The biggest news on Saturday this week in Oman was not just the announcement of the new weekend from May 1, which will now be on Friday and Saturday for the entire country.
For the first time, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has directed that the nation – both public and private sectors - must follow the same period of holidays on all national and religious occasions. The statement by the Council of Ministers also said that the number of holidays will be determined by the existing Royal Decrees.
Typically, the period of holidays for the public sector on all occasions from Eid to National Day usually exceed that of the private sector by one to three days.
Saturday's decision also means that Saudi Arabia remains the only GCC country to have Thursday-Friday as its official weekend.
A clearly excited chairman of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), Khalil al Khonji, told Muscat Daily, “We have been waiting for this for a long time and I am happy to say that this will help us attract more Omanis to the private sector. We are deeply thankful to His Majesty the Sultan for his decision on this issue.”
Khonji also pointed out that now with a fixed number of holidays, there will be no more uncertainty with public institutions, for example hospitals, who typically would not be able to give appointments when longer holidays were expected due to uncertainty regarding the dates.
While the public sector has had a two-day weekend since the late 1980s, the two-day weekend for the private sector only took effect from November 2011.
Khonji said the benefits of the Friday-Saturday weekend are manifold. “There will no longer be families with different members following different weekends. Now our children will also have the same weekend. For business, this is very good news because this will shorten the gap between us and Europe; we used to lose four days before.”
In end-2012, H H Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said had met with senior business leaders from the private sector to highlight the government’s commitment and efforts to provide a healthy and conducive environment for the private sector to flourish.
The attendance of a number of ministers and government officials as well as the OCCI chairman at the meeting held at the Council of Ministers' headquarters in Muscat bore testimony to the significance the government has been attaching to the role of private players in the overall progress of the nation.