Muscat: Oman’s industrialisation and development of human capital can prove to be the best diversification strategy for Oman. This was the outcome of a panel discussion hosted by the Muscat chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) under the sponsorship of the College of Banking and Financial Studies (CBFS), which organised a panel discussion entitled, “Oman Economy—Sustainability by Economic Diversification.”
Abdulmalik Abdullah Al Hinai, a prominent economist and advisor at the Ministry of Finance (MoF) was the Chief Guest at the event.
Speaking at the event, Al Hinai stated that achieving sustainability through economic diversification is always a priority. Skills development and professional education of relatively young Omani human resources holds the key to the future sustainability of the economy. Professionally qualified Omani talent can prove to be the stepping stone for future growth and economic diversification. This may necessitate setting up more world class educational and academic institutions within Oman, he added.
Sheikh Nasser Sulaiman Al Harthy, director general of Financial Investments at MoF, along with Mohammed Abdullah Al Mamari, director of Financial Investments were also present.
The Chapter Chairman, N. Sreedhar, welcomed the dignitaries and guests. Delivering the key note address, Amaranth Bakhat emphasised on fiscal discipline and highlighted diversification strategies being implemented.
A panel discussion followed and a panel of five professionals deliberated upon numerous innovative ideas for the diversification of economy that included making Oman a regional oil and gas transit hub by first achieving “zero crude export” and then further developing the downstream petrochemical industries, including surplus refining capacity importing crude and exporting petrochemical products.
The development of dedicated Special Tourist Zones on the lines of Special Economic Zones to mitigate social impact of tourism was another idea.
The potential for using subsidised gas as a lucrative tool for the industrialisation of the economy to attract energy intensive industries, including basic metal smelters on the
back of world class infrastructure and investor friendly policies, was also evaluated.
The possibilities of offering electricity to potential investors at lower prices by utilising the idle power generation capacity during a non-summer lean season was elaborated.
The panel also deliberated upon the divestment strategy and opined that probably this is not the right time to divest as the valuations will be low and the Government may rather want to resort to external borrowings and utilisation of reserves to finance the budget deficit. It was also mentioned that having a budget deficit is a normal economic phenomenon and with a very low debt to GDP ratio, Oman can easily raise funds overseas riding on excellent reputation, good ratings and strong economic fundamentals.
The panel of five professionals included Ashok Hariharan, partner, KPMG, Said Al Mandhari, chief executive officer, Oman Broadband Company SAOC, Badar Al Hashmi, vice president, IIA Oman, Avadh Kishore, director, Finance at OTE group and Adnan
Al Alawi, co-founder and chief operating officer at Frendi Mobile.
The panel discussion was moderated by Mubeen Khan, vice chairman of the Muscat Chapter of ICAI.