The Ministry of Economy has introduced eight new initiatives to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to recover from the massive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that crippled global economy since its outbreak.
According to a press statement issued on Sunday, the ministry proposed to take sectoral measures in partnership with the Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Riyada) ‘to stimulate its (SMEs) growth to achieve the objectives of the Tenth Five-Year Development Plan (2021-25)’ – the first operational plan under the Oman 2040 Vision.
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cast its shadow on vital business sectors. Numerous businesses have been affected by general preventive measures like lockdowns, closure of borders and the resultant disruption in manufacturing and service delivery.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), in particular, have been amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic. ‘They require support in the form of direct government aid, legislative reforms, and economic stimulus to recover, reduce their economic costs, and ensure their market viability,’ the ministry statement said.
H E Dr Nasser bin Rashid al Mawali, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Economy, said that the initiatives are “aligned with the fifth strategic objective of the Tenth Five-Year Development Plan on stimulating economic activity and supporting SMEs”.
Countries around the world have introduced direct measures to protect SMEs and aid their economic recovery and they include financial support packages, emergency loans, and making SMEs’ access to government support easier. The sultanate’s current Five-Year Plan aims to increase the private sector’s contribution in sectors with high local added value, and to support SMEs by strengthening their links with large enterprises.
It also aims to encourage the private sector’s support towards innovation, knowledge economy, applications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), niche markets venture capital, and providing decent and productive job opportunities for Omani youths.
This initiative is directed at making the plan more flexible, looking at challenges posed by the current situation.
Halima bint Rashid al Zariya, chairperson of Riyada said, “The Ministry of Economy’s initiative to support the small and medium enterprises sector comes as a continuation and translation of the efforts made to enhance the growth of the national economy.
“It is also part of the economic stimulus plans that the government has embarked on to support and enhance the sustainability of SMEs that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
She pointed out that the ministry would adopt and support eight basic initiatives targeting the SME sector’s growth. These initiatives will encourage the marketing and promotion of the products and services by SMEs and their businesses.
The eight initiatives to be taken in partnership with Riyada are:
The programme envisages SMEs’ access to local and international digital platforms, which can help them market their products and services globally. The initiative, which targets SMEs, shop owners and online platforms, is expected to cover about 100 SMEs and promote e-commerce. A contract will be inked with a well-known IT company to implement the initiative under Riyada’s supervision.
Winter Nights Festival
This interactive annual event – to be organised during special occasions and holidays – aims to promote SMEs’ products and services in night markets through several cultural and recreational programmes.
Efforts are afoot to locally market SMEs services and products, promoting their success stories, recognising Omani talents, encouraging entrepreneurship, in addition to increasing the entertainment quotient in the community.
Creative industries incubator
The idea is to establish an incubator for creative industries, with focus on areas that have high competitive advantages. It is expected that about 25 SMEs will benefit from this initiative, which targets creating a group of emerging companies with high technical and administrative capabilities in the creative field.
This incubator for the manufacturing sector – one of the pillars of Oman’s economic diversification – targets to empower SMEs and manufacturers through innovative ideas. The initiative also seeks to create a group of emerging companies with high technical and administrative manufacturing capabilities, providing them with technical support, advisory and marketing services. The initiative will be implemented through Sohar University under Riyada’s supervision.
Under this initiative, emerging SMEs in the fields of agricultural production will be established in cooperation with Oman Water and Wastewater Services Company (Haya Water). Aimed at supporting and developing SMEs in the agricultural wealth sector (oils and aromatic plants), the initiative will find sites for SMEs near water treatment plants in various wilayats for easy access to water.
Mazoon Company subsidiaries
The initiative aims to provide business opportunities linked to Mazoon Dairy Company such as manufacturing packaging materials, dairy boxes, ice-cream vehicles, processing and packaging plant for fertilisers, manufacturing and sale of fertilisers, raising and selling livestock, making biodegradable spoons, and package labelling.
Entrepreneurship education platform
Targeting entrepreneurs and craftsmen, this initiative focuses on creating a specialised digital training platform to develop their practical and theoretical skills. The digital platform will provide a roadmap to SMEs to undertake modern, innovative and practical steps, besides providing skill development and business administration trainings through global best practices. As much as 80 per cent of the training will focus on practical skills while the rest will cover theoretical aspects.
Support to SMEs hit by the pandemic
This initiative includes a series of quick advisory sessions for SMEs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative, which targets entrepreneurs in different governorates, is expected to benefit 100 SMEs through advice and legal counselling.
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