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Oman - NEWS BRIEFINGS
Oman | 05.06.2007
Oman is looking to further strengthen its links with the sea and maritime trade, seeking to position itself as the region's leading ship repair centre.

Oman

Emerging Oman 2006 As Oman continues its policy of steady reform, aimed at diversifying the economy away from hydrocarbon dependency while providing a prosperous future for its booming population, Emerging Oman 2006 looks at the issues and the challenges. With interviews and viewpoints from amongst others, Sultan Qaboos, Minister of National Economy Ahmed Macki, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman Hamood Sangour al-Zadjali, Minister of Tourism Rajiha bint Abdulameer, Minister of Commerce and Industry Maqbool Ali Sultan, and doing business advice from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Al-Alawi, Mansoor Jamal & Co.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

COUNTRY PROFILE

POLITICS

This broad survey begins with an outline of reforms recommended by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said in his Seventh Five-Year Plan, including modernisation and Omanisation – the latter issue particularly pertinent as the country’s young population readies itself to enter the workforce. An analysis further delving into Omanisation efforts, as well as analyses of the latest Five-Year Plan and predictions on the outcomes of bilateral investments between the sultanate and China, as well as the US follow. Viewpoints from Sultan Qaboos and Hugo Swire, UK Member of Parliament and an interview with Stuart Laing, former UK Ambassador to Oman, round out the chapter.

THE ECONOMY

The section opens with an overview of Oman’s “slow and steady reforms”, as well as how the sultanate is planning to overcome oil dependency. Three articles further exploring diversification away from hydrocarbons, high-profile industrial and real estate investments, and a recent ruling giving greater leeway to non-banking financial companies provide a greater background for the potential investor. Interviews from Ahmed Macki, Minister of National Economy, and Nasir Issa al-Ismaily, General Manager of the Export Credit Guarantee Agency are also included, as well as viewpoint articles from Fred McMahon, Director of the Centre for Trade and Globalisation Studies at the Fraser Institute and Nisreen Ahmed Jaffer, Acting Director General of Exports Development at the Omani Centre for Investment Promotion and Export Development, provide further depth in this broad study of this emerging economy.

BANKING

The section gets underway overview of how new investments in heavy industry, infrastructure and tourism have opened corporate lending coffers and the instalment of automated systems has brought fresh attention to the sector. Further analyses of electronic banking services and measures to encourage small and medium enterprise continue this survey, completed by exclusive interviews with Hamood Sangour al-Zadjali, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman, and Richard Groves, CEO of HSBC-Oman.

CAPITAL MARKETS

The Muscat Securities Market, its players and the lessons it taught in 2005 is the natural centrepiece for this unique survey of Oman’s bourse. A look at market trends and how electronic banking will shape the MSM in 2006 follow, as well as interviews with Abdul Razak Ali Issa, CEO of BankMuscat and Ahmed Saleh al-Marhoon, Director General of the MSM. BankMuscat rounds out the chapter with share analyses of six listed companies on which to keep a keen eye: Oman International Bank, Raysut Cement Company, Majan Glass, National Bank of Oman, Taageer Finance Company, and al-Anwar Ceramics.

INSURANCE

This chapter examines how changes in regulation will help the fledgling sector further develop and solidify, as well as takes a closer look at how Islamic takaful accounts may spur growth.

TRANSPORT

The need to sustain infrastructure to maintain industrial growth, especially in high-profile shipping avenues such as the Sohar Port and Salalah Free Zone is the focus of this chapter. OBG offers the potential investor a closer examination of how the Sohar Port will bring successive benefits to the sultanate’s economy, as well as an interview with Port of Salalah CEO Tiemen Meester.

ENERGY

This definitive outlook on Oman’s energy sector opens with an overview of the status of hydrocarbon reserves, and the latest technologies that the sector is using to maintain supplies. An analysis of major petrochemical projects set to go online, including a forthcoming methanol plant in Sohar Port with Germany-owned Ferrostall and state-owned Oman Oil Company and the Oman Petrochemicals Industries Company, is also included in OBG’s assessment of energy development in the sultanate. Articles focusing on the national electricity grid and how natural gas has come into the hydrocarbon spotlight are also part of the chapter, as well as interviews with Shahswar al-Balushi, CEO of OPAL and Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Lamki, Deputy Managing Director of PDO.

TOURISM

The riddle of how to balance tourism development with preserving Oman’s unique cultural character is the cornerstone of OBG’s analysis of this rapidly developing sector. A look at how ecotourism can play into this primary goal, as well as a look at stand-alone resorts such as the luxurious Barr al-Jissah resort near capital city Muscat provide further background to the overview, along with an exclusive interview with Minister of Tourism Rajiha bint Abdulameer and a viewpoint article with Wael al-Lawati, Acting CEO of Waterfront Investment.

CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE

With the onset of mega-projects and eagerness on the part of the sultanate to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons, construction companies in Oman can only look forward to increased activity. This buzz is the focus of the construction interview, followed by a look at how desalination plants will satisfy the thirst of both industrial and personal consumers of construction alike. The real estate component of the chapter examines how ample liquidity will float the property market, as well as checks out the exciting Blue City project.

TELECOMS & IT

The telecoms sector checks out how infrastructure and land-line usage should play out over the year, as well as how liberalisation in the mobile sector will affect service offerings of both state-run Oman Mobile and newcomer Nawras. Omantel’s lucrative FALCON partnership project and a look at how the long-time state telecoms monopoly is upping the ante on customer service follow. The IT portion of the chapter examines how the sultanate is considering how to get even further on the information highway, including e-government initiatives. An article on how microchips are aiding governmental demographic research follows. This all-inclusive investigation of Oman’s high-tech communications sectors is rounded out with interviews with Mohammed al-Maskari, Acting Director General of Knowledge Oasis Muscat, and Ross Cormack, CEO of Nawras.

INDUSTRY

The chapter opens with an overview of Oman’s high-potential industrial sector and how it should maximise diversification and Omanisation efforts if it is to reach the country’s goals of moving away from a hydrocarbon-based economy. Analyses of the opportunities afforded by the new Sohar Port and the agro-industry, as well as how the garment sector needs to be sewn up, follow. A viewpoint article from Tony Restall, CEO of Salalah Free Zone, and an interview with Maqbool Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry, round out the chapter.

MEDIA & ADVERTISING

The arrival of private broadcast media is the centrepiece of this chapter. The overview examines how private media may bring fresh opinions to the Omani airwaves, while the in-depth analysis juxtaposes inside opinions on the developing sector from both the public and private sectors. The chapter finishes with an interview with Maqbool Hameed al-Saleh, Chairman of Oman Holdings International.

AGRICULTURE

The chapter centres on how the sultanate can better sustain its food needs, examining the role that the forthcoming free trade agreement with the US and support from Oman’s Ministry of Agriculture could take. The article examines the outlook for crop growth, animal husbandry, and fishing. An in-depth analysis of Oman’s traditional delicacy, dates, could make an international name for Omani agriculture is also included.

HISTORY

In this chapter, OBG peers into the deepest sands of the Arabian Peninsula and traces the unlocking of the ancient mystery of Ubar.

THE BUSINESS GUIDE: ACCOUNTANCY

PricewaterhouseCoopers provides an extensive accountancy review, outlining tax codes and explaining changes in Muscat Securities Market regulations. Jeff Todd, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers-Oman, also offers his viewpoint on changing tax regulations.

THE BUSINESS GUIDE: LAW

Al-Alawi, Mansoor Jamal & Co. gives the foreign investor a clear outline of changes in laws that affect expatriates – from taxation to foreign property ownership. Mansoor Jamal Malik, managing partner at Al-Alawi, Mansoor Jamal & Co., offers his own take on business legislation in the section’s viewpoint article.

THE GUIDE

The chapter gets off to a sweet start with a look at a product emblematic of Omani tradition and hospitality, halwa. A refreshing holiday option is presented in our article checking out the magnificent monsoons of Dhofar on the country’s southern coast. A guide to the sultanate’s finest hotels and restaurants follows, as well as nightlife spots in Muscat.

LISTINGS

OBG offers a comprehensive directory of government offices, trade associations, foreign missions, banks, credit cards, consultancy and accountancy firms, media outlets, hospitals and pharmacies, emergency numbers, travel services, spas, and art galleries.

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