Government bodies in Oman moving online to gauge opinion

Energy Tuesday 14/May/2019 21:15 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Public reaction to a recent government decision to restrict street vendor work to Omani citizens only has resulted in the ministry concerned conducting a poll via social media.

The move to online poll has been welcomed by expats and Omanis alike, as more and more government bodies take to social media to gauge public opinion and share their news.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced earlier this week that “Licences of street vendor professions are granted only to Omanis, and expatriate workers cannot be allowed to work in mobile vehicles such as vending machines, juice and ice cream trucks and stalls, and other activities specified by the regulation of street vendors.”
The policy aims to provide Omani jobseekers with temporary jobs or the opportunity to start larger businesses and comes as part of an agreement with the Ministry of Manpower, the Royal Oman Police (ROP), the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources and Muscat Municipality. Yesterday, the ministry launched an online twitter poll seeking the views of the public on its decision.
A Ministry spokesman confirmed the poll came about in response to the reaction to the original decision. The Twitter poll will gauge opinions and sentiments on the matter, with the spokesman telling Times of Oman: “The goal of this poll is to find out the opinions of citizens on the issue, not specifically to change the ministry’s current direction.”
The poll, which asks if expats should be allowed to work as street vendors, will run until Saturday. Current results show 76% are against allowing expats to work as street vendors and 24% are for it, with 1, 905 votes until the time of publishing.
One citizen, Mahmood Al Hinai, said: “My opinion is that we should not allow expats to touch some commercial activities such as being a street vendor.” He added that some expats in these positions care mostly about making a quick profit, and added: “Let Omanis do that, and develop the idea while making sure we focus on health and safety needs.”
This is not the first time that a government agency has used such a poll to gauge public opinion.
In June 2017, The Implementation, Support and Follow up Unit of the government, the body which is overseeing the execution of the Tanfeedh programme for economic diversification, ran a poll regarding No Objection Certificates in Oman.
“Some employers think that NOC restricts employee’s flexibility to move from one organisation to another,” the poll said after explaining what a NOC is.
“It also lowers labour productivity, which is becoming an obstacle to attract skilled labour from global markets. Other employers think that this certificate protects the confidentiality of both the profession & their clients, & it serves their interest. What do you think regarding the NOC?”
At the time, 56 per cent of respondents agreed with the concept of NOCs, while 42 per cent were against it, and two per cent said they were not sure. People who were in favour of NOCs argued that they were a way of creating a space for Omanis to find employment, while those against said NOCs stood in the way of developing businesses in Oman.
Expats in the country also said it was good to see the ministry actively reaching out to people in the country to seek out their opinion.
“It is nice that the Oman government is listening to its people and willing to give them a voice,” said Manisha Singh, an Indian expat. “Many people are online these days and readily know how to access the internet, so social media seems like the best way to reach out to them.”
Asif Baig, a Pakistani national, added: “If the ministry is running such campaigns, then it means they sincerely want to know the opinions of the people. It is a good gesture on their part.”