Move to put lid on ‘hidden business’ in Oman

Business Sunday 15/May/2016 22:02 PM
By: Times News Service
Move to put lid on ‘hidden business’ in Oman

Muscat: In a move to combat ‘hidden trade’, the Ministry of Manpower and Muscat Municipality are working together to create a means to get information once the rent contracts of companies and establishments are registered or cancelled, according to an official at the Ministry of Manpower. Recently, many cases were discovered in which individuals applied for company or establishment licences after meeting all the requirements, including providing shop or office rent contracts, only to cancel everything after obtaining visas.
“There is a connection between the Ministry of Manpower and Muscat Municipality when it comes to rent contract registration. However, the Ministry is not informed when such contracts are cancelled,” said Talib Al Dhabari, head of Media Department at the Ministry of Manpower. He said the missing point is to have the ministry informed when any rent contract is cancelled.
“Sometimes, business owners cancel rent contracts themselves, and in other cases the Muscat Municipality close shops without contacting the Ministry of Manpower to learn whether there are worker visas registered under the same company or establishment,” said Al Dhabari.
He noted that in some cases, workers are left without work and therefore join the hidden trade in search of jobs.
“It will help the two authorities to learn about the companies and establishments before deciding to cancel contracts for any reason, avoiding pushing workers to target the hidden trade in order to survive after they have lost their jobs,” said Al Dhabari.
R.K, a construction company owner who refused to be named, said small companies cannot afford to pay rents for the entire year, especially when they do not have enough business to survive.
“There are many shop-owners who are ready to provide small companies with three-month rent contracts, and then cancel them once the company gets those visas they had applied for. These people are also available when it comes to renew the company’s licence,” said R.K.
He added that he, himself, took such actions to avoid paying rent for the entire year.
“But, there are many who just get visas and then release workers to work anywhere, in return of paying them specific amounts of money every month,” said R.K.
Meanwhile, the media department at the Muscat Municipality confirmed that the municipality is cooperating with the Ministry of Manpower to form a system to track companies through rent contracts.
“The municipality is in an ongoing process with the manpower ministry to find a way to connect the two bodies once a rent contract is registered or cancelled,” said Ibrahim Al H’sani, an official at the media department.