Muscat: Oman’s natural resources must be developed through a strong work ethic, Malaysia’s former prime minister said in a speech on Tuesday.
The Oman Chamber of Commerce hosted Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the former PM of Malaysia, during the third Duqm Society and Economy Forum on Tuesday, held under the patronage of His Highness Sayyid As’aad bin Tariq Al Said.
At the forum, the former PM spoke on investment opportunities and a diversification vision for Oman, especially in the tourism, logistics and industrial sectors.
The former PM emphasised the need for the country to open up to foreign investment, much like Malaysia. “With Malaysia’s limited experience in manufacturing, we decided not to be too patriotic and instead opened doors to foreign companies. Foreign companies came with their technology, as well as capital, which has helped develop the skills of citizens,” Mohammed said.
He also explored a strategy for Oman to implement that would make use of the country’s natural resources.
Beautiful rock and beach
“Oman does not have large agricultural land like Malaysia, but it has very beautiful rock and beach areas that are far superior to ours (Malaysia). Malaysia is not an attractive tourist destination, but in Oman you have many palaces and castles.”
“Initially, the Sultanate of Oman must determine the assets and wealth it possesses, such as security, history, land and tourism. You have to market your country and create a landmark brand, and you must teach your people how to maintain this standard, and how to retain the quality image,” he stressed.
The former PM also talked about Oman’s oil resources.
“Oman has a small population and produces a huge amount of oil, which is a great economic asset. The wise decision is not to rely on one income source, so we have to exploit existing possibilities.” “We have found that developed countries focus on industry, research and innovation in an unconventional way. In Malaysia, we firstly identified the qualities of the developed state and discovered that it is a society armed with knowledge and the ability to venture out,” he said.
A panel session following Mohamad’s speech discussed the many points he had brought up before the audience. The panel included Sheikh Salim Al Siyabi, chairman of the Siyabi World Group; Khamis Al Kiyumi, chairman of the Al Madina Real Estate Company; Sheikh Salem Al Ghazali, chairman of Golden Group Holding; and Tawfiq Al Lawati, chairman of the Economic Committee of the Shura Council.
“The countries of the world are rushing to bring in foreign investments, so we have to give up some restrictions as Dr. Mahathir mentioned, to bring investment,” said Al Kiyumi.
Sheikh Al Ghazali also echoed this sentiment, saying, “First, we have to bring companies to the Sultanate, and then only gradually introduce Omanisation and not impose restrictions, especially since neighbouring countries have been easing processes for jobs.”
Sheikh Al Siyabi highlighted Mohamad’s focus on the Japanese work ethic as central to a productive workforce.
“Mahathir Mohamad said the Japanese believe in work ethic, and sanctified it and focused on quality. Malaysia has therefore benefited a lot from this experience, focusing on teamwork, instead of every government entity working separately,” he said.
Tawfiq Al Lawati addressed the shortcomings regarding the labour market, saying, “We must admit that we failed to prepare citizens to enter the labour market, so there is a gap between human resources and the market. We need to develop a vision and strategies to know where we are, and where do we go from here. And if we are not honest with ourselves, we may find that 2040 will be worse than 2020.”
Mohamad, however, praised the country’s peaceful stance, and encouraged it to retain this security over the next years.
“The Sultanate of Oman must retain its safety and peace, because changing governments can lead to unpredictable and non-ideal possibilities and risks. For peace, you have to work with different denominations even if you have reached the government on your strength alone, you must cooperate with others.”