Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamoud al Busaidi, Foreign Minister, presided over the conclusion of the 15th session of the Omani-German Joint Commission on Tuesday, through virtual communication between Muscat and Berlin.
The meeting was co-chaired on the German side by Marco Wanderwitz, Parliamentary Minister of State at the Ministry of Economy and Energy.
The two ministers also held a virtual closed meeting, during which they exchanged views on confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and social repercussions and ways to exchange information and enhance cooperation in this regard.
Following is the session’s opening speech by Sayyid Badr:
It gives me great pleasure to co-chair this Joint Commission with my colleague Minister Marco Wanderwitz.
We had hoped to have this meeting in Berlin in March along with the ITB in which Oman was a key participant, instead we were faced with an unprecedented shut down as a result of the pandemic.
The fact remains that right now in Oman, as in many other countries around the world, many have had their lives drastically interrupted.
Nevertheless, technology has offered us new and creative ways to ensure business goes on, and so here we are today.
The 15th round of the Omani-German Joint Commission reflects the desire of both sides to develop and promote our cooperation. The partnership between us has built mutual trust. Now Germany is one of Oman’s key partners across a very wide spectrum of activity, in SME development, energy, trade, tourism, health and education.
Oman is very comfortable working with Germany. We have some important shared values, not least our shared respect for the rule of law.
It has been Oman’s good fortune to maintain an exceptional degree of security and stability over recent decades even though during this time our region has experienced considerable uncertainty and substantial challenges.
Throughout we have managed to maintain excellent working relationships with all those around us and far. This fact in itself constitutes a competitive advantage.
As we seek to re-energise our economies in the wake of the pandemic, I wish to convey our belief that, in part, our stability flows from a deep understanding that no one should be left behind.
Omani culture is imbued with ideas of human dignity and equality that are naturally sympathetic to this point of view. And when I observe the wider world around us, the widespread political turmoil largely seems to me to flow from inequality and lack of justice. We neglect it at our peril, and if we address it wisely, we can be sure that pillars of security, stability and growth will be strengthened.
Each state in the Gulf has its own potential and advantages to offer. In the case of Oman, our particular advantage is our location. We are of course a Gulf state, but we also have the unique advantage of being able to organise our trade and logistical operations outside the Gulf itself. In the Indian Ocean, Salalah, Sohar and Duqm are all oceanic ports, able to handle the very largest ships.
They have Special Economic Free Zones, and the autonomous authority that manages them now serves as a focal point for all potential investors and projects.
We believe our logistics offering will emerge as a key hub in the Western Indian Ocean for the 21st century. Perhaps a Berlin to Muscat rail link will be part of it one day.
Tourism is another important industry, and as yet it is significantly underdeveloped. I would like to put in today a special word to encourage creative and sensitively conceived projects in the tourism and hospitality sector. I think that German partners could have a great deal to offer here and would find Oman an exciting place to develop new projects: hotels, transportation, sailing, water as well as mountain and desert sports and heritage and cultural tours. Because the industry is young in Oman overall numbers are small. But I notice that German visitors are one of the largest groups of tourist entries. From a business point of view, there is an opportunity here to get in early.
I would like also to make special mention of our collaboration in higher education. We greatly welcome the work of the German University of Technology in Muscat. We greatly welcome the growing numbers of German academics and teachers working here. They are highly valued members of our community.
His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik has taken important steps recently in the reorganisation of the government and the administration structure of the state. The aims are to rationalise spending, improve efficiency and productivity.
Also, the ongoing economic diversification and modernisation process is one of the government’s most important priorities, in addition to encouraging Foreign Direct Investment within the context of Oman Vision 2040.
As you are aware, our exposure to the price of oil, the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the task of job creation are all great challenges. But we believe the future prospects, founded as they are on the strategic facts of geography, are very positive.
And we want Germany to be part of that exciting future in the context of their partnership with us.
May our cooperation and friendship continue to prosper and grow stronger, for mutual benefit and prosperity.