Sultanate of Oman stresses importance of unifying stance in the service of all Islamic issues

Health minister briefs Shura Council on stages to develop health services for Omanis

Sultanate spends $6 billion to enhance power generation sector

Agriculture ministry to embark on cultivation of one million palm trees in implementation of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’ orders

HE Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi, Chairman of the Public Authority for Electricity and Water, said that the total investment in electricity projects in the Sultanate, to be implemented in coming years, will be RO3 billion.

He told Oman News Agency that many electricity and water plants would be built in different parts of the Sultanate. At present, the formalities is under way for floating tenders for the Mirbat electricity production and water desalination plant.

The first phase of the project will be operational by 2011. Recently, a tender was floated for the implementation of third phase of Barka plant and the second phase of Sohar plant. Both these projects are expected to be commissioned by 2013, he said.

Studies have been initiated to build a new plant at Al Ghubra (1st phase). The plant will be operational by 2013. Studies are also in progress to build a new plant at Duqum with a capacity of 1,000MW. The coal-based plant is likely to be commissioned by 2015, he said.

The authority is also conducting a feasibility study to build a central solar plant to produce around 100 to 200MW power. The study for this plant will take place next year.

The peak electricity loads at the main link system reached 3,600MW during summer this year, he said.

He attributed the rise in power consumption to urbanization, increase in number of consumers and high living standards of citizens.

With regard to the Salalah electricity franchise, he said that the peak demand for electricity reached 297MW on May 31, which is 14 per cent more than last year.

To a question on power failures during summer season, Al Mahrouqi said that it was due to the maintenance work carried out by concerned companies. With regard to unplanned power disruption, he said there were many factors such as high load on transformers and power grids. The reasons behind power failure are being studied and solved. A committee has been formed to find a solution to the problem, he added.

As the grid and capacities of transformers are being upgraded annually, the power failure during this summer from the main link system areas had been less as compared to last summer, he added. The power disruption had mainly reported from Salalah area. This was due to the repeated failures of diesel engines, he added.

He said that 90 per cent of populated areas in the country are provided with power. The authority is making all efforts to provide power to rest of the areas in a time bound manner, he said.

On installation of the digital meter, Al Mahrouqi said that a detailed feasibility study was being undertaken to convert the digital meter and using the remote-reading system. The distribution companies are also replacing defected meters or digital meters in new buildings. The initial cost for the implementation of the plan will be around RO50 to RO70 million, he added.

Regarding power link among the GCC countries, he said it covers three phases: The first one would include KSA, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. The second phase will cover the link between Sultanate and the UAE. The third phase is linking the phase I and II. This phase will be completed in 2011, he said.

On the success of privatization of electricity and water sectors in the Sultanate, Al Mahrouqi said privatization of the sectors had a good impact on the Omani economy.

On main transmission and distribution grids, he said that most of them are still government owned companies whose project capital stood at RO210 million in three years until 2008. The electricity structure also contributed to cut the average of lost power from 24.6 per cent in 2004 to 18.7 per cent in 2008.

Omanization ratio also increased by 67 per cent (2,597 staff in 2008), against 32 per cent (1,544 in 2005), he said.

On cost of power supply to consumers, Al Mahrouqi said the average cost was 25 baisas in 2006 which was reduced to 23.2 baisas per kw/hours last year.

The total annual government support to electricity consumers in the Sultanate fell from RO113 million in 2006 to RO65 million in 2008, he added.

Meanwhile, the Sultanate has stressed the importance of adopting a unified stance towards Islamic issues including the Palestinian cause and Al Aqsa Mosque in order to find a lasting solution for them.

This was announced by HE Musallam Bin Ali Al Mashani, who heads the Shura Council delegation at the twelfth session of the Council of the Parliamentary Union of the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which concluded on Sunday in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

Speaking on behalf of Arab Parliamentary Group, Mashani said the Islamic states must monitor the current international developments and adopt a joint formula in cooperation with the rest of the world to create a just and tolerant world ruled by peace, security, cooperation and development instead of war, conflict and fighting.

On the sidelines of the summit, the Shura Council delegation met heads of various Arab and Islamic parliamentary councils participating in the conference. During these meetings, they talked about strengthening the cooperation between the Shura Council and the parliamentary assemblies and exchanged views on various issues under discussion at the conference.

The conference discussed a number of issues including the economic problems facing the Muslim world in the wake of global financial crisis.

The meeting also discussed the report of the special committee on the reform plan and the financial system and regulatory framework for the Union.

The secretary-general presented a comprehensive working report since the eleventh session of the Parliamentary Union held in the Republic of Niger in February 2009.

On the other hand, the Shura Council on Sunday listened to HE Ali Bin Mohammed Bin Moosa, Minister of Health, who gave a comprehensive statement on the policies and programs of the ministry, as well as its services to support the health sector in the Sultanate.

The Shura Council held the regular third and fourth sessions for the third term of 2009/2010 on Saturday and Sunday. The sessions were held under the chairmanship of HE Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Isa’ee, Shura Council chairman.

The third session will highlight the report of the economic panel on the study of the draft law of regulating garbage fields.

The introductory seminar on the general census for population, buildings and installations 2010, organized by the Census administration at the Ministry of National Economy, were also held at the Shura Council on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Omani ministry of agriculture will soon embark on carrying out a project to launch expansions at the agricultural research station to meet the needs of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos regarding the cultivation of one million palm trees in different areas of the sultanate.

His Eminence Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hamad Al Khalili, Grand Mufti of the Sultanate, said one million date palm trees that His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said ordered to plant in several parts of the country as an endowment to the treasury is a historic step.

Speaking to Oman Tribune, he said agriculture constitutes one of the mainstays of human life, as mentioned in several places in the Holy Quran and in the sayings of the prophet. Endowment is also an important part of the Islamic culture, he said.

Khalili also said the Royal Order is an important step with greater implications on several counts. It highlights the importance of date palm tree, endowment and charity activities in a Muslim society. The Islamic concept of the government treasury is very dynamic and it accommodates the changes according to the new requirements of the time.

The Royal Directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to plant one million date palm trees as an endowment to the treasury and the priority he accords to the agriculture sector during his meeting with the sheikhs and dignitaries in Al Dhahirah region and Buraimi governorate were widely welcomed by the people across the Sultanate.

Speaking to Oman Tribune, they expressed their heartfelt thanks and sincere loyalty to His Majesty the Sultan for the special care he attaches to whatever relates to their life.

Saleh Bin Nasser Al Qasimi, Assistant Director-General of the Endowments and Treasury at the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, said we welcome the statement of His Majesty the Sultan during which he focused on planting date palms which has been the backbone of our food security for years.

The statement demonstrates a proactive and constructive outlook towards the issues in the agriculture sector and will be greatly beneficial for the people of the country in general and those working in the agricultural sector in particular, he added.

Tahbit Bin Rashid Al Sabiqi, Director-General of Endowment at the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, said the Royal Directive to plant one million palm trees reflects the visionary perspective of the great leader who understood the significance of endowment in Islamic culture and its role in cultivating fraternity and unity in the society. The initiative is a bold step towards ensuring the food security in the country.

A number of farmers from the wilayats in Al Dakhiliyah region also thanked His Majesty the Sultan for his directive to cultivate one million date palm trees in Al Dhahirah, Al Sharqiyah and Al Dakhiliyah regions. They said the directive indicates his deep understanding of the importance of date palm trees in Omani life and its significance in the food security of the country.

Mohammed Bin Said Al Kharasi, Director-in-charge of Religious Affairs Endowment, said the Royal Directive reflects His Majesty the Sultan’s foresight and deep understanding of the agricultural sector.

Eng. Suleiman Bin Abdullah Bin Ali Al Abri, Director-General of Agricultural Development Department in the Wilayat of Nizwa, said since the date palm tree is a symbol connecting the country and its people and the backbone of our food security, the Royal Directive is a matter of great pleasure and happiness for the farmers across the country.

HE Sheikh Ali Bin Ahmed Al Sahmisi, Wali of Sur, said Al Sharqiyah region is proud of being selected to be one of the regions to implement the Royal Directive. He also said the decision to plant date palm tress has great economic, environmental and social implications.

HE Amir Bin Said Al Masharafi and HE Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Farsi, Shura Council members from the Wilayat of Sur, Kahlifa Bin Hamoud Al Yaqoobi, Director of Public Relations and Awareness Department at the Directorate General for Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, Amal Shuhumi and Aziza Al Shamli, members of Omani Women Society in Ibri and Anud Bint Idris Al Hashmi also welcomed the Royal Directive which they said will be instrumental in bringing in comprehensive development in the country.