No objection to NOC, Oman government poll reveals

Energy Saturday 01/July/2017 22:35 PM
By: Times News Service
No objection to NOC, Oman government poll reveals

Muscat: Almost 60 per cent of the tens of thousands of residents who voted in an online government poll want the No Objection Certificate rule to stay.
Get your essential daily briefing delivered direct to your email inbox with our e-newsletter
A government unit had launched online polls recently, in English and Arabic, asking people to vote on whether the rule – which bars expats from working in Oman for two years if they don’t have the NOC from their employer – should be scrapped.
The government’s Implementation Support and Follow-Up Unit (ISFU), created to drive through diversification programmes in the Sultanate, created the polls via its official twitter account.
Results from the English language poll revealed that 56 per cent of voters support the NOC rule, while 42 per cent said they do not, with the remaining two per cent “unsure”.
Results from the Arabic poll indicated that a majority of residents – 62 per cent - “disagree” with removing the NOC guideline. Only 32 per cent of voters “agree” with removing the regulation, while six per cent were unsure.
When both polls are taken together, the votes show that 59 per cent of people who voted support the NOC regulation, while 32 per cent on average want to see it removed.
In all 7,117 votes were cast in the Arabic poll, while the English language poll received 28,738 votes. With 35,855 total votes, the polls show that about 20,506 votes went for the regulation, while 14,347 votes went against the NOC regulation, with 1,002 unsure voters.
The Arabic language poll received almost 400 comments debating the topic, while the English language poll had a staggering 2.1 thousand comments in its Twitter thread. The comments featured conflicting opinions regarding the measure, and solutions that would find middle ground with regards to amending NOCs.
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 jobs 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 have been conducting meetings with different Tanfeedh initiative teams, in order to evaluate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and find solutions for the challenges that face Oman and a non-oil future.
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 employers and employees.
There were, however, mixed responses following the results.
Omani national, Mohammed Al Siyabi said, “While this regulation has in many instances led to the loss of individuals with competencies and experiences to neighbouring countries, 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.”
Another Omani national, 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, “We demand that the employee be allowed to move, in order to allow small and medium enterprises to attract experienced staff from the local market.”
Ahmed Al Hooti, an Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) member, believes that NOC can be removed depending on the sector.
“As an SME leader, you can remove it but not in all sectors. For example, let’s focus on the sector that produces Omani Halwa. If we don’t have the NOC in place, then that employee will be able to leave to another company with the secret to producing that particular Halwa.
“In return, the employee will start competing against the original owner. We are in a very small market with limited opportunities. They’re just trying to save themselves. 90 per cent of SME owners don’t agree with getting rid of the NOC - their main concern is their employees turning around and freelancing with their product. We respect the rights of the laborers but the market is small,” Al Hooti said.
President of the Bangladesh Social Club Muscat, Mohammed Shafiqul Islam Bhuiyan, said employers and employees should come to a mutual agreement regarding issuing NOC. “Companies spend huge money in bringing workers and training from other countries. So, it is not wise that you leave the company after training,” he said, adding that it is totally at the discretion of an employer whether to give it or not. “So I think the poll result was right,” he added.
A CEO of a private company said that the employees looking for NOC should pay for visa charges and the money spent on training them.
Manpreet Singh, Chairman of the Indian Social Club in Salalah, said that from a business perspective the NOC should stay as they invest a lot of money for hiring expats. “But if you ask me as Chairman of Indian Social Club in Salalah, then I think the NOC should be withdrawn from the employees’ point of view.”