Sultan Qaboos laid foundations for economy since era of renaissance, follows up development projects

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Along with his personal commitment to change and development, Sultan Qaboos made clear on his accession to power in 1970 that all Omani citizens would be required to play a full and active role in shaping their country.

It was clear the people would be forced to adjust to the rapid changes taking place around them to forge a better and more prosperous society with access to education, healthcare and employment.

From the beginning – the Sultan believed it was vital that the people should work closely with the government ‘like the different organs in a single body’.

In the first year of the development process, Qaboos spoke of the goal of ‘establishing just democratic governance in our county within the context of our Omani reality and in accordance with the traditions and customs of our society’.

From that time onwards, public participation began to be established in a variety of areas and Oman’s consultative institutions began to evolve.

It was designed to be a gradual process guided by the Sultanate’s own domestic circumstances which would not be dependent upon imported models, a distinctly Omani enterprise ‘in the field of democratic action in which the people play their part in formulating national decisions’.

For the establishment of the State Consultative Council in 1981 to the creation of the Consultative Council (Majlis Ash’shura) in 1991, the State Council (Majlis Addawla) and the Council of Oman (Majlis Oman) in 1997 (as laid clown in the Basic Law of the State promulgated in November 1996), the consultative process has been inspired by Oman’s traditions and the close social cohesion that exists among the members of the Omani community yet at the same time it has adopted the best features of the modem age.

“It was our wish, from the very beginning, to see Oman embark upon its own enterprise in the field of democratic action in which its citizens play their part in taking national decisions. This enterprise has been built up brick by brick on firm foundations based on the realities of Omani life and the conditions of the age in which we live. This is reflected on the step by step approach which we adopted in this regard, which culminated in all legally eligible citizens - both men and women - being granted the right to vote”.

Upon assuming the throne, the sultan declared his philosophy of rule, which is based on the organic nature between the government and the citizens.

Sultan Qaboos said upon arrival in Muscat: “The Government and the people are as one body. If one of its limbs fails to do its duty, the other parts of the body will suffer”.

This deep vision has established the framework for cooperation between the government and citizens, that is interaction and cooperation between them to guarantee survival, growth and strength for political body. This statement was like an undertaking by the Sultan. And he fulfilled his promise.

In stressing this sound philosophy of rule, the Sultan is of the habit of mentioning at least one of its dimensions in every national event. Let us recall some of the Sultans’ speeches in order get an idea of the significance of this philosophy. In his speech to the people in August 1970, His Majesty said:

“Educating and training our people should start as soon as possible in order to enable Omanis to rule the affairs of the country by themselves.”

The significance of this statement lies in the fact that it speaks about the essence of democracy being a political idealism. It means that the participation of citizens in their self-determination and in policymaking aims at the achievement of the country’s interest.

On the first National Day the Sultan shaped the form of rule and its philosophy when he said: “As far as domestic policy is concerned, our plan is to build our country and provide its entire people with a prosperous life. That will only be achieved when the people share the burden of responsibility and help with the task of building. We have opened up opportunities for our citizens to achieve this end, and we shall strive hard to establish just, democratic rule in our country within the framework of our Omani Arab reality, the customs and traditions of our community, and the teachings of Islam - which always light our path”.

In his speech to senior state officials in May 1978, the Sultan said: “The policy we have chosen, and in which we believe, will always be one of establishing closer relations and mutual understanding between ruler and subject, with the aim of reinforcing national unity and promoting a spirit of universal cooperation amongst all”.

The process of the renaissance continues, with clear philosophy based on two important elements of priority in the political leadership vision, the first of which is to build a modem state, while the second is to develop the Omani people in order to participate fully in the task of the realization of comprehensive development of the country. Therefore, the shura has flourished in the Sultanate and gone deep into the cohesive social fabric. Besides supporting the stable patterns of shura, and in reviving the practice of its principle, the Sultanate of Oman witnessed new form of this practice namely the annual royal tour of various parts of the country.

These tours form an approach of Shura established by the Sultan. He meets directly with his people in an open and frank dialogue without any barriers. He touches the interests and worries of the people and acquaints them with the government policies and plans. He orders his ministers to satisfy the needs of the citizens stressing one fact that is the main objective of the rule is to make people happy wherever they are.

The characteristics of rule in the Sultanate and the position of Shura therein are clearly embodied in the Basic Statute of the State. His Majesty the Sultan pointed out, in his Royal Speech on the occasion of the 26th National Day that the Basic Statute, “Crowns the efforts of a quarter of a century of fruitful work….it is the distillation of the experience gained over the past years.”

The Basic Statute of the State considers the principles of shura and political participation as main pillars of rule. It guarantees for the citizens the freedoms of opinion and expression, the freedom of communications, the freedom of the press and publication, the freedom of forming assemblies and the freedom of meeting.

All these forms of freedoms contribute to upholding shura and enhance political participation of citizens in public life.

Meanwhile, the Sultanate’s economy has performed well for the sixth consecutive year in spite of the global financial crisis, according to the third Arab Industrial Report by the Arab Organization for Industrial Development and Mining.

The report attributes the good performance of the economy to the high global oil prices and the public investment strategies which aim to diversify the country’s economy.

The Arab Industrial Report addresses industrial development in Arab countries during 2008-09 and is third in a series of reports prepared by the organization.

The report highlights the Sultanate’s keenness to pursue a policy of broad diversification of the country’s economy in order to ease reliance on energy resources and give priority to large investments in infrastructure, services, oil and manufacturing industries.

The report noted that Oman’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew over the last 35 years to hit $18,000 in 2008. Large investments by the Government have helped develop non-oil sectors such as tourism, services, trade, manufacturing and manufacturing.

The GDP of this sector tripled during the period form 2004 to 2008 to hit $6.4 billion in 2008 compared to $2.1 billion in 2004.

The economic expansion is mainly due to strong growth in the petrochemical sector, which represents 65 per cent of the combined gross domestic product of the manufacturing sector, according to 2008 estimates.

Although petrochemicals sector is the largest sector in the Sultanate, the industrial sector is diversified and includes other sectors like food industries, cement, aluminum and steel.

The report pointed out that the Sultanate encourages the development of manufacturing industries by promoting private sector participation in infrastructure, transport and energy projects.

The report says food industry, fishing, aluminum, steel and mining are among the industries that require special attention. The Government has declared an investment of $5 billion in order to attract private players in these sectors.

The Sultanate is also encouraging the mining industry through the sale of more public shares to the private sector, particularly in the manufacture of gold and copper due to strong demand.

Omani exports performed well in 2008 because of the rapid development of the Sultanate’s non-oil exports. The report says the value of total commodity exports amounted to $38 billion in 2008 compared to $25 billion in 2007.

Omani exports are mainly petroleum products, accounting for 76 per cent of total exports. Oil exports rose 52 per cent in 2008 to hit $29 billion.

Non-oil exports posted average annual growth of 35 per cent between 2004 and 2008. Non-oil exports rose record 48 per cent in 2008. This is attributed to growth in exports of chemicals and petrochemicals, which increased 74 per cent growth between 2007 and 2008.

The report projects the Sultanate’s economy will grow by about 7.3 per cent in 2010 compared to 3 per cent growth posted in 2009. The rate of inflation will reach 5.2 per cent in 2010 as against 5.3 per cent in 2008, the report says.

The Industrial Report said foreign direct investment influx into the Sultanate will rise due to the growing confidence of foreign investors who are attracted by the launch of the liberalization program in the country.