Sunday, September 19
02:52 PM

Time to restructure and rationalise

28 Dec 2020

In an exclusive interview to Muscat Daily, 

Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al Busaidi, Foreign Minister, talks about the sultanate’s priorities locally as well as globally in 2021. He also spoke on how the COVID-19 pandemic is going to affect Oman and the measures the country has taken to tackle the crisis

What would you say are the government’s main priorities in the year ahead?

At a recent cabinet meeting, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik gave his endorsement for the implementation of Oman Vision 2040, which represents a framework for national development beginning in 2021.

This framework is underpinned by the measures the sultanate is putting in place to ensure appropriate fiscal balance. These measures are designed to rationalise public expenditure as a way of establishing the national economy on a new footing, in which the role of citizens in contributing to future development will be more central. This will involve a gradual step-by-step process of structural changes, in which some longstanding features of the national economy, such as subsidies will be phased out and new features – like personal taxation – will be introduced. Pensions will be designed to make sure that everyone can be taken care of in their retirement at a cost which can be realistically supported.

At the heart of the economy there are two principles – that those most in need of support will always receive it, and that those most able to contribute should always do so. To that end, the sultanate will be establishing a comprehensive structure for social security, and designing personal taxation in such a way as to ensure that those who enjoy wealth and privilege are able to make their full contribution to the collective good.

As a crucial part of this process, there is a steady and strong on-going drive to improve efficiency and performance as well as accountability.

Everyone should take full advantage of the knowledge and expertise of citizens and their representatives in shaping policy for the future. This is a renewal of the principle and practice of shura upon which decision-making in Oman has always been based.

How will the pandemic affect Oman next year?

It is difficult to predict. It is great news that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has arrived and its gradual roll-out through next year will help protect the population and, I hope, bring the virus under increasingly effective control.

 

The economic impact will, of course, continue to be felt. But I am confident that the direction of economic policy already underway, as part of the sultanate’s rebalancing drive, will also prove effective as a way of making sure that Oman emerges from this crisis without lasting damage to the national economy and the long-term livelihoods of citizens.

I wish to join you and everyone in our beloved country to pay tribute to those heroes who have contributed to the national effort to combat the virus – the medical professionals and health workers, teachers, cleaners, drivers, retail and hospitality staff, delivery personnel and everyone, including volunteers, who worked so hard and tirelessly, in stressful and challenging conditions. We salute you and owe you our heartfelt thanks.

What are the priorities for the Foreign Ministry?

The ministry is reviewing its structure as part of the government’s restructuring process I referred to earlier. The goal is to ensure that the Foreign Ministry can make a dynamic contribution to economic policy, by supporting trade, investment opportunities, and cooperation with our regional and international partners. This is, of course, in line with the continuous development of relationships and in line with the requirements of strengthening the foundations of security, stability, peace and prosperity.

We must be optimistic about the new year, hoping that there will be some positive progress on many issues and challenges. In particular, we hope that the upcoming Gulf summit will witness a breakthrough in the rift between some countries and a renewed momentum for Gulf cooperation.

We are also hopeful of seeing the USA return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This would be a major step in support of regional and international security and stability.

We are looking forward to working with the new administration- the USA is one of Oman’s best friends, and the opportunity to develop new shared approaches to international and regional problems is hugely welcome.

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