New Renaissance begins in Oman as beloved founder of the modern nation is remembered
11 Jan 2021
(See translation in Arabic section)
Oman - M E Times Int'l: Today on Monday 11 January, the Sultanate will begin a new year of its renewed Renaissance under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, who ascended to the throne on January 11, 2020. On this occasion, the government and people of the Sultanate affirm allegiance and loyalty to His Majesty who has set his sight on reinforcing the Sultanate’s status among the nations and maintaining its national interests in accordance with the goals and paths of which were identified by the Oman Vision 2040 which seeks to achieve qualitative changes in all spheres of life.
HIS Majesty the Sultan has over the past months taken steps to implement Oman Vision 2040 which was launched at the beginning of January 2021 and will be executed in four consecutive plans beginning with 10th Five-Year Development Plan (2021-25).
● BALANCED DEVELOPMENT: This plan has drawn up ambitious and clear-cut national goals linked to executive programs that seek to restore momentum to economic growth and achieve balanced socio-economic development under the Royal guidance of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik.
The Oman Vision 2040 is based on four main pillars: the first comprises education, scientific research and skills, health and citizenship, identity, heritage, national culture, well-being and social security and youth empowerment; the second consists of ‘an economy with competitive climate, economic management, economic diversification, financial sustainability, labour market and employment, investment and the private sector, international cooperation, development of governorates and sustainable cities and IT technology; the third is environment with sustainable resources and the fourth is a state with responsible authorities related to the legislation, judiciary, oversight, governance of the administrative apparatus and resources and projects.
● 10TH FIVE-YEAR PLAN: The 10th Five-Year Development Plan seeks to boost non-oil sectors and activities with a target of an average 3.2 per cent annual contribution to GDP through a focus on promising economic sectors such as technology-based manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, food and agricultural industries, transportation, storage and logistics. The plan targets the private sector’s contribution with high in-country value and complementing value-production and supply chains, boosting the contribution of small and medium enterprises.
● FISCAL BALANCE: In October, 2020, His Majesty the Sultan, within the framework of his keenness to redirect the Sultanate’s financial resources and prioritising fiscal balance, approved the Medium-Term Fiscal Balance Plan (2020-24) laid down by the government. The plan is aimed at achieving a fiscal balance between the state’s revenues and public spending by the end of 2024, and preparing the financial conditions that support the launch of Oman Vision 2040.
His Majesty gave his Royal directives to speed up the construction of an integrated social security scheme with the aim of protecting low-income and social security families from the impact of the economic measures. The Royal orders also included the execution of several development projects in different governorates to the tune of RO 371 million.
● STATE BUDGET: The State General Budget for fiscal year 2021 focused on guaranteeing the sustainability of basic social services and maintaining a spending level no lower than 40 per cent on social services. His Majesty, upon presiding over the Council of Ministers’ meeting in December, affirmed that he had followed up the preparation stages of the Tenth Five-Year Development Plan (2021-25), the State General Budget for fiscal 2021, the initial executive plan of the Oman Vision 2040.
His Majesty also approved recommendations to set up two pension funds, one for the civil and private sectors and the other for the affiliates of the military and security bodies, and the amending of the minimum years of service required for early retirement to 30 years, and laying down a unified retirement system for newly-appointed employees in the government units and the private sector with retrospective effect for employees who have not completed 10 years of service.
At the start of 2021, the Ministry of Finance announced a package of incentives to citizens and the private sector during 2021.
The incentives include loans from Oman Housing Bank, with the sum designated for annual borrowing during 2021 to be increased to RO 100 million, from RO 60 million. This will take the number of approvals for citizens’ loans to 2250 from 1350. The step will shorten citizens’ wait for their turn in obtaining housing loans.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning will also help prepare for the distribution of 23,000 plots in different governorates and wilayats.
Other incentives will exempt borrowers from Oman Development Bank and the Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises from loan interests for one year (2021).
On the occasion of the 50th National Day, His Majesty affirmed his continual support for health, social and economic sectors so that they can provide services with high efficiency and competence.
SUPPORT FOR EDUCATION
His Majesty gave his Royal directives to the Diwan of Royal Court to finance the construction of six schools during the upcoming period for RO 8.85 million.
He issued Royal orders to establish the Job Security Fund (JSF), to which His Majesty granted RO 10 million to set up the fund’s system and encourage society to participate at a later stage. The initial phase of JSF officially began in November 2020.
His Majesty also directed in June the implementation of projects worth RO 300 million including the development of a multipurpose fishing harbour in the Wilayat of Daba in Musandam Governorate.
His Majesty affirmed that the government will continue to accord more attention to the governorates and grant more powers to the governors to enable them undertake their responsibilities in stimulating the economy, trade and investment away from centralisation.
DIALOGUE WITH MASSES
In order to deepen communication with the people, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in September last year met with shaikhs and dignitaries of Dhofar Governorate in Salalah. The meeting stemmed from His Majesty’s keenness to meet citizens to identify their needs and listen to their observations and proposals regarding development services.
LEASH ON COVID-19
With the aim of containing the COVID-19 pandemic, His Majesty issued a Royal order to form the Supreme Committee under the chairmanship of the minister of interior for tackling developments.
His Majesty commended the Supreme Committee and the government authorities whose efforts alleviated the impact of the pandemic. The government rolled out several measures including a Medium-Term Fiscal Balance Plan (2020-2024). With a set of programs to lay down the foundations for financial sustainability in the sultanate, cut debt and raise efficiency of government spending by prioritising financial action, the plan aims to increase government income from non-oil sectors, bolster the state’s financial reserves and improve revenues from government assets and channelise these revenues in the right course for economic growth and prosperity.
His Majesty also ordered to form an economic committee to deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19 in the domestic front. Accordingly, decisions were taken and resulted in the Government’s offering packages and incentives to private sector establishments and firms.
The steps included the establishment of an Emergency Loans Program which offers assistance to segments of entrepreneurs whose businesses were most severely stricken by the pandemic.
An Endowment Fund and Anti-COVID-19 Support Fund were established as prime movers of public support to the Ministry of Health in the battle against coronavirus. His Majesty the Sultan himself donated RO 10 million as a personal contribution to the funds.
With foreign policy, His Majesty confirmed that the Sultanate will remain as it was during the reign of late Sultan Qaboos, affirming that the Sultanate will contribute to solving disputes by peaceful means, and will continue its role as an active member in the United Nations and working with other member states to achieve international peace and stability and spreading economic prosperity across the world.
His Majesty confirmed that the Sultanate supports the principles of tolerance, collective work and peaceful co-existence. His Majesty affirmed that the Sultanate underscores the peaceful settlement of conflicts on the basis of the UN principles and charter and the international laws.
FATHER OF THE NATION
One year has already passed since the passing of beloved leader Sultan Qaboos, may the Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace. It was an abnormal year indeed, as all Omanis had tough times and sad moments of grief for the great loss of His Majesty. They are still in mourning, missing the compassionate father of the nation and praying for him day and night. It has never been easy to forget a man who spent all the past 50 years building the country and people alike.
His loss is extremely hard on hearts with Omanis still in grief and pain. People went mad when they learnt about his passing. Sultan Qaboos lifted Oman from darkness to glory in a record time.
As 2021 kicks off, January 10 will be remembered as a day of sorrow, grief and disappointment to Omanis. Announcing his death was a disastrous shock to all. Everyone broke down in tears.
Today, we are commemorating that day, the first anniversary of his loss. On this day, we all pay tribute to our benevolent father, visionary leader, and honest friend. He is badly missed; not only by Omanis but his friends and admirers worldwide.
He was an exemplary leader, who played a critical role in solving international conflicts. He was very well known for his incomparable wisdom and vision and never compromised them when handling local or international issues during his reign.
Since his ascent to the throne, he started mapping the future of his country and promised fellow citizens a bright future, which he delivered in a record time. He spared no effort to promote Oman globally. In that regard, Sultan Qaboos gained the respect and appreciation of his people and the world for all the great accomplishments made. Throughout five decades, he sacrificed his life, time and effort, leaving no stone unturned towards achieving his vision, fulfilling his promises, and making the dreams of Omanis come true.
Owing to his far-reaching international accomplishments as well as his wise and visionary leadership, Oman has been able to gain credibility and trust at regional and international levels. The country has become the epicentre of peace where conflict and misunderstanding between nations can be resolved. Thanks to the foreign policy of Oman, undoubtedly distinct from others in the region. With wise and visionary leadership and commitment, Sultan Qaboos worked to shape Oman as an active and responsible member of the international family.
FOUNDER OF MODERN OMAN
Any history of modern Oman will be written in two segments —“Before Sultan Qaboos” and “After Sultan Qaboos.”
For, in our times, no leader has so quickly transformed society from near-medievalism to modernity, and a country from being insignificant within its region to becoming a globally-recognised force for good. Of no other country, has the name been so synonymous with that of its leader.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos was admired and envied, by other leaders, as a relentless force for global peace, reconciliation, and mediation. His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, upon ascension to the throne, put it succinctly: “He set up a modern state from scratch, a country that is now recognised by all, far and near.”
HM Sultan Qaboos achieved this for his people and his country by the sheer vigour of his personality, but gradually, his deeds matching his words. In an interview with Foreign Affairs Journal in 1997, he said, “I believe in evolution and not a sudden evolution.”
He spectacularly unified a nation riven with discontent, poverty, divided tribal allegiances and remoulded it according to his vision — of unity, respect, compassion, and strength. He was passionately loved by the people of Oman.
A YEAR OF REFORMS
The past year, since His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik ascended to the throne, will be remembered as a period marked by reforms to bring in far-reaching economic and social benefits.
His Majesty the Sultan vowed to upgrade the pace of nation building.
To provide means of decent living for citizens, a Job Security System Law has been promulgated by Royal decree. His Majesty donated RO 10 million as a personal contribution to the fund.
He also issued directives to speed up the establishment of a comprehensive national Social Security Scheme to protect low-income groups and Social Security Fund beneficiary families against expected impacts of the medium-term Fiscal Balance Plan.
He restructured the administration and brought in changes in economic imperatives as part of a decentralisation process.
The royal decrees issued in August reduced the number of the ministries from 26 to 19 and created new ministries including a Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, in addition to merging and renaming of some ministries as well.
The Sultan also named some elected Majlis Ash’shura members as new ministers, integrating them into his new government.
In his first speech, His Majesty listed the priorities on his agenda, including education, employment, and fiscal plans in alignment with the Oman Vision 2040.
In a remarkable move, a Royal Decree ordered the formation of a new authority named the Oman Investment Authority in June last year. It was established to merge the two existing investment funds of the sultanate – the State General Reserve Fund and the Oman Investment Fund.