Youth make up a majority of the population in the country, and candidates said there is a need to help them find jobs, especially in the private sector.
According to the 2014 National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) data, Omanis below 34 years old comprise 69 per cent of the population. Earlier this year, NCSI reported the unemployment rate in the country at 11.75 per cent. “We should have open discussions with the youth,” said Mohammed al Busaidi who is seeking re-election from the wilayat of Bausher. “We should always keep in mind that whenever we make any plans for the country they [youth] should be involved and should be part of decisions.”
Busaidi said that existing initiatives and institutions, such as the National Youth Commission, haven’t been able to fill the necessary role. “Their involvement is very limited and their resources are very limited as well,” said Busaidi, who is also chairman of Oman Real Estate Association. He said that education, healthcare, housing, and economic diversification are the other important issues he wants to focus on if re-elected.
Busaidi said he has campaigned on social media and through billboards but also plans on having face-to-face meetings with voters in function halls before the elections. Seeb candidate Haitham al Hudaifi said he is contesting mainly because he wants to represent the youth. “Young people are facing a lot of difficulties in developing their talent. There is no government support,” he said.
“With the young people you can grow your economy. You can improve it, if you utilise their skills as much as you can.” He said he wants to reform Omanisation process to better target jobs most suitable to Omanis. He hinted that certain blue-collar jobs, such as truck drivers, have been improperly targeted for Omanisation by the government. “The government has given certain positions which they know Omanis can do. But, Omanis also can do something else,” he said. “So it’s about changing the position, not the Omanisation percentage. Keep it the same as it is, but in a better position which fits them.”
Hudaifi, 30, meets the minimum age requirement to contest Shura polls. “I’m with the youth because I am young, I understand them,” said Hudaifi, who is a construction manager and owner of two construction companies. “I feel what they are feeling.”
First-time Seeb candidate Hilal al Sarmi also wants to focus on unemployment. He said he wants to increase training for job seekers, encourage the private sector to absorb more Omanis in medium and high level positions, and help promote SMEs. “I decided to run because of my belief in national service and after listening to the knowledgeable youth in Seeb, who encouraged me to run for elections,” he said.
Sarmi’s campaign slogan is, ‘Your Decision Makes the Change’. “I chose this for my concern of the youth in Seeb and their choice [for a candidate] aside from tribe, gender and the like,” said Sarmi, a director in the Ministry of Health. “This way, the person himself, with his own hand, can bring about change in his wilayat, by choosing the right person.”
Busaidi, the candidate from Bausher, said with the oil price situation, the upcoming ninth five year plan as well as planning needed for Vision 2040, the incoming Shura members will have an important role to play. “[The elections] are very important - first of all to participate in the elections and secondly to choose those who really can support the country at this very difficult moment,” he said. “[Shura] can really be a part of any future decision.”