In the last few decades, economic diversification has been a top priority of all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Even prior to the drop in oil prices in mid 2014, their leaders recognised that their economies relied too heavily on the oil and gas industry. Nonetheless, although the share of non-oil GDP has increased steadily in each of these countries, their exports and government revenues remain reliant on oil and gas. The drop in oil prices has consequently resulted in a economic crunch, adding urgency to the need to transform.
Oman, which has the lowest GDP per capita among the GCC countries, held its Vision 2040 National conference on January 27-28 where it laid out its road map that seeks to rebalance the country’s economy away from oil and natural gas which have been the major engines of economic growth in the country.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture and Chairman of Oman Vision 2040, the two-day event was hosted at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre and was a culmination of 7,000 events, 15,000 surveys and 22,00 participants. It hosted more than 3000 participants including decision makers and experts from both the public and private sector from within and outside of the Sultanate, representatives of community associations, young entrepreneurs, public figures and members of the public.
The conference is one of the milestone events in the development of the vision and provided a platform to promote wide community participation and to discuss and review the initial details of the vision and best practices regarding sustainable development and international cooperation in preparation for the final Vision Document that is being formulated based on the Royal Orders of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, H E Talal Sulaiman al Rahbi, deputy secretary general of the Supreme Council for Planning, told Majalla that Vision 2040 will be the “guiding document for developing all the national implementation plans, like the next 5-year plan which will take place between 2021 and 2025.”
THE PILLARS OF THE VISION
The Sultanate aims to double the per capita share of GDP to reach a 6 percent growth, with non-oil sectors anticipated to contribute to 93 percent of GDP, by focusing its diversification strategy on shifting its economy towards 5 critical sectors: tourism, logistics, manufacturing, fisheries and mining, as identified in the Ninth Five-Year Development Plan. It also aims to increase the rate of Omani nationals in the private sector to 42% by 2040 and to increase foreign investment to 10 percent of GDP. Such comprehensive plans are critically important not just for economic growth, but also for the ambitions of millions of young people in the region.
Speaking at the conference His Highness Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, said “The strategic directions were identified in line with preliminary goals that comprised education, scientific research, the empowerment of national capacities, realising a sustainable welfare based on a state-of-the-art healthcare system, as well as economic diversification, job market development, and giving the private sector the initiative for a national economy. They also included environmental sustainability and geographic decentralisation.”
Oman has set out three key themes for the vision: People and Society, Economy and Development, and Governance and Institutional Performance. Within these pillars the Sultanate has identified a list of national priorities:
Education, Learning, Scientific Research and National Talents- Inclusive Education, Life-long Learning, and Scientific Research that Lead to a Knowledge Society and Competitive National Talents
Health- A leading health system adopting global standards
Citizenship, Identity, National Heritage and Culture- A society that is proud of its identity and a culture that reinforces citizenship
Welfare and Social Protection- A Decent and sustainable life for all
Economic Leadership and Management - A dynamic economic leadership possessing capabilities and operating within an integrated institutional framework
Economic Diversification and Fiscal Sustainability- A diversified, sustainable and competitive economy that is based on knowledge and innovation, operates within integrated frameworks, adapts with the industrial revolutions, and achieves fiscal sustainability
Labor Market and Employment- A dynamic labor market that is attractive to talent and responsive to demographic, economic, knowledge and technical changes
The Private Sector, Investment and International Cooperation- An enabled private sector driving a competitive economy that is integrated with the world economy
Sustainable Development in Governorates and Cities- Geographical sustainable development that follows a decentralized discourse, develops a few urban centers, and utilizes land in an ideal and sustainable way
Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability- Balanced utilization and sustainability of natural resources, to support energy security and the national economy
Legislative, Judicial and Audit System -A participatory legislative system, an independent, specialized and swift judicial system and an effective and transparent audit system
Partnership and Integration of Roles- A balanced partnership and an effective regulatory role for the government
Governance of the Administrative Apparatus, Resources and Projects-An administrative apparatus that is flexible, innovative, future-oriented and adhere to good governance
Leaders are aware that economic transformation is not a simple undertaking and requires a holistic approach incorporating a variety of measures. On the sidelines of the National Conference, H E Abdullah bin Salem Al-Salmi, head of the Oman 2040 Economy and Development Committee and theExecutive President of The Capital Market Authority (CMA) told Majalla: “Our goal is for Oman to be ranked among the developed countries in 2040. The goal is not easy but we are certain that we can achieve it. We need a lot of reforms in law, investment, the education system and pensions and others, and we must start working on them. We have 20 years ahead of us and we are confident that we will succeed.”
Within the framework of Vision 2040, there are also joint ventures with the Media Ministry on the future of the Media, the Minister of Information H E Abdulmunim al-Hasani, told Majalla: “There are joint ventures between the Media and Vision 2040 on plans for the future of the media. At the end of this week we will hold a detailed seminar on the media in the future. A few days ago, we began the Media Dialogue Council to discuss what the media look like in the near future, not only in Oman but on an global level, and what our role is in Oman, and how we can be present within this global system,” he explained.
At the heart of Vision 2040 are policies that deliver stronger economic growth together with better sharing of the benefits of increased prosperity among social groups. These benefits go beyond income to include inclusive outcomes across the different dimensions that matter for societal well-being, not least jobs and health. Translating these multidimensional objectives into concrete deliverables requires joined-up efforts that cut across policy areas and require the ability to co-ordinate actions across administrative boundaries and levels of government. To ensure that the preferences and concerns of all stakeholders are captured and reflected in decision making, workshops are held in all governorates where key issues are identified and used to shape the long-term objectives of the vision.
Speaking at the conference, H E Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, said: “We are keen to ensure the participation of all segments of society and partners in formulating their priorities and aspirations.”
“Accordingly, the competent committees and task forces have proceeded with identifying specific themes and pillars for the vision to serve as a framework for the project,” he added.
Speaking to Majalla on the sidelines of the National Conference, H E Talal Sulaiman al Rahbi, Deputy Secretary general of the Supreme Council for Planning, underlined the need to involve the all segments of society and particularly the youth, which make up 46.7 of the population, in efforts to guide and shape policy that are closer to society’s needs and advancing the goals set out in the 2040. “The formulation of 2040 was done by wide public participation. Youth were a big focus, not only in their participation to formulate vision but also in the teamwork and the task force we formulated, we made sure we had a great representation of Youth,” al-Rahbi said.
During a discussion on the role of society and youth in realizing the vision, Sayyid Haitham underscored the need for engaging students abroad to inform policy design and reinforce government’s capacity to implement them: “I salute every young man and woman with ideas and who would like to be heard, and I invite them to put those ideas forward because when the future vision is discussed, it is the future of their children. We do not differentiate between our youth at home and abroad.”
“I call on young people to take the initiative, seize opportunities, accept the private sector and not wait for a government job.”
Looking ahead 20 years, H E Talal Sulaiman al Rahbi, Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Planningtold Majalla that he sees Oman in 2040 as prosperous, while “maintaining its national values and the pride of the Omanis.”
“We see it as a knowledge based society. We see Omanis having the right skills and knowledge to compete locally and internationally,” he added.