Sultan Qaboos Bin Said patronizes military parade on National Day (2)

Sultanate achieves quantum leap in development

Oman scores key achievements in economic, investment fields

South African President praises Sultanate’s developmental breakthrough

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Supreme Commander, presided over the military parade held at the Sultan Qaboos Academy for Police Sciences’ ground on Friday evening to mark the sultanate's 41st National Day, which Royal Oman Police had the honor of organizing.

Upon the arrival of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Supreme Commander, at the gate of the Academy, the Guard of Honor column gave the military salute. His Majesty's vehicle was escorted to the Academy's parade ground by a group of women horse-riders.

His Majesty was received by Gen Sultan bin Mohammed al Nu'amani, Minister of the Royal Office, Sayyid Badr bin Saud al Busaidi, Minister Responsible for Defense Affairs, and Lt Gen Hassan bin Mohsen al Shraiqi, Inspector General of Police and Customs.

Upon His Majesty's ascension to the Royal Dais, the parade column gave the military salute; the Royal Anthem was played by the joint military parade band while the artillery fired a 21-gun salute to His Majesty. Afterwards, the woman commander of the parade column approached the Royal Dais asking the permission of His Majesty, the Supreme Commander, to start the military parade.

The parade began with the joint military musical parade march involving the corps of Royal Oman Police (ROP), the Royal Guard of Oman (RGO), the Royal Air Forces of Oman (RAFO) and the Royal Court Affairs (RCA), which passed in military formation before the Royal Dais in slow and regular march to music.

Then, columns of the Protocols Guard staged a military parade in regular military columns, passing before the Royal Dais and saluting His Majesty.

The columns of the Protocols Guard chanted the ROP anthem Humat al-Haq, followed by a pledge of loyalty and allegiance to His Majesty, proclaiming thrice 'Long live His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, the Supreme Commander'.

The Royal Anthem was played and the columns of the Protocols Guard gave the military salute to His Majesty the Sultan, signaling the conclusion of the parade.

Later, Lt. Gen Hassan bin Mohsen al Shraiqi had the honor of presenting a gift to His Majesty in commemoration of this occasion before the Supreme Commander left the parade ground.

The ceremony was attended by the chairmen of the State Council and Majlis A'Shura, ministers, advisors and commanders of the Sultan's Armed Forces, Royal Oman Police and Royal Guard of Oman, as well as military and security officials.

The parade was also attended by honorable members of the State Council and members of Majlis A'Shura, undersecretaries, judges of the Dakhiliyah governorate, heads of diplomatic missions of countries accredited to the sultanate, military attaches, walis of the Dakhiliyah governorate, a number of senior officials, commissioned and non-commissioned officers and personnel of the Sultan's Armed Forces (SAF), Royal Guard of Oman (RGO), Royal Oman Police (ROP) and security services, and dignitaries.

Meanwhile, the Sultanate’s economy is set to grow at 7 per cent in the next fiscal and inflation is expected remain at 4 per cent, according to the draft of the state budget for 2012, which the Shura Council discussed with HE Darwish Bin Ismail Al Balushi, Minister Responsible of Financial Affairs, on Wednesday.

Revenue for 2012 is estimated at 8.8 billion rials compared to 7.3 billion rials in the 2011 budget.

The minister said that the budget draft is prepared to meet the framework of the Eighth Five-Year Development Plan. Darwish said draft makes allocation to provide 36,000 jobs for citizens in the state sector.

The draft has given much attention to the social sector with increased allocation for education, health, social security and welfare sectors. The government has earmarked 1.5 billion rials to start 681 development projects in 2012.

Despite adverse international conditions, the banking sector in the Sultanate continued to depict optimism and resilience during the year, showing consistent recovery of the real economy.

Total assets of commercial banks increased by 9.5 per cent to 17,203.6 million rials during the period ended September 30, 2011, compared with 15,705.3 million rials in the same period last year. Cash on hand and deposits of commercial banks with the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) stood at 823.3 million rials at the end of September 2011 as against 1,044.7 million rials in the same period last year.

Total credit grew by 12.4 per cent to 11,882.2 million rials during the period under review and accounted for 69.1 per cent of the total assets. While credit to government declined by 7 per cent during the period ended September 2011, credit to public enterprises and the private sector increased by 55.2 per cent and 8.6 per cent, respectively, data showed.

Commercial banks’ overall investments in securities increased by 30.1 per cent to 2,204.4 million rials during the period ended September 2011 from 1,693.9 million rials a year ago.

Of the total outstanding investments, commercial banks’ investments in certificate of deposits (CDs) of the CBO rose to 1,434 million rials during the period ended September 2011 from 1,189.6 million rials a year ago, whereas investments in government development bonds increased to 284.9 million rials from 227.2 million rials during the same period last year.

Investments in foreign securities increased to 337.1 million rials in September 2011 from 140.3 million rials in the year-ago period.

On liabilities, total deposits (Omani rial plus foreign currency deposits) grew 18.1 per cent a year-on-year to 11,772.4 million rials in September 2011 from 9,971.3 million rials in September 2010. Government deposits with commercial banks increased by 39.7 per cent to 2,975 million rials, while deposits of public enterprises increased by 21.5 per cent to 906.8 million rials during the same period.

Private sector deposits with commercial banks increased by 11.4 per cent to 7,779.2 million rials by the end of September 2011 from 6,983.3 million rials a year ago. The provisional figures for net profits of commercial banks stood higher at 193.5 million rials at the end of September 2011 compared with 183.6 million rials at the end of September 2010.

Oman is working on a "single station" system in its efforts to intensify bilateral trade and encourage investments, its ruler Sultan Qaboos Bin Said said.

In a statement issued by the Omani embassy here, the Sultan said that the system -- a Directorate of Investor Services (DIS) in the Ministry of Trade and Industry -- constituted many governmental bodies forming a single team to provide high quality and speedy services for investors with low costs.

The system was being created amid Oman's intense efforts to be enrolled in bilateral agreements, which would enable it to increase trade with other countries, the statement quoted Sultan Qaboos as saying in his speech in conjunction with Oman's 41st National Day celebration on Friday.

According to the Sultan, Oman has always been adopting economic and financial policies aimed at giving a greater role to the private sector in the process of economic development as well as encouraging local and foreign investments.

The country was taking measures to enhance the capacities of the private sector and create an encouraging investment environment based on a secure and stable environment, modern regulations and comprehensive regulatory legislation, the world's lowest tax rates, a monetary system free of restrictions or obstacles, and providing modern infrastructure.

The Sultan also said that development in various cities and villages has paved the way for the establishment of many economic, commercial and industrial projects as well as different educational, cultural, health and social institutions.

Meanwhile, on relations with Malaysia, the embassy said that it represented an international exemplary model which is based on joint cooperation.

The bilateral relations emphasized on the principles of friendship, love and peace between people through cultural, historical and economic projects in order to achieve mutual benefits for both countries.

South Africa and Oman must strengthen economic relations and explore ways to contribute to peace and security, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.

“I was pleased to have had an opportunity to discuss a number of critical issues with His Majesty the Sultan, including the need to strengthen our political and economic ties,” Zuma said in a speech prepared for delivery.

He was in the Arab state in southwest Asia for a state visit.

Zuma said Oman and South Africa shared a strong bilateral relationship and a special friendship since 1994 and it would lead to further high-level exchanges.

“We agreed that regular consultations should be held in order to explore ways in which we could contribute to peace and security,” he said.

“It is vital, however, that we work very hard to translate the close political ties and friendship between the two countries into mutual economic benefit.”

Zuma said South Africa was serious about deepening economic ties with Oman through trade and investments.

“We believe that there are several lucrative opportunities where our two economies can complement each other,” he said. “We will do our best to create that enabling environment so that you can do business together.”