Muscat: Residents are busy voting in a government poll asking whether Oman’s hotly debated No Objection Certificate (NOC) rule should stay or go.
A government unit launched the public poll via social media yesterday seeking opinions from residents in Oman.
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And so far hundreds of expats and Omanis alike have not been not slow to offer them.
The poll closes in five days and already there are hundreds of conflicting comments and votes for and against.
The Implementation Support and Follow-Up Unit (ISFU) wants to raise public awareness regarding the NOC ahead of any decision being made about its future in the Sultanate.
The Unit posted an infographic online with a definition of the NOC: “The NOC is a document granted by an employer for expatriates that desire to move to a different sponsorship at the end of their contract.
“In cases where there is disagreement, and the employee does not wish to continue at the job, he will be banned from entering the country for two years.
“Some business owners believe that NOCs lead to restrictive movement of workers, and decrease their productivity, and therefore lead to barriers in front of business with regards to attracting talent from world markets, while others see that NOCs protect trade and client secrets, and therefore the NOC is considered positive in their work.”
The poll is running on the ISFU’s Twitter account, and asks whether individuals support its removal.
The Arabic poll, as of 10am on Thursday, received 910 votes, with 61 per cent agreeing with 'removing NOCs', 33 per cent disgreeing with 'removing NOCs', and six per cent "not sure" votes.
The English poll, as of 10am on Thursday, received 609 votes, with 80 per cent unsupportive of NOCs, 18 per cent supportive of NOCs, and two per cent "not sure" votes.
Mixed reactions accompany the thread, with individuals calling for keeping the NOC regulation in order to keep expats from moving to different sponsorship and protecting company secrets.
In 2014, Omani authorities implemented a two-year ban for expatriates, if they fail to acquire a No Objection Certificate from their current employer in order to switch sponsorship to a different employer in the Sultanate.
Without the NOC, expats have to leave the country and cannot return for a period of two years. According to government officials, the rule was implemented to stop expatriates switching jobs and joining competing firms.
The Implementation Support and Follow Up-Unit has been conducting meetings with different Tanfeedh initiative teams, in order to evaluate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and find solutions for the challenges that face the Tanfeedh teams.
Tanfeedh, the government think tank charting the economic future of Oman, held a series of ‘labs’ last year where experts from the public and private sectors brainstormed for six weeks to come up with solutions for the Sultanate’s economy.
The labour lab, headed by Shahswar Al Balushi, had drawn up proposals around the NOC regulation to make it fairer to both employer and employee.
Welcoming the survey, Bangladesh Social club President Mohammed Shafiqul Islam Bhuiyan, said the government body will able to find out about opinions of the people and the business houses. “I think then the government can decide whether they can keep the NOC or remove it,” he said.
Farhat Shaikh from Elite HR solutions and services said: “I think finding out whether NOC is good or not from the companies itself is a very good idea. The survey should work well to understand what the companies want from employees as the whole environment can’t just be focused on employees. There are a lot of companies banking on this so we need to make sure we move ahead carefully with this.”
Mohammed Al Siyabi said: “I think it would be more useful to have a No Objection Certificate for non-educated expatriate workers, but I believe that university degree holders should be exempt.
“If we recall, the most important reason for the requirement of a Certificate of No Objection was the instability of sponsorship with unskilled labour, because of the more tempting offers by other citizens.”
Khalid Al Balushi said: “This regulation has a positive and negative side. Some employers have misused it against expat employees.” Another Omani explained why restrictions should be eased. “The employee should be allowed to move, in order to allow small and medium enterprises to attract experienced staff from the local market.”
Indian Social Worker, P M Jabir, said: “It is a very good move. It should have been done long ago. I think they need opinions of business community about this to take the right decision. I will be happy to see NOC being removed after this survey process.”