Traditionally, vacancies in the public sector have drawn a large percentage of university graduates. However, the inevitable transformation of employment policies due to the prevailing economic situation in our region, has witnessed a large number of young people gravitating towards private sector jobs.
Despite this development, a sizeable segment of the population still considers the public sector a better place to work than the private sector, mainly owing to the benefits government entities offer to their employees.
This concern, in addition to other factors, such as fear of the perceived risks, is discouraging a significant proportion of Omani youth from opting for careers in the private sector or even starting their own businesses.
This trend is hampering the growth of the country’s economy and preventing it from tapping into its full potential.
With Oman’s annual GDP registering a drop of 1.4 per cent in 2017, we are in urgent need of economic reforms that boost the growth, productivity and competitiveness of our private sector to revitalize the economy.
A delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that visited the country in April 2018 stressed the importance of economic diversification, creating jobs for citizens, and leveraging the capabilities of the private sector.
Despite the increase in oil prices in 2018 and its expected positive impact on reducing the budget deficit, it is imperative for Oman to act quickly to implement a legislative framework that encourages the set-up and growth of SMEs, including the appropriate investment law, public-private partnership law, and labour law.
The government must create a conducive environment to revive businesses and attract local and foreign investments.These steps are crucial to prevent future fluctuations in oil prices from affecting the country’s budget. According to data published by PwC Middle East, the expected deficit in the 2018 budget amounts to OMR3 billion, based on an oil price of US$50 per barrel.
It is worth noting that to cover the wages of government employees, the oil price should be no lower than US$60 per barrel. Therefore, our government must streamline Oman’s administration and reduce any unnecessary expenditure to ensure our citizens are minimally affected by any volatility in the market.
Furthermore, we must diversify the economy through stimulating non-oil sectors, such as tourism, industry, and financial services, thereby increasing the contribution of the private sector to the GDP, and encouraging innovation in entrepreneurship and digital economy.
In addition, we need to support entities that aim to enhance the skills of young Omanis to increase their chances of employment, such as the Youth Vision organization and its Teqdar (You Can) initiative.
Teqdar aspires to equip job seekers with skills that are in high demand among employers, such as critical analysis, multilingual oral and written communication, and defining mission priorities.
Participants of the initiative are mandated to deal with a series of challenges within a set timeframe in a competitive environment. The programs under the Teqdar umbrella seek to change misconceptions about jobs, work environments, and professional development.
Organizations such as Youth Vision and their initiatives are key drivers in strengthening our country’s economy and increasing its capability to adapt to changes in the region and across the globe.
Investing in these efforts is far more beneficial than pouring funds into creating government jobs or retraining government employees to perform other duties. Moreover, supporting these initiatives is the best way to leverage the innovative capabilities and creative energy of our youth for the benefit of the nation.
* The author is the Executive Chairman of Investcorp and an International Advisor to the Brookings Instituition. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman