Muscat: Oman will celebrate the Industry Day on Saturday, February 9. The event is held every year by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) in commemoration of the visit of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said to Rusayl Industrial Estate on February 9, 1991.
Dr Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidi, Minister of Commerce and Industry, will meet industrialists and those interested in the industrial sector at Hotel Sheraton Ruwi on Sunday, February 10. A number of officials of the ministry will also be present at the occasion.
The meeting will discuss the challenges faced by the industrial sector and the requirements of the next stage to increase its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and boost the economic development, said Sami Salim Al Sahib, Director General of Industries in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
He said that the ministry was continuously working to update industrial development strategy, including detailed plans for the sub-sectors and strengthen governance of the industrial sector. It is also making efforts to increase the value added to the local industries to embolden the position of national industries at the local, regional and global levels.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is currently focussed on implementation of the ‘In Country Value’ (ICV) Programme in the Sultanate in coordination with the concerned authorities. For the purpose, the experience of Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) in the implementation of the ICV for all facilities dealing with the company is being used. The ministry is keen to do ideal implementation of the value added program. It would require change in some of the policies and legislations to ensure the success of the program.
Therefore, a committee has been formed under the chairmanship of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry with membership of a number of undersecretaries of various ministries and senior officials of the concerned organisations. This main committee regarding the ICV held two meetings during the year 2018.
The committee is aimed at development of a national value added program by studying the related data and research work carried out by the concerned organisations and assessing the level and capacity of the local industries, types and volume of buyers from other sectors like health and tourism.
It would also look into the new investment opportunities on which ICV can be implemented in addition to finding mechanism to strengthen existing industries, knowing the current policies to its study and suitable solutions.
The committee is identify two sectors in the first phase of the implementation. It will also develop strategic plan for the ICV and achieve the desired objectives. It is expected that the first phase will be completed during the first half of this year. As for the details of the work plan and how to follow the progress of the work through the electronic system in the next stage or linking them to PDO system will be approved during the second half of this year.
The Director General of Industries said that since the Renaissance, the ICV has got extra ordinary attention in various governmental bodies, but it was under different names such as Omanisation, training and promotion of the national products. There are several organisations concerned with this issue such as the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Manpower.
The broader sense of ICV was echoed in various organisations including PDO, which is concerned with the oil and gas sector and found it necessary to develop a strategic plan for the ICV and implemented to the fullest. Through, this successful experience came the initiative of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for implementation of the local added value to other sectors, including the government sector.
Sami Al Sahib said that the local added value was the total amount paid to the state, which contributes to the development of trade and increase the capacity of citizens, in addition to strengthening of the productive capacity of the Omani economy as well as the contribution of local value added in the development of the national economy by enhancing the purchasing power of the local product and services with training and job creation for citizens.
He said that the ratio of the contribution of the manufacturing sector in the gross domestic product GDP reached to 10.2 per cent till the year of the year 2017. The number of industrial licenses registered through the portal "Invest Easy" of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry from the beginning of January till the end of December 2018 reached to 331.
The Director General of Industries said that the Ninth Five-Year Plan for the Industrial Sector (2016-2020) underlined the necessity of updating the industrial strategy (2040), increasing the efficiency of the industrial and free zones in the Sultanate, providing gas for industrial use and establishing a mechanism for distributing it and proposing policies for national product.
In 2018, the ministry, in cooperation with the Electricity Regulatory Authority appointed a consultant to study the impact of increase in the price of electricity on the factories in 2017.
The second study was carried out in cooperation with the Gulf Organisation for Industrial Consulting to analyse the current situation in the construction sector and the manufacture of building materials in terms of statistics, demand, supply, import and export, and other related factors, number of Omani and expatriate work force, volume of its contribution and the value added of the industrial sector in the GDP and analysis of these data, as well as identification of opportunities for the use of local raw materials and the possibility of replacement of imported raw materials, and identification of gaps and opportunities in construction sector and manufacturing of construction materials, making 10 investment opportunities in these sectors.
The Director General of Industry said that the industrial sector, like many other sectors, was facing some difficulties and challenges. However, by combining all public and private sectors efforts, these challenges can be solved. The ministry is working to get rid of these obstacles which stand in the way of development. The ministry values the role played by the industrial sector and its response to the development plans. We believe in the important role of the sector in the coming phase, especially with regard to the absorption of a larger number of national work force.
Saeed bin Nasser Al Rashidi, Chief Executive Officer of Oman Industrialists Association, said: "What distinguishes Oman's annual celebration of the Day of Industry is the meeting between the Minister of Commerce and Industry and the Industrialists. This meeting is usually transparent and frank. There, the challenges by the industrial sector are discussed. It is an opportunity for the exchange of information, whether among the industrialists themselves. They can discuss and exchange ideas and solutions of common challenges. The meeting also provides the industrialists an opportunity to talk about the challenges they face. They can also use this opportunity to express their gratitude towards the services and facilities provided by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry last year.
"The industry is one of the most important sectors of the Omani economy. The government's interest in supporting the sector has undoubtedly helped the industrialists of the Sultanate in move forward with their aspirations for success. But there will be real challenges in the coming period which require from the decision makers to huddle and find their effective and innovative solutions. The cooperation between all parties in the industrial sector will lead to the desired outcome of a broader future for industry and industrialists.
The CEO of the Omani Industrialists Association said that the association completed the circle in the relationship between the concerned authorities of the country and the industrialists. The association is the organisation which will gather the views of the industrialists and present them to the decision makers, before making of a decision or after that with positive or adverse reactions on the sector. This is required to find solutions if there is any mistake. Most of the members of the association are from the enterprises of the industrial zones which come under Madayn. We work hand in hand with Madayn to ensure continuity of mutual interests of both parties and ensure the industrial sector to have a better future.
Engineer Saeed Al Rashidi said that it was fact that no sector was free of any challenges. These challenges are beyond the limits of the concerned authorities of the country and are directly linked the world economy and policies of other countries. He also said: "Among the challenges faced by the industrial sector in the Sultanate are the high cost of energy, sometimes lack of its availability, some logistical difficulties in export and import, lack of commitment of adherence to laws related to the support of national products and giving them priority, high cost of human resources, difficulty of commitment to the Omanization ratio example in some industries, and some countries’ support their products in a way that affects the fair competitiveness of our own products. These challenges vary from one facility to another and from one factory to another according to the nature of each plant. They should be carefully studied to achieve better results. The Oman Industrialists Association has a role in analysing these challenges and supporting the studies with statistics, and clear studies to make the process of taking decisions easy in the interest of the sector and the country in cooperation with the concerned authorities.
Hamdan Bin Hamoud Al Qassabi, Regional Manager of Al Hilal Industrial Group, said: "The meeting is an annual opportunity to learn about the achievements of the Omani industry and its contribution to the GDP as well as the future directions of the government in the field of industry on the basis of the technological transformation taking places in various areas. This meeting will provide an opportunity to learn about the current and future challenges faced by the Omani industry and its proposed solutions.
"In view of the generality of the current laws, we believe that they need periodic review and studies to measure the impact, whether negative or positive. There is no doubt that the past three years have seen a great deal of change in the legal structure of the business sector, particularly in terms of increase in the services fees, increase in the minimum wages of the national work force and other financial measures. This has led to higher production costs for manufacturers, which in turn limited the competitiveness of Omani products
Hamdan Al Qassabi said that among the challenges faced by the industrial sector was the transformation from labour-intensive industries to muted industries based on artificial intelligence in what is now called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as production of world-class goods with local quality certificates accredited by the world. Our products are costly and time consuming and also expose the Omani industry to its competitors. Therefore, the competent authorities have to find a unified national body for specifications and standards.
For his part, Hamad bin Nasser Al Farsi, Assistant General Manager of Jindal Shadeed Iron and Steel Company, said that the industry was considered the wheel of development and an important local resource of income. It limits dependence on traditional resources. The industry sector hires national work force, provide them jobs at different levels and reduces the number of job seekers. It also increases the standard of living, ensure the welfare of the citizen and provides what is required by the consumers in materials and services and reduces dependence on imports from abroad.
Hamad Al Farsi urged small and medium enterprises to find other opportunities to replace what is imported from abroad. This is because the Sultanate has become a fertile environment to attract investors, where they start their activities with much more ease and better way thean ever before. For this, they have to have advanced industrial practices and modern technologies to make them compete in the market. This will not be possible without better capability of production, providing of high quality goods and products which can help in their survival in the local and international markets.