Muscat: Financial experts in Oman have suggested people to spend more to help grow the country’s economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the ideas mooted are more flexible plans for services offered, discounts at stores, and increasing the purchasing power of people, so that the consumer confidence remains strong, which would make them contribute more to the economy.
Shahswar Al Balushi, the head of the country’s Tanfeedh Labour Labs, said: “The emphasis here is to increase the purchasing power locally, create efficiency so that businesses can become profitable and grow. There should be more flexibility for businessmen who want to set up their businesses locally.”
Ahmed Al Hooti, the head of economic research at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that stores now needed to ensure customers brought business back to them.
“I think the shopkeepers and the businesses selling goods should create a new marketing plan,” he said. “Right now, there are many items that have been with them for three, four or even five months, and they have not been able to sell them because of the current situation. The customers also know that these goods are a little old, so if you sell it to them at full price, they will not like it.
“However, if you offer them discounts on these goods, then people will buy them. I feel that stores should have some sort of strategy that will encourage people to come and buy the things there,” he added.
“It is okay if they do not make profit for one month or so. After two or three months, the sales will pick up again and they will be okay. It is better that they do this for month, because if they don’t, they might suffer for a longer time.”
Al Hooti said that it was time for shops in the country to get creative and take the initiative to attract customers, so that they could quickly resume business and work towards again becoming profitable
“When it comes to making these kinds of schemes, there is not a lot the government can do to help, because this is between the shop and the customer, but maybe the government can help in other areas, such as asking for a reduction in rents or fees, to help the shopkeepers,” he added.
Advocating the need for people to visit stores instead of opting for online delivery, he said: “It is also better for people to come to the store and buy things, instead of buying them online because they have been given directions that they must follow if they have to reopen, to ensure everyone is safe. When you go to the shop, you are expected to wear a mask, there are people there who will take your temperature, and there are hand sanitisers available everywhere.
“But if you order delivery, you don’t know if the other person is maintaining the correct safety measures, he may not be wearing a mask, or he may not have sanitised his hands, so that way, you don’t know if you are risking infection,” added Al Hooti.
Shahswar Al Balushi, also spoke about how the private sector needed to take a more active role in a post-COVID economy, saying: “The government should not create new government-owned enterprises, but float their existing companies on the Muscat Securities Market, or sell them to the private sectors.”
Dr Anchan CK, an international trade advisor and founder of World Wide Business House, an advisory firm in Oman, added that retaining employees in companies would ensure there was money for them to spend in the local economy, thereby helping rebuild it once the pandemic has subsided.
“Holding on to employees will be the key factor: any employee at this time, we must understand, is also a consumer,” he explained. “Also any time you let go of an employee, it is going to be extremely difficult to part with an experienced employee of yours, particularly at the present time, and any time you want to get back that experience, it is going to be extremely challenging.
Anchan went on to say: “I do understand, that considering today’s economy, one of the questions asked is surely going to be about retaining employees in the current environment, but my message to the private sector is to discuss the ongoing situation with your employees and encourage them to give their best, because the kind of consumers we require within the country will take our country ahead. If you lose employees and consumers, then you will lose a lot of business, your costs will continue to inflate. You need to understand this link if you need to understand the value of retaining employment.”