While Oman is sparing no effort in its drive to provide employment opportunities for citizens, the country still needs expatriates to boost the economy. In January, the government of Oman announced that it will provide more than 32,000 jobs for Omanis in 2021.
However, according to those that Muscat Daily spoke with, replacing all expatriates is not a solution as the country needs more people for a sustainable economy. They said the solution is to get more projects into the country, as quickly as possible for Omanis to prosper along with expatriates.
As per the latest figures (May report) of the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the expatriate population currently stands at 1,429,831, less by 11.9 per cent the same time last year.
Dr Abdullah Abbas al Bahrani, associate professor of economics at Northern Kentucky University and director of the Center for Economic Education in the university, said that Oman needs local spending and local demand but with the expat population leaving the sultanate, spending in the local economy is dropping. “They are vacating residential apartments, and reducing demand for housing. I expecthousing prices will fall as demand drops.
This will also impact the hospitality and tourism industry,” he said.
“The negative sentiment towards expats can result in reduced future foreign direct investment (FDI) in Oman. The long term consequences are severe for an economy that is experiencing decreasing domestic investment.”
Bahrani noted that more efforts are needed to diversify the economy and the labour market. “We need to increase local demand and spending in Oman. We can do that by making spending in Oman more favourable for all, including expats and tourists.”
Others believed that losing expatriates may impact knowledge transfer. Said al Rashdi, CEO of Oman Manufacturers Association, said despite the government’s eagerness to employ every eligible citizen, expatriates play a role in developing the economy.
“Expatriates play a big role and are indispensable when it comes to boosting the economy. Losing expatriates, some of who are experts in their field, suddenly may actually harm the knowledge transfer needed to smoothen the transition to localise many positions,” Rashdi said.
“The economy is not completely in our control and expatriates won’t stay here without jobs. The solution is to support open regulation to welcome FDIs which will improve the economy, provide more jobs and allow the country to retain its expatriates’ expertise at the same time.”
According to Khalfan al Tauqi, business and media consultant, the country “cannot prosper without expatriates because it needs knowledge, experience and diversification and this can be achieved with a mix of locals and foreigners”.
He opined that expatriates can’t affect the Omanisation programme. “If we are attacking them directly or indirectly, this will affect the country. I disagree with letting expatriates leave the country due to unfavourable laws and conditions,” he added.
Tauqi said the government should engage expatriates and look for ways to benefit from their expertise. “On one hand, we want foreigners to come to Oman for investments and on the other hand, we are making decisions which are against them.
“If we want to widen our economy, we have to welcome everyone. Investors will not come to a very small economy. Instead, we have to create more business opportunities and make sure that Oman creates a good environment for expatriates with appropriate laws. It should be a give and take strategy.”