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Diversification the way forward.

Summary: Industry leaders called for focussed attention to diversify the economy and dismantling the sponsorship system for SMEs to attract investors, at OER Business Summit 2016

OER Business Summit 2016 held on May 11, at Grand Hyatt Muscat made a renewed plea for economic diversification in tourism and other sectors, dismantling the sponsorship system for SMEs with partnership model besides regulating the labour market to attract investors to ease the impact of declining oil prices.

Organised by Oman Economic Review (OER), the Sultanate's premium business magazine, and held under the theme 'The Diversification Imperative,' the Summit included paper presentations by experts and incisive panel discussions on the imperative of diversification for the Sultanate's economy.

HE Dr Rasheed bin Al Safi Al Huraibi, chairman - Oman Tender Board, was the chief guest at the event while Nima Abu-Wardeh, the former presenter of the BBC World News weekly financial programme Middle East Business Report, moderated the panel discussions.

Ahli Bank was the strategic partner; BMW and Shell Oman Marketing Company-the associate partners. Oman Cables, Oman Data Park, Oman LNG, Jindal Shadeed, Al Busaidy Mansoor Jamal & Co were the support partners; Takaful Oman-the Islamic insurance partner; Taageer Finance, Al Jarwani Hospitality and Al Anwar Holding- the support sponsors; Al Madina Logistics- the logistics partner. Times of Oman and Al Shabiba-media partners; Mazoon Printing, the print partner and Bloomberg Business Week-Middle East- the knowledge partner.

Fabio Scacciavillani, chief economist, Oman Investment Fund started off the proceedings of the summit with a presentation on 'Oman Investment Fund: Nurturing SmartEconomic,' where he highlighted the need for Oman to go ahead with its diversification plan in order to reap the benefits in the era of low oil prices.

Dileesh Suseelan, who is a consultant in the governance and advisory division at Information Technology Authority in his presentation on the 'Ease of Doing Business in Oman' said the Government of the Sultanate's 'invest easy' project has transformed the business landscape from traditional paper-based system to online-based system. Licensing related activities has been simplified for businesses using the online single window facility. At present, there are 64 e-services that are available for the business community, he said adding that the 'invest easy' project has earned lot of laurels globally.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion on 'Diversification: Harnessing the potential of industries, ports and freezones and tourism in Oman.' Ahmed Akaak, deputy CEO, Port of Salalah; Hana Al Kharusi, DGM, corporate banking, Ahlibank; James Wilson, CEO, Omran; Mahmood Sakhi Al Balushi, CEO, Al Madina Logistics Services Company; Naushad Ansari, CEO, Jindal Shadeed Iron and Steel Oman and Reggy Vermeulen, CEO, Port of Duqm Company were the panelists.

Ahmed Akaak said the Port of Salalah had extended its service to Iran as well. "We have already started catering to Iran," he said. Hana said that banks in Oman were looking to support the diversification of economy. Implementation is the key driver and said that the need of the hour is the PPP model. "Liquidity is tight, but is available with banks," she said. James Wilson said tourism is the key driver to the success of economic diversification. Omran is implementing a slew of projects including Port Sultan Qaboos redevelopment plan. Mahmood Sakhi Al Balushi said that it was time to market Oman as a logistics hub. "A better management of infrastructure projects and ports is essential," he said. N A Ansari said Jindal Shadeed will continue its investments in Oman and added that it had already invested over $1bn. "We want to expand further. However, the challenges facing infrastructural requirements need to be addressed," he said.

Reggy said that various projects were currently underway at Port of Duqm and added that Oman could ideally be the regional and global hub for logistics. The panelists also highlighted the need for liberalisation of the labour law and more thrust being given to governance.

Khalid Ansari, partner-in-charge, KPMG Oman, started off the second session with a presentation on 'SME in Oman: Challenges and Opportunities' where he underlined the need for changing the sponsorship model with partnership model. The partnership model will be a win-win situation for all. Businesses will be legitimised, he said. Opportunities in logistics, minerals, agriculture, fisheries sector need to be tapped effectively so that SME in Oman can the largest employer of Omani nationals in four to six years.

Maqboul Salim al Wahaiby, CEO, Oman Data Park, the first Managed & Cloud Service Provider in Oman in his presentation on 'Enablers and inhibitors of SME Development,' said that obstacles to SME business growth need to be curtailed. The government has to stop acting like an investor to IT buyers, he said.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion that included Abdullah al Jufaili, general manager, Sharakah; Greg Young, CEO, Ooredoo; Maqboul Salim al Wahaiby, CEO, Oman Data Park; Mohammed al Mukhainy, in-country value manager, Oman LNG; Sami Al Hassan, general manager, GroFin; and Zuwaina al Rashdi, CEO, Dar al Herfya -- World of Handicrafts. The panellists highlighted the challenges facing the SMEs and added that SMEs need to discover new markets. Mohammed al Mukhainy said that SMEs need to be encouraged. Jobs need to be created for Omanis and at the same time labour regulations need to be streamlined to encourage foreign investors to set up businesses, the panelists said.

top 20 awards presented

The crowning moment of the day was the presentation of the coveted OER Top20 awards for companies for the financial year 2015. The Top 20 awards celebrate the excellence in Oman's corporate world. Companies were evaluated and ranked on the basis of their revenue, as derived from the published accounts submitted to the Muscat Securities Market. Ahmed bin Saleh Al-Marhoon, director general of Muscat Securities Market, the guest of honour presented the OER Top 20 trophies in the presence of Sandeep Sehgal, chief executive, United Media Services.

The who's who of Oman's corporate world including CEOs and senior executives from top 50 listed companies on the MSM and business leaders from diverse sectors attended the event. The Summit provided an opportunity for Omani businessmen, entrepreneurs and SMEs to gain insights into the ways to address challenges of low oil prices through economic diversification.

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Publication:Oman Economic Review (OER)
Date:Jun 10, 2016
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