So to speak: The green pasture’s soil is cracking up

Opinion Thursday 28/April/2016 12:16 PM
By: Times News Service
So to speak: The green pasture’s soil is cracking up

Many expatriates are now considering the benefits of working in Oman. The high cost of living due to huge inflation is taking away most of the pay package of foreign workers. It is difficult now for an average expatriate to save enough money for a comfortable retirement. The only remaining attraction is that Oman is still an income tax haven.
Retailers and property owners get greedy and they want a bigger share of our money. To own a property in the Sultanate seems to offer a solution for some expatriates. It gives them an opportunity to beat the rent trap. But the property developers get them from maintenance charges and in most cases the cost is the same as paying rent. You get to own the property but not the land the accommodation stands on. Maintenance cost will rise on the same rate as rental at 15 per cent per year.
The problem is that, Oman is now looking at rich international investors and not at residents who have toiled for years.
Private property developers are given a license to charge exorbitant prices to lure in foreign funds. About $7 billion worth of properties in the country have been sold mostly to non-residents in the last 10 years. They estimate the figure will triple in the next decade after the completion of the new developments.
What about ordinary residents who are already contributing to the economy? Majority of them earn just enough to keep their families going. About 70 per cent of residents say these new properties are beyond their financial means.
I am also amazed when government planners say that they are doing all this to create business and employment opportunities for nationals. I find that hard to digest.
Retail owners benefit most from the price rise and you don’t see more nationals being employed there. The truth is that in some sectors, retail outlets do not employ nationals at all. Property owners improve their bank balance by having their buildings constructed mostly by labourers. Yes, soaring building materials is a factor but how many nationals work in the cement and block factories?
Billions of dollars may pour in but they land in very few hands. It is like that kids’ game ‘pass the parcel.’ The parcel is going around the same circle each and every time. And that circle is not getting bigger or extended to other circles. At the moment, ordinary nationals are content what comes their way but expatriates are different.
They have the choice of packing their bags when the financial heat is hotting up. It is not as lucrative as it used to be and the pasture in their own countries is getting greener.
We don’t seem to have any grazing land left since international investors take them at wholesale. The bubble is beginning to come apart from the seams unless the harvest reaches all corners.
Well, we begin to hear words that were never spoken in the past from ordinary mouths. I hope they would find the right channels to dissipate harmlessly.
If it is all in the name of progress, then let the parcel pass to all hands.