Muscat: Investment in the private sector could very well be the solution to Oman’s economic problems, especially for big projects, which would nurture construction companies, as well as create more jobs.
Shahswar Al Balushi, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Oman Society of Contractors, said companies might be forced to reduce their workforce if actions are not taken to curb the current economic situation in the Sultanate.
“If the situation remains the same, we are going to face difficulties in maintaining the workforce that we have right now. If we do not have a clear indication of how the economy will be stimulated in the next five years, the company will be forced to take action to reduce their capacity,” said Al Balushi.
He further added that capacity reduction in companies will affect both the expatriate and Omani workforce.
Construction companies are being hurt more, according to Al Balushi, given the limited number of projects they have, as well as their size, and complications involved in hiring an expatriate workforce.
“In order to increase investment in the private sector, we need to stimulate the economy by making the economy flexible; by making the laws flexible; by encouraging foreign and local investment in the market and by creating opportunities for the private companies to do so,” Al Balushi suggested.
“We have to move from the dependence on the government for the economy and depend on the private sector for the economy to move forward... if not, we have a problem.”
Ahmed Al Hooti, a board member of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) is also of the view that the private sector is capable of contributing greatly to the Omani economy and it should be the primary focus for now.
“It’s logical. In any economic situation you should look for the promising sectors, such as the sectors that are able to work and develop,” said Al Hooti.
“There is no doubt that the private sector has a strong presence and can play a bigger role (in contributing to the economy). It is more capable of making it happen,” he added.
Issue of value addition
Al Hooti also noted that the Sultanate has many expatriates and simplifying procedures for hiring them is not considered an issue worth focussing on.
“It’s not an issue of simplifying procedures; Oman has a lot of expatriates, but the problem is some of those who arrive in the Sultanate are not able to create added value for the economy,” explained Al Hooti.
“Some of them want to work as anything and save for themselves. They are not able to provide for the economy,” he added.
When asked about the construction projects that are coming up and their capability to contribute to the economy, Al Hooti said those are limited in size and not big; “the big ticket projects can only be afforded by the government.”
“The expatriates won’t come for small projects, but for large ones; and to create large projects requires effort to be able to gather a large capital and attract big investors for them to offer their services to you and contribute to the country’s economy,” explained Al Hooti.
Said Al Saadi, advisor to the Minister of Manpower, agreed that investment from the private sector would make a big difference in the Omani economy.
“The private sector would be able to compensate for the economy in many areas of the sector,” said Al Saadi.
Meanwhile, Al Balushi from the Oman Society of Contractors, stated, “We have to make Oman ready for business. We cannot get the private sector to work if we are not ready for business.”