The Sultanate’s future growth and development hinges on its capacity, vision and planning to diversify the economy, meandering into the uncharted areas of the non-oil sector. And to this end the government seems for all intent and purposes to be moving in the right direction. The government’s seriousness can be gauged from the fact that quite a few nascent initiatives of the government have found mention in the current Five-Year Plan. The Ninth Five-Year Plan 2016 -2020, the last of the Plan series for Vision 2020, reflects prudent and realistic goals. Many items have been revised when compared with actual averages observed over the period 2011-2015. The aim is to cut non-core expenditure in favour of additional attention towards investment spending on selected key programmes and projects. The role of the private sector is the backbone of the plan and the government has already been engaged in supporting this view through either the public private partnerships or providing additional facilities. In this connection the statement of HH Sayyid Asa’ad Bin Tariq Al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Affairs, Personal Representative of His Majesty the Sultan, that under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said the country is on the right track of diversifying sources of income and developing non-oil sectors is noteworthy. His Majesty has been stressing the promotion of non-oil sectors of the economy and to find alternatives to support national economic and development efforts. Additionally, the Sultanate’s decision to look at the Malaysian model of development was noteworthy and will certainly open up further growth avenues.
Former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohammed’s recent exposition on applying the principles of the Malaysian model at the Duqm forum has been well received. The deputy prime minister had declared that the Sultanate was on right track and that Oman can benefit from Malaysia’s ‘successful’ model of development. Mahathir who reviewed the Malaysian experience said it focused on the development of human resources through benefiting from the successful experiences of the advanced countries, the vast agricultural lands managed by the government and providing more attention to industry, especially the manufacturing ones as they absorb the largest number of jobseekers. Within tourism, which figures prominently in the country’s diversification plans, there are many sectors that may be utilised such as natural landscape, beaches, wadis, aflaj and springs. Castles and forts could also be used for promoting tourism. The Sultanate enjoys security, stability and peace – factors that make it a hub for investment. The country can benefit from its strategic location by setting up free and economic zones for the different industries and become a hub for foreign and local investments, especially as it would provide investors with many benefits, facilities and incentives. The Ninth Plan maintains focus on economic diversification, welfare and social benefits enhancement, and at the same time drive to boost the private sector. To support this five prime sectors have been targeted – manufacturing, transportation and logistics, tourism, fisheries and mining. The reason for choosing them is mainly because of their untapped potential and country’s determination to transform from oil-dependent to have a diversified mix.