Taking care of Oman’s present and future

Story: Gautam Viswanathan

With His Majesty Sultan HaithamBin Tarik having laid down the path for the Sultanate to follow in the coming years, it was clear that he was looking to provide a sustainable, prosperous future for his people.

In his address to the nation, His Majesty highlighted, among his top priorities, quality education and job creation for the country’s youth, as well as a host of other developments, all of which would contribute towards achieving the goals of the Oman Vision 2040 programme.

The Vision 2040 initiative aims to transition Oman to a successful non-oil future, with a strong, developed economy, which provides good job opportunities for all. The vision focuses on four main pillars of Oman: its people and society, economy and development, governance and institutional performance, and the country’s environmental and natural resources

“Youth are the wealth of a nation, its inexhaustible resource and the arms that build it,” said HM Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, as part of his speech. “They are its present and future. We will always listen to them, and sense their needs, interests and aspirations which will definitely be accorded the attention that they deserve.

“On top of our national priorities is the education sector,” added His Majesty. “It will receive full attention, and it will be provided with the supporting environment which motivates research and innovation. We will also provide it with all means of empowerment, since it is the base upon which our children will be able to participate in meeting the requirements of the coming phase of development.”

Following the His Majesty’s declaration to implement measures that take care of both the country’s present as well as its future, T Weekly spoke to leading figures in the country’s business, education and labour sectors to know how these changes would affect the country, and what needed to be done to ensure they had the maximum impact.

Steering Oman in the right direction

Shahswar Al Balushi, Head, Oman’s Tanfeedh Labour Labs

Vision 2040 looks at increasing the economic footprint of the Sultanate, in terms of new business opportunities, better investor relations, and new projects. This will be done by increasing the economic footprint and creating new businesses that will increase the demand for local workforce.

If you were to look at the basic elements of Vision 2040, this is what it looks like, when you talk in terms of an expanding economic footprint and more growth. I think that now, clarity needs to be given to the focus areas of targeted economic growth.

What needs to be done to ensure the right sort of growth?

If for example we are looking to target the health industry, then we need to look at which professions need training. We might look to therefore train more doctors, more nurses, more technicians, and so on. If our immediate focus is towards fisheries, the food sector and self-sufficiency in this area, then we might need to train more people in the food industry.

The clarity in terms of what direction in which we need to proceed, and what requires priority, is therefore important, to cater for these markets.

How will future graduates receive the training needed for their professions?

I would say that skill development and training is a coordinated effort. When we look at skill development and growth, and where the impact of this economic footprint will be felt, then we need to know the structure of the economy in the future. Secondly, we need to look at the educational syllabus and prepare it in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education to lay the foundations for students in school, and then gear the higher education so that students can contribute to this economic footprint.

We, as Tanfeedh Labour Labs, can definitely participate and help towards achieving these objectives.

Diversified economy will make country stronger

Nalin Chandna, CEO, National Gas Company

I think that if we talk about Vision 2040, non-oil industries will also play a significant role in the economy, especially when it comes to tourism, when it comes to the banking sector, financial industry, the insurance sector…all of these things will play an important part.

When the base expands, all of the individual components continue to carry weight, and more contributors to come in.

What role will the oil and gas sector play in a diversified Omani economy?

Definitely…non-conventional and alternative sources of energy such as solar and replacement sources such as a conversion from diesel to gas, will come into play. I think the conventional ways of training and working will not be as effective…the non-conventional ways of working will be more gainful.

The relevance of the oil and gas sector will continue. Although margins might change, with alternative energies and more competitors coming in, the practical applications of oil and gas will definitely expand.

Could you give us a few examples of other areas in which the oil and gas sector is relevant?

For example, for power generation plants, gas would be a great source of fuel to power the turbines and generate energy. There will be opportunities where, instead of diesel, gas can be used as a cleaner replacement. The same can be used in the ceramic and construction industries, with there being practical applications for gas in kilns. The government is also exploring the use of gas to fuel cars, so you might see autogas coming in the future.

We are actually part of the study on autogas that the World LPG Forum is looking to conduct in the future. There are a few pilot countries where this study will be conducted, and Oman is one of the pilot countries in the Middle East.

Quality education leads to stronger skill development

Tariq Al Barwani, founder, Knowledge Oman

When it comes to the importance of education, one cannot deny that education is the cornerstone of wealth and humanity. In fact, it plays a major role in the development of a country.

If, for example, I were to take it at the most basic level, then more widespread education leads to a better literacy rate. This leads to the creation of good people and good citizens as a whole. The character of a people is shaped through its education.

How does better quality education impact people?

If education is enhanced across the whole of Oman, then the creativity and desire for learning is enhanced in people, across the country. This will really help in the research and future development plans for a country. If you can successfully reach out to one person through education, then imagine what you could do if you reach out to more people. Imagine what you could do if you impact an entire country through good education.

Education is very important, and without it, there will be no life, no balance and no newness to anything we do. As far as the quality of education is concerned, well, how do you expect people or organisations to deliver newness without good quality education?

How do you ensure education has both quality and relevance?

Quality education can be about enhancing your skills, particularly in today’s culture, where some skills are required globally and others are important in a local context, if we were to look at the interconnected world that we live in.

For any organisation or any company to produce goods and create services that can be accepted openly in a global market, quality skills are the need of the hour. This is the impact of having quality education. To sum up, I would say that without education, there is no life, and without quality education, there is no prosperity. – [email protected]

The national priorities of Vision 2040

· Education, learning, scientific research and national talents

· Health

·  Citizenship, identity, national heritage and culture

·  Welfare and social protection

·  Economic leadership and management

· Economic diversification and fiscal sustainability

·  Labour market and employment

·  The private sector, investment and international cooperation

·  Sustainable development in governorates and cities

·  Natural resources and environmental sustainability

·  Legislative, judicial and audit system

·   Partnership and integration of roles

·  Governance of the administrative apparatus, resources and projects

Source: www.2040.om