Covid-19: OCCI calls for rent reduction

Business Wednesday 08/April/2020 15:03 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Locals and expats who are unable to pay their rent due to the economic impact of the novel coronavirus may be exempt from paying rent for their homes and shops, if the measures suggested by the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) are approved.

Within the responsibility of the Chamber’s interest in safeguarding workers in the private sector, the OCCI has worked in coordination with the Ministry of Manpower and with the competent authorities to provide many measures and incentives aimed at reducing the pressures it suffers from as a result of the current economic conditions.

“We are approaching the government to ask for them to waive rents for those people who cannot find work or do not have work at the moment,” explained Ahmed Al Hooti, head of the Economic Committee and a Board Member at OCCI.

“If a person is not getting a salary, then how can they pay rent? It will be impossible for them to pay rent, as well as many of the other commitments they have. This applies to both Omanis and expats.”

“There are some companies that have offered reduced salaries to their employees, but these employees are still required to pay their rents in full,” he added.

“In this case, we hope that these companies can reach an agreement with their employers, or provide them an alternative to their current issue, as this is a practice that is currently taking place all over the world, and companies are trying to help their employees.”

OCCI has approached the Central Bank of Oman so that various financing institutions and banks take into account the current conditions of the private sector institutions, by postponing the installments to companies and employees working in the private sector by six months, without accumulation of interest, make the process of receiving deferral requests more smooth and flexible, grant companies emergency loans equivalent to at least three months of fixed monthly expenses, at either no interest or a symbolic interest and without additional guarantees, until they exit the current liquidity crisis and are able to meet their obligations.

These include salaries of workers, re-scheduling of loans, loans of those affected by the current situation and small and medium-size enterprises, by giving them a grace period during which interest will not accumulate against them, as well as a reduction of fees charged while using electronic payment machines to encourage companies to reduce cash transactions.

“Right now, we are requesting the banks to reduce the interest rates for SMEs, and are asking for building owners to stop taking rent while shops are closed,” explained Al Hooti.

“We are also looking at other initiatives to help SMEs. The question we have to ask is how we can help SME’s recover,” he added. “Do we buy more things from SMEs once this is over, or do we allow them to open their doors to customers after a period of time, say, two weeks? Any recovery from such a situation will take time.

“It is the same for big companies as well, so we are asking the banks to help them through both direct and indirect measures,” he went on to say.

“We are also asking the government to push more money into the market, and make more liquid cash available in the economy, as well pay whatever dues are owed to the private sector so that they can withstand the current situation.”