Sultan Qaboos Bin Said receives message from South Korean President

Sultanate of Oman stresses keenness on continued cooperation with Egypt

Oman’s agro-sector programs receive boost amid calls to increase private-sector investments

Oman’s private sector minimum wages raised

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said of Oman received a written message from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak pertaining to bilateral relations between the two countries as well as issues of mutual interest.

The message was received on behalf of HM Sultan Qaboos by Sayyid Asaad Bin Tariq Al Said during a meeting with South Korean ambassador to Oman Choi Jong-hyun.

Meanwhile, the Sultanate underlined keenness on continued cooperation with Egypt to the good of the “two brotherly countries”.

The Omani foreign ministry, in a statement regarding the incidents in Egypt, said: "Out of the strong keenness to Egypt status, its great history, as well as, leading and responsible role in supporting security, stability and peace in the region and the world as a whole, the Sultanate of Oman, leadership, government and people, followed the developments of the situation in the sisterly Arab Republic of Egypt since January 25th 2011.

“While the Sultanate's welcomes the will of the brotherly people of Egypt towards their legitimate aspirations for building a tolerant, reconciled, constructive and developed society, the Sultanate, out of its brotherly bonds and strong ties with Egypt, affirms that it is very keen for continuing cooperation in a way that benefit both brotherly countries.”

On the other hand, Dr. Ishaq bin Ahmed bin Mohamed al Ruqaishi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the Oman Development Bank (ODB) plays a pivotal role in supporting agricultural sector in the Sultanate by financing various agricultural projects.

He said the share of loans provided for the agricultural and livestock projects registered about 24.3 per cent of the total loans granted by ODB in an average annually during the period 1998-2009.

Dr. Ishaq said the role of ODB is not limited to financing the agricultural and livestock projects, but it also contributed in supporting the modern technologies.

The share of the loans directed to building greenhouses, owning agricultural equipment, establishing agricultural services units and introducing modern irrigation means constituted about 34 per cent of the total loans provided for the agrarian activity during the period (1998-2009).

The number of tools and equipment financed by the bank was 4,414 equipment and machines with a value of RO 21.9 million.

The under-secretary said the usage of modern technologies in agricultural production and activities related to it requires increasing the investments of the private sector. If the process of providing the necessary finance for these investments forms the mainstay in any economic sector, its importance increases significantly in the case of agricultural sector inside the Sultanate because of the economic and social characteristics that distinguishes this sector from the remaining sectors as the agrarian production subjects to the natural circumstances.

Therefore, the risks that face the agricultural investments increase, in addition to the limited saving capacity for the agricultural workers because of their limited incomes due to their small ownership. Dr. Ishaq indicated the sources of financing in the agricultural sector were constituted of two main sources, which are the commercial banks and the specialized banks such as ODB. As for the commercial banks, their contributions were relatively little compared with the contribution of ODB due to the increasing risk level and unavailability of enough guarantees.

He pointed out the results of the agricultural statistics (2004-2005) showed that the total number of workers in the agricultural sector among Omani citizens were around 170,000 workers (75 per cent men and 25 per cent women).

He said finance constitutes one of the most important factors of developing the agricultural sector and increasing the volume of agricultural products consequently. It is difficult to determine a specific contribution of the finance separately in increasing the production of agricultural crops. Yet, there is no doubt that part of the finance provided by the bank has been directed to producing high productivity crops that are profitable at the same time like establishing greenhouses. Generally, the productivity of the agricultural crops increased continuously during the last years.

The Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture noted the previous experience for the system of financial support through long-term investment loans contributed in the emergence of many agricultural projects but some of these projects tumbled because their owners were unable to secure the necessary finance for developing the productivity process (seasonal operating costs).

Therefore, the judicious government realized the importance of providing short-term finance for securing the success and continuity of these projects especially for the ordinary farmers who benefit significantly from this sort of finance, which is of a great importance for them because it is considered as the connection ring between the stages of production and marketing on one part and the unavailability for them in most cases on the other part.

Therefore, the most important recommendations of “The Sustainable Development of the Agricultural Sector” seminar held under the patronage of His Majesty during February 2007 in the Wilayat of Samayil were a specific recommendation to encourage and support the establishment of agricultural projects and finding an appropriate mechanism for financing the seasonal agricultural activities through ODB.

Dr. Ishaq requested the citizens and investors to benefit from the support provided by ODB for agricultural projects. “As part of the judicious government’s attention to the agricultural sector, in an embodiment for the vision of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the current Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) included good allocations for the agricultural sector.

Consequently, this will necessarily lead to the development of this sector and the establishment of many private sector projects in the production activities and other activities accompanying it. Therefore, we are looking forward to continuing the efforts exerted by the bank for giving the finance of agricultural projects a priority,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Final Evaluation Committee of the Agriculture Months Competition under the chairmanship of HE Dr. Ruqaishi concluded its visits to the wilayats of Governorate of Dhofar.

The wilayats of Thumrait, Taqah and Sadah qualified for the final stage of the competition.

On the sidelines of its visit, the committee met HE Sheikh Bakheet Bin Said Masan Al Kathiri, Wali of Taqah and Head of the Agriculture Months Committee in the wilayat, HE Sheikh Abdulsalam Bin Moham-med Al Rowas, Wali of Sadah and Head of the Agriculture Months Committee in the wilayat, members of the local committees and a number of officials.

During the visit, the committee was briefed by the walis on projects and programs that qualified for the final evaluation of the competition to be held this year under the theme ‘Towards Sustainable Agricultural and Livestock Development.’

The panel also visited the niyabats of Madinat Al Haqq and Gubgat in the Wilayat of Taqah to take stock of the animal husbandry projects, livestock products industry, meat production, and projects in local goat breeding.

The committee also visited Taqah exhibition ‘Forty Years of Sustainable Agricultural and Livestock Development,’ organized at the Omani Women’s Association headquarters in the Wilayat of Taqah. It included models of traditional and modern agriculture equipment, agriculture products of the wilayat and other livestock products.

The committee also visited the Niyabat of Had in the Wilayat of Sadah during which it viewed some projects in local goat breeding, collecting and marketing Omani frankincense and individual projects of citizens.

The panel was accompanied during its visit to the wilayats of Taqah and Sadah by Eng. Saud Bin Salim Al Harthy, Director-General of Agriculture and Livestock in the Governorate of Dhofar, and a number of officials.

Meanwhile, the Council of Ministers said that acting on the Royal directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said the minimum wage of national manpower in private sector will be raised to 200 rials.

The Council of Ministers delegated the task of following up the implementation of the decision to the Ministry of Manpower.

Also, HH Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers, warned traders against hiking the prices of food commodities, saying the authorities are monitoring the matter closely.

Fahd said His Majesty is keen to ensure a decent living of all citizens in the country.

Fahd commended the private sector’s cooperation with the government in a number of matters that serve the common interest.

HE Sheikh Abdullah Bin Naser Al Bakri, Minister of Manpower said the directive reflects the interest of His Majesty and the government on lifting the living standards of the citizens.

He said the decision will be implemented from March 1. The new employee would receive 200 rials, which includes 180 rials as basic salary and 20 rials as incentives. The basic salaries of the old employees will be upgraded to commensurate with the decision. He said previous incentives will remain without any changes.

He said the hike will contribute to an increase in pension based on the new salary.

Bakri said the Ministry of Manpower will issue an explanatory statement of the decision.

A ministerial committee set up to study the minimum wages in the private sector has submitted its report to the government and a decision to hike the wages will be issued by the end of this week, according to HE Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Bakri, Minister of Manpower.

This move by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said’s government will ensure good life and ensure better living and social conditions for citizens, Al Bakri said.