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Oman's new Sultan deepens economic reforms

He is also looking to bring a sustainable future and to continue working towards raising the Omani people's standard of living.

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Sultan Haitham (left) took over as the new leader of the country at the beginning of this year on the passing away of the late Sultan Qaboos (right), who ruled Oman for nearly 50 years since 1970.

THE new Sultan of Oman, His Majesty Haitham Bin Tarik, has embarked on deeper reforms to hasten the pace of economic development in the country, with a focus on a sustainable future for raising the standard of living of the people.

Oman, a country of 4.5 million people on the south-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula at the confluence of the Oman Sea and the Arabian Sea in the Middle East, is celebrating its 50th National Day today (Nov 18).

Sultan Haitham took over as the new leader of the country at the beginning of this year on the passing away of the late Sultan Qaboos, who ruled Oman for nearly 50 years since 1970. As Sultan Qaboos did not have an heir or publicly designate a successor to take over the reign after him, his cousin Haitham Bin Tariq was named his successor as recommended by the late Sultan, in a letter left by him for the Royal Family. Sultan Haitham had served in a prominent role in Sultan Qaboos' cabinet, especially in a diplomatic capacity and in national development planning. He was the former Minister for Culture and Heritage.

"The Sultanate of Oman follows a monarchy system of ruling. Sultan Qaboos was a very strong and respected leader for the many changes he introduced to improve the lives of Omanis. The current Sultan, His Majesty Haitham Bin Tarik has similar views and beliefs as the late Sultan Qaboos, and the change in government only means a continuation of leadership in the footsteps and the path which has been laid under the leadership of the late Sultan Qaboos," says Mr Anwar Muqaibal, the Consul General of the Sultanate of Oman to Singapore, in an interview with The Business Times on the occasion of his country's 50th National Day today.

"The 50th National Day marks a very special anniversary as we celebrate the outstanding achievements of our late and beloved leader, the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. Guided by the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, Oman planted the seeds of growth 50 years ago with a dream to create a sophisticated globalised economy, and today it is harvesting a healthy crop that promises continued progress led by His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik," he adds.

With the new ruler, Sultan Haitham, taking over, he believes that His Majesty will take the country forward on the path paved by the late Sultan Qaboos and bring significant changes to the country and its people.

"Within the Sultanate, Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik looks into embarking on deeper economic reforms, to bring higher growth, employment opportunities, a sustainable future and to continue working towards raising the Omani people's standard of living," he adds.

Globally, the Sultanate of Oman aims to embrace foreign policies based on peaceful coexistence among peoples and countries without any interference in the domestic affairs of other states. The Sultanate also aims to maintain the Gulf state's foreign policy, which was built on peaceful coexistence and to continue to maintain friendly relations with all nations. The aim is to seek stability and security in the region.

"The stability of the Sultanate of Oman is shaped by the late Sultan's approach and achievements which the current Sultan Haitham aims to preserve and to adopt a similar approach to maintaining the peace internally, as well as externally," says Mr Muqaibal.

The Sultanate of Oman has rolled out five year plans which have been termed the Oman Vision. Currently it is working towards the 10th cycle of the Oman Vision 2040. The devising of short five year plans allowed the Sultanate to have a short-term objective to improve and stabilise its economy and raise the standards of living of its people.

"Oman 2040 Future Vision contributes to devising the country's economic, social and cultural goals, in a manner that embodies a clear-cut vision and great expectation towards a more prosperous future. Within that, the five year plan for 2016-20 identifies five priority sectors for diversification: manufacturing, tourism, transport and logistics, mining, and agriculture and fisheries," says Mr Muqaibal.

The plan also includes revising the work of government companies with a view towards upgrading their performance and efficiency, and enabling them to strongly contribute to the economic system.

Overall, the Oman Vision 2040 aims to direct the financial resources in the most ideal manner, ensuring the reduction of debt and the increase of income.

Oman is rich in oil and gas, and the country is working to tap this potential and use it for economic development. The Sultanate of Oman has the largest oil reserves of any non-Opec country in the Middle East and significant reserves of natural gas, of which it is one of the leading exporters regionally. Exports of natural gas have diversified the economy away from oil, and Oman aims to continue the pursuit of economic diversification. The production and exportation of crude oil and natural gas is the biggest contributor to the Omani economy.

Government-owned companies produce the majority of the oil in Oman. The two major state-owned companies operating in this field are Petroleum Development Oman LLC (PDO), which is the main operator of oil assets and producer of oil in Oman; and the OQ Group, which resulted from the recent integration of ORPIC and the Oman Oil groups of companies.

The government encourages private companies to undertake oil and gas activities in Oman, and as a result of its efforts, blue chip companies such as BP, Occidental, Shell, Total and Partex are undertaking oil and gas activities in the country. Expanding natural gas production has become a main focus of Oman's strategy to diversify its economy away from the oil sector.

The plan for economic diversification aims to restructure the oil- and gas-based sectors and move Oman away from the oil- and gas-based sources of income. The Sultanate has earmarked five sectors that have high growth potential and economic returns apart from the oil and gas sectors. These are agriculture and fisheries, manufacturing, logistics and transport, energy and mining, and tourism.

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