• Celebrated today, it reinforces the achievements made and resolve to brace for more under the astute leadership of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik
Oman will today (Thursday) mark the 51st National Day of the Renaissance. The event comes around at a time when Omanis ponder about the achievements made so far and brace for further accomplishments, with firm resolve, under the astute leadership of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik who pledged to hold high the banner of Renewed Renaissance, since he assumed power in the country on January 11, 2020.
The Renewed Renaissance kicked off on a high note when Sultan Haitham bin Tarik called upon the people of Oman to do their best to enrich domestic development and foster progress in all fields. This is considered one of the major principles of Renewed Renaissance in its quest to attain the supreme national objective of “making Oman the central point in all that we strive to achieve”— an objective whose salient features already materialised in terms of updated laws and refurbished programmes of action across all sectors.
In the beginning of this year, a Royal Decree No. 6/2021, promulgated the (updated) Basic Law of the State to serve as a basic pillar of continuous efforts to shape a better future for Oman and its citizens and to build a solid ground for their Renewed Renaissance.
The Basic Law of the State comprises 98 articles “enhancing the institutions of the State, safeguarding its territorial unity and its social texture, protecting its cultural foundations and consolidating public rights, liberties and duties”.
The Basic Law of the State lays down a stable mechanism of transfer of rule, which reflects positively on political and economic aspects and affirms the principle of sovereignty and independence of the judiciary. It also serves as a basis of rule in the State. It makes education compulsory till the end of the Basic Education stage. It establishes a scholarly method for thought, development of talents and encouragement of innovation — which all conform with Oman Vision 2040.
Oman stands out for its exclusive practice of Shura-based democracy, set up on solid grounds emanating from Omani life realities. Shura practice evolved through various stages till it developed into present-day “Council of Oman”, with its bicameral chambers — the “State Council” and “Shura Council”. Each stage saw the addition of systems and laws that reinforce the tradition of Shura and respond to the expectations of citizens. To this effect, Sultan Haitham bin Tarik issued Royal Decree No. 7/2021 promulgating Council of Oman Law, which comprises 78 articles.
To contain the Covid-19 pandemic that wreaked havoc across the world, the Sultanate formed a Supreme Committee which worked for the procurement of internationally approved vaccines and oversaw the implementation of a national immunisation campaign. This was commended by Sultan Haitham bin Tarik when he chaired the Supreme Committee’s meeting on August 18, 2021 at Al Maamoura Palace in Salalah.
“This improvement could not have happened had it not been for the appropriate decisions taken and the efforts exerted by the departments concerned in the Sultanate of Oman, albeit the health sector,” he said.
The decisions resulted in the improvement of Covid-19 indicators in Oman, which, the reports said, registered great decline in mortality, infection and hospitalisation rates, while recovery from the disease reached 98.5%. Meanwhile, the government accorded special attention to the ensuing economic impacts of Covid-19. Special exemptions were sanctioned to small and medium enterprises and holders of Riyada Card for Entrepreneurs. This is in addition to a package of incentives for borrowers, individuals, banking institutions, financing and leasing firms.
The designation of a Youth Day in Oman (October 26) reflects the attention accorded to the young generation by Sultan Haitham bin Tarik. It asserts the leadership’s deep conviction in the potential of youth in promoting the country’s development.
Speaking at a meeting of the Council of Ministers he chaired in October 2021, the Sultan underscored the significance of devising a mechanism and for opening channels of communication with the youth to explain all the requirements of the development process in all sectors. He gave directives to listen to youth and study their needs and aspirations.
Crown Prince Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham al-Said, who presided over the Youth Day celebration last October, said that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth launched a smart portal for talented youth, artists and innovators.
The attention accorded by Sultan Haitham bin Tarik to youth is also reflected in the Royal support to employment initiatives, a set of which came around in May 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic had its greatest toll across the world, leading to the shrinkage of the labour markets. The result was the launch of an executive plan to provide more than 32,000 jobs.
Omani women’s affairs take centre stage in the Renewed Renaissance thought of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, who has been keen that women enjoy their rights guaranteed by law and operate alongside men in different fields of national service. Attention to women is one of the “national fundamentals” of the country.
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, celebrated last March, the Sultan’s spouse Assayida Ahd Abdullah Hamed al-Busaidi, commended the great efforts exerted by women in Oman and the rest of the world while building their nations, supporting their families and societies and contributing effectively to the management of human and global issues.”
Oman has been endowed with many bounties and a loyal people bound by bonds of love, collaboration and solidarity. This became crystal clear through public support to the efforts exerted by the government of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in the aftermath of the recent tropical cyclone Shaheen that made landfall in Oman on October 3, 2021.
He gave orders to form a ministerial committee for the assessment of the damage incurred to citizens’ homes and properties in the governorates that took the brunt of the cyclone. The aim was to provide quick relief to the families and alleviate the impacts of the tropical condition.
This royal response reflected positively through the persistent action undertaken by the ministerial committee in co-operation with sectors of the National Committee for Emergency Management (NCEM). As a result, the majority of services were restored at a rate of 100%. Tenders were awarded for the maintenance of damaged roads and for building as many as 328 alternative houses for afflicted citizens. In the process, the Sultan also gave orders to establish a National Fund for Management of Emergencies to address the aftermath of the recent cyclone and natural disasters that might happen in the future.
Nations attain their prime only through education, and this has been a principle espoused by Omanis since the outset of their blessed renaissance 50 years ago. A motivating environment has been furnished for supporting the march of research and innovation. This translates into the allocation of a ministry mandated with higher education, research and innovation and the establishment of the University of Technology and Applied Sciences, with branches in governorates of Oman.
In the same context, the College of Duqm was established in September 2021 in the Governorate of Al Wusta at the Special Economic Zone in Duqm. The university is governed by the laws regulating universities and colleges in the sultanate and the hopes attached on the National Research and Development Strategy 2040 in line with Oman Vision 2040.
Royal directives to set up six schools to the tune of RO8,850,000 will raise the number of scholarly institutions to 2,430 schools, 11 government and private universities and 18 private colleges. Under its Renewed Renaissance, Oman continued to accord attention to environment protection, both at the local and global levels. To this effect, Sultan Haitham bin Tarik issued a Royal Decree last August (2021) to establish the Khor Kharfout Nature Reserve in the Governorate of Dhofar, taking the number of such sanctuaries to 21. The sultanate also ratified many international agreements related to the environment protection and legislations for the same purpose at the local level.
The decline and fluctuation in oil prices and precautionary measures to address the impacts of Covid-19 affected the economies of many countries of the world. Since Oman is not isolated from the global community, it had to take measures to address the situation. These included the initiation of a medium-term Fiscal Balance Plan (2020-2023). Last April (2021), The Sultan chaired a meeting of the main committee tasked with the National Programme for Fiscal Balance to follow up the progress of the programme in its second year. The programme was designed to lower the general debt and secure financial sustainability.
The 10th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), the first leg in the executive plan of Oman Vision 2040, is based on four axes comprising 14 ‘national priorities’, 88 ‘strategic goals’ and 68 performance indicators.
The plan seeks to achieve a number of goals, among them “activating the economy, upgrading the efficiency of management of public finance, realising balance among measures for rationalisation of public spending, espousing disciplined financial expansion policies, accelerating the rate of implementation of major strategic projects and government-private partnership projects, attracting more direct foreign investments, visualising growth trends based on expected oil price rate of $48 per barrel during years of the plan and enhancing governorates’ participation in achieving goals of Oman Vision 2040”.
The plan targets average annual growth of 3.2% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through emphasis on promising economic sectors like converting industries of high technological content, agriculture, fisheries, fish farming, food and agriculture industrialisation, transport, warehousing and logistics. Total estimated revenues of the State Budget 2021 stood at RO8.64bn calculated on the basis of oil price rate of $45.
The Governorates Development Programme, which emerged in implementation of Royal directives, will allocate RO10mn to each governorate during the period of the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) — at a rate of RO2mn a year. The programme envisages the execution of 28 strategic programmes and it will contribute to the goals of Oman Vision 2040.
The Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP), endorsed by the Council of Ministers in March 2021 is based on five axes comprising incentives on taxes, fees and incentives for the improvement of the business and investment climate, incentives for small and medium enterprises, incentives for the labour market and recruitment, banking incentives aimed to rally efforts for the alleviation of Covid-19 impacts on the national economy and other incentives to promote economic recovery, back up economic activities and attract foreign investments.
These financial procedures, topped by the medium-term Fiscal Balance Plan, showed positive results, as Oman registered growth in total revenues by 22.6% and a 58% decline in deficit by the end of September 2021. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expected in a report issued in September 2021 that economic activities in the sultanate will recover and Oman will achieve 2.5% GDP growth in 2021 and 4.2% growth by 2023. The IMF also commended the measures undertaken by Oman while addressing the fallouts of Covid-19, as well as the country’s fiscal discipline and enhancement of business environment and support for stricken economic sectors.
The measures undertaken by Oman improved its credit rating in various agencies, including Moody’s, which amended the Sultanate’s rating from “negative” to “stable” in October 2021 (according it 3Ba rating). Moody’s expected that public debt in Oman vis-à-vis the GDP will decline from 80% in 2020 to 60% in 2024, as well as the decline of the annual government funding needs to GDP from 22% in 202 to 10%. Standard and Poor’s also amended its future outlook for Oman from “stable” to “positive”.
Fitch pointed out last May that the Fiscal Plan contributed to the improvement of scenarios for Oman’s financial position and expected a 6.1% decline of Budget deficit to GDP this year (2021). It also expected a 3.3% economic growth for Oman by next year (2022).
The government of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik created an investment-encouraging environment through legislations, ports, free zones and logistics, coupled with a unique strategic location in the meeting point of global commercial markets, political stability and security.
The ports of Duqm, Salalah and Sohar boast a range of advanced facilities that enabled them to achieve quick finalisation of tasks and cut the distance between world ports. This is in addition to the free zones in Duqm, Al Mazyouna, Salalah and Sohar and upcoming Khazaen hub in the Governorate of South Al Batinah. Investment incentives like tax exemptions extending to more than 30 years and foreigners’ 100% ownership of properties, among other incentives, add another fillip to Oman’s position.
The political and regional changes that happened during the Renewed Renaissance period proved that the Sultanate of Oman’s foreign policy stands on firm grounds. Oman advocates principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, positive contribution to safeguarding international security, promoting common public interest through dialogue and understanding among countries and nations.
These principles were affirmed by Oman before the 76th UN General Assembly in New York last September. Oman’s persistence to serve global peace stems from its support for many initiatives and issues, like its backing to the positive developments emanating from Al Ula Summit in Saudi Arabia. Oman hailed the success of the efforts of reconciliation led by Kuwait.
In international podiums, Oman continued to reiterate the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause and the demands of Palestinian people. It also supported the settlement of the Yemeni issue through comprehensive political settlement, working in line with initiatives of Saudi Arabia and the UN and US envoys. This is besides Oman’s stand for peaceful handling of the Iranian nuclear file and Oman’s continuous condemnation of all types of terrorism.
The Sultan’s visit to Saudi Arabia in July 2021 and his meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud is a strong evidence about the deep-rooted relations between the two countries. This first visit of its kind culminated in the establishment of the Omani-Saudi Co-ordination Council and opened wide vistas of co-operation among the two countries in different fields, particularly economic areas.
The Sultan’s Armed Forces (SAF) and other security and military departments earned the attention of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, the Supreme Commander. National days of countries constitute symbols of pride and dignity.
In Oman, they are moments of contemplation in the past and the future of the country, a time to remember the Founder of Modern Oman and its Blessed Renaissance, the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimour.
His memory pulsates in the heart of every Omani, man and woman, who incessantly pray for him in gratitude for his good deeds for the nation and its loyal people over 50 years. The achievements made by the late Sultan Qaboos are manifest in every sphere of life. He sowed and cultivated true faith in the people.
SERENE: A general view of the Sultanate’s capital Muscat.
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