Muscat: Multi-agency meetings between ministries and the Royal Oman Police (ROP) are ongoing to end the No Objection Certificate (NOC) requirement for expat workers in Oman, an advisor to the Ministry of Manpower said.
Read here: Plan to scrap No Objection Certificates in Oman
And industry leaders say the decision to axe the NOC in Oman must come soon if the country is to compete with neighbouring countries who have already announced cutting red tape to ease labour migration.
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“There are meetings between authorities in Oman on this subject,” the advisor to the minister told Times of Oman.
On Monday, a senior official from the Ministry of Manpower said that NOCs in Oman “will be removed”. “We will remove the NOC option. It will be removed. The plan is being considered seriously,” Said bin Nasser Al Saadi, the advisor to the Minister for Manpower, said in an exclusive interview.
Currently, expat workers must possess a NOC to change jobs in Oman. Expatriate employees who wish to quit a job in Oman and return to join a new company have to procure a NOC from their employer.
Without it, the current law prevents the expatriate from returning to Oman for two years.
Meanwhile, economists and industrialists say that the law if abolished will create a more employee-focused environment and also reduce the entry barrier which had previously kept excellent talent from coming to Oman.
“If it does happen, there is an overall positive impact,” Mohammed Nayaz, Partner at Ernst & Young, said.
“If the law if abolished it will create a more employee focused environment and also reduce the entry barrier which had previously kept excellent talent from Oman. The ministry has been trying to improve Oman’s rank in the global competitiveness index, which can surely be achieved by such measures,” he added.
He said that the time-frame must be considered as other GCC countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have already taken decisions to cut NOCs.
“It would be better to abolish the NOC law earliest as there has been news about other GCC nations passing the decision on this law,” he added.
Anvwar Al Balushi, chairman of Anwar Asian Investment Group, said that Oman should be a visa-friendly country to attract investment.
“What we need is that Oman becoming a visa-friendly country. Visa issuance should be made easier,” the industrialist said.
“In addition to this, NOC rules should be relaxed. I feel that an expatriate worker who has completed his two-year job visa contract should not be banned from entering Oman only because he does not have a NOC,” Anvwar added.
“Easing visa norms or relaxing NOC should be done soon. Whatever steps are required to attract foreign investment should not be delayed. It’s already late,” Anvwar added.
Read also: ‘Removing NOC will attract investment in Oman’
Story goes viral
Yesterday’s Times of Oman story ‘Plan to Scrap NOC’ went viral online.
It reached 1,113,071 readers on the official Facebook page, was liked by 13,700 people and shared by 9,219.
The online story got 154,169 page views. Expatriates welcomed news of the plan to remove the NOC.
The main reasons expats gave for their happiness with the move were the ease of changing jobs and the opportunities to do business once the NOC regulations are lifted.
“This is good news,” said Mohammed Maharoof, an expat who works for a company in Ghala.
“I saw the news this morning and was very happy to see it because it is better for the expatriates and the Oman government as it’ll help grow the economy,” said Shaiju, who works as a garment seller in Ruwi.
Ligesh Havish, who manages a hair treatment salon in Ruwi, said that right now, economically, there is a crisis going on in Oman and scrapping NOC will help workers and the economy.
There were also calls from the Oman chamber of commerce to ensure protection of Omani businesses, should the NOC requirement be lifted.
Due to the tightened labour laws, many skilled workers prefer not to work in Oman.
Recent data shows that the number of expatriates holding doctors, masters, higher diplomas, and university and diploma degrees declined by more than 1,800 in the first seven months of 2016.
In December 2015, the number of PhD holders was 2,844, but at the end of July it was 2,744.
The number of master’s degree holders stood at 5,869 at the end of 2015, but slipped to 5,740 at the end of July 2016.
-With inputs from Syed Haitham Hassan and Guatam Viswanathan