Why You Should Invest in Oman? Tapping the Help of International Banks

Oman - Muscat - Main Highway Light Trail

Oman – Muscat – Main Highway Light Trail (Photo credit: © Salim Photography/ www.salimphoto.com)

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The Sultanate of Oman is located on the southeast coast of the Arabian peninsula, bordered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Yemen, the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian sea. Oil is an important source of revenue here. According to an article reported in Arabian Business, Oman’s average daily oil production rose 4% to 918,000 barrels per day (bpd) from an average of 884,900 bpd in 2011. However, as reported in the Al Arabiya News, British oil firm BP estimated that Oman’s oil reserves will run out in 17 years unless the country raises its output from the current levels. To reduce its dependence on oil, the Oman government is diversifying its economy into the non-oil sector and encouraging foreign direct investment in order to enhance the economic growth of the country. Here we will find out why the Oman government is encouraging foreign investment, which non-oil industries present attractive investment opportunities and how international banks can assist and advise foreign investors.

Employment

The unemployment rate of Oman is one of the issues faced by the government. The International Monetary Fund has estimated the unemployment rate at more than 20% of the workforce. According to Muscat Daily, since the last census in 2010, the total population has increased by 38% to 3.83 million at the end of February 2013, of which 56% are Omanis and the remaining 44% are expatriates. The expatriate population has increased by 106.4% while the Omani population has grown by 9.7% per cent since 2010. The number of Omanis employed in the private sector remained fairly unchanged, with only 1.7% increase since 2010.

On the one hand, the Oman government needs to maintain global competitiveness by attracting foreign talents to diversify the economy such as developing large industrial and infrastructure projects. On the other hand, the Oman government is struggling to create enough jobs in the non-oil public and private sectors for Omanis. The ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, pledged to support citizens in establishing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the creation of a 70 million rials fund that will be increased by 7 million rials each year. In order for new start-up SMEs to gain a more competitive edge, the Sultan also ordered state land to be given free to entrepreneurs. In addition, the Oman government is hoping that foreign investment will create more employment opportunities for Omanis.

Investment opportunities in Oman

Oman’s Vision 2020 and Oman’s eighth Five Year Plan (2011-15) set clear objectives for economic diversification and development of Oman’s business and investment potential. Oman’s Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED) is the government-run authority whose main mission is to facilitate investment in Oman and promote exports of Omani products and services to overseas markets. PAIPED’s 2009 Oman Investment and Promotion Strategy has proposed some industries that would meet Oman’s goal of economic diversification. These include automotive, infrastructure, ports, manufacturing, logistics, ICT, management and professional institutes, venture capital, financial services, international trade, insurance services and tourism.

Due to its strategic location, archaeological and historical remains, varied climate conditions and numerous sightseeing attractions, the tourism sector is an important and growing industry that offers lucrative investment opportunities. According to Albawaba Business, the chairman of Sundus Investments and vice chairman of National Bank of Oman, Mohammed Mahfoodh Al Ardhi, said that the Oman government is committed to boosting the tourism sector by investing in prestigious projects and encouraging foreign investment.

There are many benefits of investing in Oman, including a world-class infrastructure, incentive packages, attractive corporate tax and tax holidays, competitively priced industrial and office space, free zones and ports and a talented multilingual workforce. The Oman government also encourages foreign investors to collaborate with local companies in utilising its untapped resources, facilitating technology, innovation and management skills transfer and opening new markets for Oman products and services.

Roles of International Banks

Companies and entrepreneurs seeking to set up, expand and relocate to Oman should use international banks, which offer a range of products and services for corporate customers such as trade services, treasury services, corporate credit cards, and custody and clearing services.

If you are an exporter and need a loan to fill the gap in trade financing, you can apply for export financing in Oman to transport your products overseas. For example, with HSBC Bank, you can get pre-shipment finance to bridge the cash-flow gaps as well as post-shipment finance. If you are an importer, you can apply for documentary credits to help reduce the risks associated with international trade.

While there are numerous opportunities in the non-oil sector in Oman for foreign investors, the benefits and risks should be weighed before venturing abroad.

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