Muscat: People looking to set up businesses in Oman will benefit from doing so at the earliest, thanks to the economic stimulus plan that was launched a few days ago to help negate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion (MOCIIP) Qais bin Mohammed Al Yousef, the plan, approved by His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, will provide equal benefits to large corporations, small and medium enterprises, and foreign investors looking to begin business in the country.
“I know the pandemic has created some difficulties and slowed down the economy, but now that the financial stimulus package, with the medium-term fiscal balance plan has been announced, it is the right time for people to start their businesses here,” said Qais bin Mohammed Al Yousef.
“We are here to support businesses and see what we can do to improve the investment and economic climate in the country,” he added. “We are all happy His Majesty has approved the economic stimulus plan. This was worked on collectively by all government bodies to get it to where it is today, and also designates what each public agency has to do.”
The economic stimulus plan is built on five pillars: taxation and fees, SME development packages, improvements to the business and investment climate, creating better employment opportunities and labour markets, and addressing challenges faced by the finance and banking sectors.
Improvements in the business and investment sectors include a number of incentives to encourage companies to operate in the country. These include reducing commercial registration fees for any business, be it through foreign direct investment, or in partnership with an Omani sponsor, which focuses on any of the economic diversification sectors mentioned in the 10th Five Year Development Plan. These include agriculture and fisheries, mining and energy, manufacturing, transport and logistics, and tourism development.
“If you are a company or investor establishing a business now across one of these five sectors, the commercial registration fee will be reduced to the same as it is for 100 percent Omani owned companies,” Al Yousef said.
“You will also receive three work permits as soon as you establish your business, allowing you to start operations straight away, without the need to request further permits immediately. Long-term residency programmes associated with investment of a certain amount in certain sectors have also been launched: the details for these will be made public soon.”
The minister went on to say: “Another new element we have brought in is enabling foreign companies to own land measuring more than 500,000 square metres. The land they look to own has to be allocated either for commercial, mixed use, tourist, or industrial purposes. Earlier, companies were not allowed to own land, but they can do it under this stimulus, provided certain existing conditions are met.”
Foreign companies are, however, not allowed to own land in places not reserved for them. These stimulation measures are expected to enable the MOCIIP assure visitors of a warm welcome to the country, and enables them to stay here for the long-term. “The ministry is working on a programme along with eight government agencies, which will look at the approvals needed by companies from the time of registration until they actually start their businesses,” said Al Yousef. “So far, we have listed around 1,200 activities that receive auto-approval from the ministry, on registration.
“This means investors do not need to go anywhere else to seek approval, and can start working immediately,” he added. “All the teams from the eight government bodies are working collectively as one to see how we can further ease this, under a directive from His Majesty, as he is keen to this happen, and his cabinet is following our progress, so that this programme can be launched as soon as possible.”
To encourage exports from the country, an initiative that will help both large businesses and SMEs, an initiative has been launched by the ministry, in collaboration with Credit Oman and the ODB.
“There are already many Omani products that are of good quality, are competitive, and in demand across many markets in the world, which need our goods” said the minister. “Our job as the government is to make that happen.”