Muscat: Strengthening Oman’s economy from within will make it stronger, say financial experts in the country.
During a webinar organised by Times of Oman, senior professionals who work across various sectors of the Sultanate, said the COVID-19 challenges would provide many opportunities for businesses to grow in the future, but it requires a spirit of cooperation from all sectors.
“Every country right now, going forward after COVID-19, is going to look at its internal economy,” said Shahswar Al Balushi, who’d headed the labour labs organised under Tanfeedh, Oman’s plan for economic diversification.
“It is going to look at making its local businesses grow, and Oman has to do the same. If you build your local business, you are going to be strengthening it, and then you are going to be ready for foreign investments to come in the future.
“For that to happen, you need to look at strengthening the small businesses, whether they are entering into small industrial projects, on the side of tourism, or in logistics, fisheries, agriculture, transport, and the regulations and the incentives,” he added.
“In terms of the ability to do that, you need to remember that we have been inside a box before the coronavirus, and we are now in a different box during corona, and we are going into a different box after corona.
“We need to be ready, we need to be forward thinkers, on how we would like to shape that box,” explained Al Balushi.
“I see a great deal of opportunity, I see it is the time for us to change, I see it is the time for the community to work together create the right environment for building a strong local economy. We are not going to get foreign investors coming in now, because most of them are going to be doing investments in their own country, we should be doing investments in our own country, by the locals and the expatriates that are here. We should build this economy from inside, rather than wait until those outside come in.”
As in countries across the world, Oman’s aviation sector has been badly hit by the coronavirus, with nearly all flights currently grounded. Among the exceptions to this are special flights to bring medical supplies from China, perishable supplies from India, and those requested by embassies or private companies. However, Saleem Amanullah, the vice president of ground operations at Oman Air, said precautions needed to be taken to ensure passengers were confident enough to fly once airlines resumed services.
“There is work in progress to see how we can become COVID-compliant or COVID-protected to look at the restart in whatever shape or form it is,” he explained. “We need to get the confidence of the consumer and convince them that it is safe to travel, and prove to them that we are in control, and to prove to the international airports and other countries that we are in the best form, that at Oman Airports, we are COVID-compliant.”
Dr Anchan CK, an economist and trade advisor in the Sultanate, also agreed with consumer confidence being an important factor in ensuring the economy regained strength once it restarted.
“I strongly believe that at this point of time, it is important for us to take care of our consumers,” he explained. “Consumers are our key strategic element for any business at this time. What we need to understand and look at is once the economy reopens, how well we are able to take care of our consumers, how we need to take care of our employees, and what is the next step we need to take in this direction.
“We really need to understand how we are going to revive things,” added Anchan. “We do know there are challenges across all sectors, so this is a time where we can complement, rather than compete. This is a time when the private sectors and individuals need to come forward, understand this and get together.”