His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said presided over the annual session of the Council of Oman at its new building in the Al Bustan area.
Upon the arrival of His Majesty the Sultan at the venue, the Royal Anthem was played while the artillery fired a 21-gun salute to His Majesty. His Majesty the Sultan was received by Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers, Sayyid Khalid bin Hilal al Busaidi, Minister of the Diwan of Royal Court, Gen Sultan bin Mo- hammed al Nu'amani, Minister of the Royal Office, Dr Yahya bin Mahfoud al Manthri, Chairman of the State Council, Khalid bin Hilal al Ma'awali, Chairman of the Majlis A'Shura, Nasr bin Hamoud al Kindi, Secretary General of the Royal Court Affairs, Eng Mohsen bin Ali al Sheikh, Advisor at the Diwan of Royal Court, Eng Hamoud bin Mohammed al Mahrouqi, Head of the Royal Installations, and Eng Khalid bin Mohammed al Balushi, Deputy Head of the Royal Installations and Director of the Building Project of the Council of Oman.
His Majesty the Sultan then cut the ribbon and unveiled the plaque of the new building of the Council of Oman, declaring it officially open.
His Majesty later presided over the annual session of the Council of Oman and delivered his Royal Speech.
The text follows:
"In the name of the God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Praise be to the Almighty God who guided us to the path of righteousness and prayers and peace be upon His Messenger who called for the application of Shura as an authentic system of governance, as well his honourable family and his virtuous companions, day and night.
Honourable members of the Council of Oman, citizens.
It is one of the bounties of Almighty God that we are meeting you on this occasion and thanks to Him for the riches He has bestowed on us. We pray to the Almighty to bestow more bounties on Oman and to guide its people to the fulfillment of their aspirations and their progress.
Honourable members of the Council of Oman, citizens.
The experience of Shura in Oman, as we have always stressed, is a successful one and it has been closely in harmony with the stages of the Renaissance and compatible with the values of society and its principles, besides being in line with the concept of grooming enlightened individuals who are well aware of their rights and duties and are capable of ex- pressing their opinions and their ideas in acceptable language, sensible logic and a prudent vision based on proper assessment of matters.
Omanis have, throughout the past stage, proved that they command a good sense of awareness, culture, insight and understanding when dealing with various opinions, types of dialogue and discussions, which target the supreme interests of this country and its loyal citizens. We are confident that this awareness will increase and this culture will grow and take strong roots through the role assigned to you, members of the Council of Oman, through the exchange of views and ideas, stemming from a wise tradition that became evident and shall continue to crystalise as you tackle different issues in a deep, elaborate manner of analysis and investigation.
We hope that this great edifice, which we have opened in the name of God, will witness a constructive discussion of matters and a wise tackling of issues; a discussion through which it becomes clear to anyone who observes this experience, locally and abroad, that Omanis are highly capable of participating with their enlightened opinion and mature thought in making decisions to serve their country and promote it to a prominent place and a noble status.
This is no challenge to the people of Oman, a country whose glorious past stands as witness and whose brilliant present serves as an incentive to look forward to wider horizons of progress and prosperity.
You definitely know that Oman was once in great need of development in all fields and you understand that, in order to achieve the goal of human and social development in all areas of the Sultanate, it has been necessary to establish solid infrastructure on which the development plans and programmes will be based. This is particularly true in the fields of education, health, training and employment.
Without infrastructure, human and social development would not have reached the population in cities, towns, villages, plains and mountains, and in the deep valleys and the vast deserts. The past plans of development, despite the widespread area of Oman and its harsh geographical terrain, have gone a long way, and this has led to the transformation of life in this country and facilitated the implementation of development programmes - both social and human. It has helped extend services of all types to citizens wherever they are. You know that the need for infrastructure will never cease to be a necessity because it is an ongoing process necessitated by urban expansion and social and economic development and reaffirmed by the people's need for communication and aspirations for a better, happier life.
Therefore, infrastructure development always gains attention in all stages of growth and nation building, and without exception. Infrastructure gains extreme importance and is accorded top priority in some of these stages due to special circumstances and specific considerations that call for such action. Therefore, what some people often deem as more emphasis on infrastructure than human or social development in the past stages of development is not accurate, as such a view ignores the truth, the conditions that prevailed at that time and the priorities made necessary by the situation there and then. That view also ignores the tremendous attention, which was similarly accorded to the areas of education, health, commerce, industry, agriculture, finance and the economy at large.
So the attention accorded to these areas aim at the provision of a dignified life for the citizen, who, as we have always affirmed, is both the target of the comprehensive development and its effective tool.
As we mentioned in our speech last year and, as the necessary basic infrastructure is about to be completed, we have instructed our government to focus, in its future plans, on social development, particularly its aspects related to the daily lives of citizens. This should be achieved by the creation of renewable employment opportunities and training programmes for citizens and promoting production capacity, as well as scientific, cultural and intellectual development. We will closely follow the steps taken in this field. This matter shall also be the focus of attention of the Supreme Council for Planning, which seeks to draft well-studied development plans that take into account the priorities of each stage and the balance between various aspects of development towards attaining the overall goal.
It is pleasing and rewarding to see that Oman is progressing in balanced steps in the direction, which we regard as the right direction. We pray to the Almighty to bless us with more success for the sake of Oman and its loyal citizens.
The private sector is one of the basic pillars of development, both in the economic concept, which represents commerce, industry, agriculture, tourism, finance and the economy in general, as well as the social concept, which denotes human resources development, training, the upgrading of scientific and practical skills, the offering of new employment opportunities and incentives to take up jobs in the private sector.
It is not acceptable that some citizens adopt the impression that the private sector relies on what the state offers to it, and that this sector does not contribute efficiently to the service of the society and support of its social institutions and programmes, or that the private sector seeks only to achieve profit or does not try to work more seriously in serving its society, environment and its country.
Such an impression would harm, not only the future of the private sector, but would also have a negative impact, which will extend to the development plans in the country, particularly to the diversification of income. Therefore, the private sector is required to work harder to eliminate this impression and to take well-studied and efficient practical steps, through increasing its contribution to social development and to work in closer partnership with the government in implementing its policies, hand-in-hand with civil society institutions, which offer social and humanitarian services.
Such a positive attitude is capable of enhancing the confidence of citizens and their appreciation of the private sector's role. It will encourage Omani youth to work in this sector and to continue to keep their jobs and instil a spirit of belonging to the sector's institutions. This will in turn reflect positively on the performance of youth, their commitment to the ethics of work and will contribute to productivity. Therefore, the private sector will be an authentic partner in employment and development plans that are prepared by government departments and from which the private sector itself benefits and which will be a strong impetus for the development of the private sector's potential and release its great energy in the fields of local, regional and international competition.
A word, which we wish to address to Omani youth on this occasion: Remember that work, as much as it is a right, it is a duty as well. Everyone who has completed their education or training has to take up any useful profession which fulfils their sense of being and through which they can strive to achieve their ambitions, rather than wait to get a government job. The state, with all its civil, security and military institutions, cannot continue to be the main source of employment, as this calls for a capacity beyond its reach and a mission that the state cannot sustain forever. The citizens have to understand that the private sector is the real source of employment in the long run. Hence they should not hesitate to join the private sector and must not desert their jobs therein. This, in turn, calls for a revision of the salary system of the private sector, particularly in low and medium-paid jobs.
This has to be considered a national mission, which has to be accomplished in allegiance to this country; it should also be considered a service to citizens who place their confidence, their efforts and their mental ability in serving the sector. It is well understood that education is the basis of development. In the various stages of education and through its diverse curricula, national manpower, which is necessary for domestic development and for the implementation of its programmes, is prepared. Therefore, it has been necessary, for the success of development plans and the execution of its programmes, to work to secure the quality of output of all types of educational establishments in accordance with the general policies of the state, to help attain the goals that we all aspire to achieve.
During the past period, various systems of education and curricula were implemented and different training programmes were executed, but the matter calls for greater attention to be accorded to linking the educational output to the requirements of the labour market. Hence one of the priorities of the current stage of development and the next stage, which we prepare for is to revise the educational policies, its plans and its programmes, which need to be developed to keep pace with the changes that the country is going through.
More attention should be accorded to the requirements imposed by scientific and cultural development towards the evolution of a generation armed with awareness, knowledge and the abilities required for worthwhile work. The establishment of the Education Council seeks to promote this sector. Therefore, all departments in charge of education at all levels have to cooperate with this Council in total dedication and perseverance.
We would also like to call upon the Council of Oman to present its opinion in this respect to the Education Council, and we are confident that joint efforts will lead to the desired results. Our domestic policy, as you have always known it, is based on constructive work in serving the public interest, keeping pace with the developments of the age while at the same time maintaining our identity, our principles and our values in which we take pride. As for our foreign policy, its essence is the call for peace, harmony and close co-operation with all nations, as well as commitment to the principles of righteousness, justice, fairness and non-interference in the internal affairs of others and the resolution of disputes through peaceful means to help safeguard for all mankind its security, stability, prosperity and progress.
At the conclusion of this speech, we would like to address a word of appreciation and pride to all workers for the sake of Oman, for its growth in all civil, military and security sectors. May the Almighty grant us mercy and guide us to the right path."
The annual session of the Council of Oman was attended by their highnesses, the chairmen of the State Council and the Majlis A'Shura, ministers, advisors, commanders of the Sultan's Armed Forces and the Royal Oman Police, honourable members of the State Council and the Majlis A'Shura, heads of diplomatic missions in the Sultanate, governors, members of the judiciary, a number of sheikhs and other dignitaries from the country, a number of heads and members of the national committees and vocational societies in the sultanate, editors-in-chief of Oman News Agency and local newspapers as well as international media representatives.