Muscat: Registering a new company and applying for permits should be made easier to encourage the growth of the private sector and Omani economy, according to Redha Al Saleh, Vice President of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).
“The coming years will depend on the private sector and bringing investments into the country. If investors face difficulties here, they will find better opportunities in neighbouring countries. If you’re not going to make the process easier and more attractive, investors will not be encouraged, despite the stability and low taxes Oman enjoys”, said Al Saleh.
His comments were made while a special task force, within the Economic and Financial Committee of the Shura Council, is reviewing the challenges faced by the private sector in Oman, as well as ways to encourage its role in strengthening Oman’s GDP,as the economy is being affected by the decrease in oil prices.
According to a press release by the Shura Council, the task force has reviewed a number of challenges faced by the private sector, including complex and slow procedures in government organisations, Omanisation in the private sector, and procedures to attract investment. Also, Tawfiq Al Lawati, member of the Economic and Financial Committee, noted that the private sector faces numerous challenges, including too many regulations and permits needed to establish a business.
“If you want to establish a hotel, you have to apply for ten permits and it takes years to get them”, he said. In addition, remarked Al Lawati, too many government departments are involved in issuing approvals and permits, and there is often a delay in processing them.
Al Saleh said that along with slow procedures for establishing companies and applying for permits, government employees often do not have the authority needed to serve customers quickly.
“When people register their company at our one-stop [shop], their application has to go to the concerned ministry. And there the delay starts. One-stop should have real power and the right people to make a decision on the spot”, he urged. He added that applicants should not have to return to the Ministry before completing their registration.
Al Saleh said procedures should be computerised to streamline the application process.
“Every time you go to a ministry, you have to give them a bunch of the same documents over and over. Instead, everything should be digitalised. We need to make it easier for the private sector”, he said. He added that the ministries, in general, are cooperative,though companies still face problems.
An official of a refreshment company, who preferred not to be named, said his colleagues also faced long delays before receiving approvals. “We wanted to introduce changes to one of our product labels. It took months just to get approval from the authorities”, he recalled.
Additionally, an Omani entrepreneur who recently opened a restaurant, told the Times of Oman that he faced many problems and delays while dealing with authorities.
He said that when the municipality came to approve the restaurant’s drawings, they “took a long time to inspect and went into too much detail, while I just wanted to have my drawings approved.”
Also, he said that he had to make significant investments before applying for work permits for his staff. “How can I be sure of the future of my company, if I do not even hire the staff before investing in the business?”, he asked.
He noted that, instead, procedures should be more similar and more flexible in order to speed the issuing of permits.