Sultan Qaboos issues royal decree on system of the Public Authority for Consumer Protection

Oman’s Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs expounds in press conference on Sultanate’s financial measures

Minister of Commerce and Industry: Government will continue supporting economic projects

Oman occupies advanced position in information technology

Fiqh sciences symposium concluded in Oman

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said has issued Royal Decree No. 53/2011 issuing the system of the Public Authority for Consumer Protection.

Article One: The Public Authority for Consumer Protection shall be under the Council of Ministers and the attached system shall apply on it.

Article Two: The Authority Board Chairman will issue the necessary bylaws and decisions to implement the provisions of the attached system. Till such decisions and bylaws are issued, the laws and systems applying on the administrative system units of the state will apply for issues not covered in this system subject that it does not contradict with its provisions.

Article Three: The jurisdictions, allocations and assets related to the Consumer Protection departments and divisions at the governorates and regions will be transferred from the Commerce and Industry Ministry to the Authority together with all employees working in them with the same financial grades.

Article Four: The decree cancels all that contradicts with the attached system or contravene with its provisions.

Article Five: The Royal Decree comes into force from its date of issue.

Meanwhile, Darwish Bin Ismail Bin Ali al-Balushi, Omani Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs, said the recent stimulus given to Omani citizens will increase expenditure in the State General Budget by an additional one billion Omani riyals.

“In response to the Royal Directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed, the government since last March undertook a set of fiscal procedures estimated at a total cost of one billion riyals on the budget of this year up to date,” the minister said during a press conference at the Finance Ministry auditorium.

Oman’s monarch recently ordered the creation of 50,000 jobs for unemployed Omanis, ordered a 150 riyal monthly unemployment allowance, increased pensions and social security payments soon after protests started, demanding jobs, better wages and improved living conditions.

He revealed that the appointment of 40,714 citizens in defense, security and civil service would cost the government an additional 444 million riyals. The unemployment allowance for 50,000 people would cost the government 90 million riyals.

The other major additional expense of 251 million riyals is the introduction of a cost of living allowance for employees in military and civil units. The increase in social security, pension, student scholarships and other measures made up for the additional one billion riyals in expenses.

Therefore, he pointed out, the budget deficit will increase to 1.9 billion riyals compared to the approved deficit estimated at 850 million riyals.

“Although the deficit is considered high in terms of absolute value, its size as percentage of GDP does not exceed [9.5 per cent],” he added. He said that the government will neither launch bonds to raise the additional expenditure nor dip into reserves.

“The deficit is based on oil revenues estimated in the SGB at an oil price of $58 per barrel. The oil revenues form about 81 per cent of the total revenues of this year,” he said. “Since the actual price of Omani oil currently exceeds the assumed price in the SGB, where it is expected to realize a price ranging between $75 and $80 this year, which will enable the covering of the deficit through the expected additional financial proceeds. “In addition, this increase in expenditure which represents [12 per cent] above that approved in the budget will activate the business and service activities in all economic sectors of the country and participate in stimulating growth.”

A joint committee of the government and private sectors has been formed to assess the impact of the recent unrest in Oman, according to Darwish Bin Ismail Bin Ali Al Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs.

Asked by Gulf News how much the recent protests witnessed by Oman would cost the government and private sectors, the minister said that it would take time to assess the impact.

“We cannot assess the damage in a week or two,” he said.

He added that a meeting with the representatives of the private sector was held at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry to study implications of the recent events (protests).

He added that the joint committee will carefully study the proposals of the private sector to assess the impact of the protests, strikes and road blockages in the recent past.

He said the government considers the private sector the main partner for economic and social development. “We have to work together to make the process of economic and social development easier,” he said.

In reply to another question by Gulf News on the GCC aid for Bahrain and Oman following recent developments in the region, he said that discussions between the GCC states were going on to agree how the two receiving countries would utilize these funds.

“It has been agreed to give $10 million aid over a period of ten years,” revealed Al Balushi, who addressed the media primarily to announce additional cost of one billion Omani riyals in the current budget to meet the recent incentives announced by Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed.

Meanwhile, HE Sheikh Sa’ad Bin Mohammed Al Mardhouf Al Sa’adi, Commerce and Industry Minister, paid a visit to the Governorate of Dhofar.

Sa’ad met the employees of the Directorate-General of Commerce and Industry in the Governorate of Dhofar.

He also visited Raysut Industrial Estate and the Free Zone in Salalah during which he viewed the nature of work and the factories operating in the industrial estate. He also visited Salalah Port and Al Mazyounah Free Zone.

The minister is visiting the governorates and regions to familiarize himself with work progress, address the obstacles and review the needs of these regions and the demands of the economic and productive sectors that contribute in serving and facilitating economic development.

During the visit, Al Sa’adi was accompanied by undersecretary at the Commerce and Industry Ministry for Industry, CEO of The Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) and the Director-General of the Directorate General of Commerce and Industry in the Governorate of Dhofar.

Earlier, Sa’adi had received HE Richard J. Schmierer, Ambassador of the United States to the Sultanate, at his office.

At the meeting, trade and investment relations between the Sultanate and the US were discussed, in addition to discussing the activation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries, programs that can be implemented during the upcoming stage, some issues related to enforcing the agreement and importance for the US companies to benefit from the special investment atmosphere availed by the agreement.

Sa’ad called on the US companies to invest in the Sultanate. He said the Sultanate will offer all facilities for the companies that desire to invest and trade.

On the other hand, Oman has fared well in the Global Information Technology Report for 2010-11, published by the World Economic Forum to evaluate countries’ performances in IT and related issues. The sultanate was placed 41st in the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), among 138 countries.

The annual Global IT Report remains the world’s most comprehensive and authoritative international assessment of the impact of information communications technologies (ICTs) on the development process and the competitiveness of nations.

The NRI, featured in the report, ex-amines how prepared countries are to use ICT effectively across three component sub-indexes: the general business, regulatory, and infrastructure environment; the readiness of the three key stakeholder groups in a society: individuals, businesses, and governments to use and benefit ICT; and the actual usage of the latest ICTs available.

Oman’s biggest achievement was in the NRI’s sub-index of Individual Readiness of IT, which has been elevated to position 40.

Compared to last year’s ranking of 87, it has jumped 47 points.” Such improvement in the Individual Readiness rank is due to the government’s prioritization for capacity building and enhancing the ICT skills in society,” a spokeswoman for the In-formation Technology Authority (ITA) said.

Contributing to the rise of the NRI ranking is the overall improvement in the Government Readiness Index which has jumped six points, from the rank of 19th in 2009 to 13th in 2010.

Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi, CEO of ITA, not-ed that government entities were following closely the global development in e-Government, “thereby creating citizen-centric electronic services for the society. Such eServices are available through various government portals and help to make government operate in a more transparent manner”.

“As an increase in the availability of public sector eServices is expected to occur in the near future and associated infrastructure is still expected to grow, improving Oman’s ranking further in the Global IT Report for the next few years is expected,” he added.

In Muscat, participants at the symposium on the development of the jurisprudence sciences in Oman presented papers for the third consecutive day on Monday.

A number of papers and researches were discussed. Dr. Wahba Al Zahili discussed in his research the approach of the jurisprudence (Fiqh) academies in the Islamic world in addressing the contemporary issues including the Islamic Researches Academy in Cairo, established in 1962, which issued fatwas on usury and Al Ta’ani in the Islamic Sharia.

He also touched on the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah affiliated to Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) which was established in 1981 and the Islamic Fiqh Academy in India and Sharia Jurists in America and Canada.

He said the jurisprudence academies observe the priority jurisprudence and has been very flexible and not fanatic to certain creed.

Dr. Ismail Bin Saleh Al Aghbari, Preaching and Guidance Expert at the Awqaf and Religious Affairs Ministry presented a working paper on the social diligence where he highlighted the Ibadhi school which has known for social diligence since the first Hijra century. He added that the Ibadhi School has been different from the jurisprudence schools because it was based on political jurisprudence basis.

Dr. Abdul Satar Abu Ghada presented a research on nationality in the Islamic jurisprudence and its Sharia rules.

Dr Nasser Bin Mohammed Al Hajri presented a research on nationality rules in Islam where he pointed out that Islam is not only a religion but a Sharia because it regularizes the relationship between the individual and the Creator.

Sheikh Dr Abdullah Bin Rashid Al Siyabi presented a research paper on the jurisprudence visions in the contemporary Ibadhi jurisprudence and a comparison between Fatwas of Sheikh Ibrahim Bayoudh and Sheikh Al Khalili.

Dr. Saud Bin Sa’aed Al Haabsi presented a working paper on the approach of the jurisprudence academies in the Non Islamic world in addressing the contemporary issues ‘The minorities jurisprudence.’

Many researchers spoke about the immigration jurisprudence, its limitations, citizenship and its concepts.

After presenting the researches and working papers, the floor was open for discussion.