times are around the corner. They also know the economical fundamentals are still good enough to keep them here.