As many as 70 researchers from the region and outside are attending the conference on “GCC in the Midst of Global Changes: Responding to New Economic Order” organized jointly by the Economic Research Forum (ERF) and the College of Economics and Political Science (CEPS) at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU). The two-day conference commenced at W Muscat Hotel in Muscat on Sunday, 8 December 2019.
The conference started with a keynote speech that discussed the Oman experience in diversification and the new economic vision Oman 2040. It also discussed the opportunities and challenges facing the GCC economics. The talks discussed how the GCC countries are adjusting to the low oil price environment, the role of oil in macroeconomic stability, the speed of fiscal adjustment, and the challenges of sustainability. In addition, the conference will discuss the role of Islamic Finance in terms of macroeconomic stability.
The ERF and a consortium of GCC universities have recently launched the GCC Economic Research Initiative (GCCeRI), which is aimed at building a network for GCC researchers where they can interact with each other and the wider ERF research community to share ideas and collaborate on policy-oriented research. In this context, the GCCeRI would provide a platform for GCC researchers and policy makers to discuss research and policy issues as well as regional and global developments; and, disseminate research outcomes to the public through means of publications, newsletters, conferences and workshops. The ongoing conference is designed to be the major inaugural event of the GCCeRI.
Delivering keynote address at the opening session of the conference, H.E. Yahya Said Al-Jabri, Chairman of Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Ithraa), said that in the area of economic diversification, the Sultanate has come a long way. “The Economic Diversification Programme has formed a strategic direction for good governance to drive the fully fledged economic and social development of the Sultanate, and gradual transformation from an economy relies solely on oil, to a diversified economy based on other promising productive sectors where the Sultanate has established comparative advantages. The key features of this Programme were highlighted in Oman Vision 2020, which accelerated its operating procedures and paved the way for more qualitative and structural improvements in investment and running business at the macro level as well as target sectors, particularly, industry, tourism, mining, logistic services and exploitation of fishery resources”.
In the area of investment, H.E. Al-Jabri said that FDI was a major factor in economic and productivity growth, technology internalization, as well as access to new and significant trade markets in the Sultanate. Oman’s 2018 FDI gross capital reached RO 10.5 Billion, equivalent to USD 27.3 Billion, while FDI cash flows in the same year amounted RO 1.3 Billion, equivalent to USD 3.38 Billion, with about 14.6% growth rate.
“The Sultanate has also sought to develop its services to stimulate domestic and foreign investments and to offer facilities through online investment services. In this regard, the Sultanate recently launched (Invest in Oman) platform; an e-portal, where investment opportunities and projects available in various sectors are offered, and where stakeholders can offer various investment opportunities as well”, he said.
“As for development and enhancement of infrastructure; the Sultanate utilized surpluses from oil revenues to construct and develop Salalah, Sohar and Duqm ports, new Muscat International Airport, and regional airports in Sohar, Salalah, Duqm and Ras Al Hadd. Recognizing economic importance of investment zones, Oman has sought to establish one of the largest economic zones in the Middle East and North Africa, and even classified among the largest economic zones worldwide; the Special Economic Zone of Duqm covering more than two thousand (2000) km², with investments expected to exceed $ 10 billion by 2020”, H.E. Al-Jabri stated.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Khamis Hamed Al-Yahyaee, Dean of the College of Economics and Political Science at SQU said that the GCC countries seek to make structural reforms in their economies to encourage the role of the private sector and increase investments. “They also work to improve their investment environment in order to attract more foreign investments. The countries are keen to strengthen digital economy, to popularize the use of the Internet and communications technology, and to establish the infrastructure for the digital community to achieve sustainable development that depends on high economic performance. In order to achieve these goals, the countries follow free economy. There are no restrictions on capital, profits, and returns, and tax exemptions are granted on profits and customs fee on machinery, equipment, etc.”
The plenary session of the conference provided an overview of the challenges and opportunities facing the GCC nations. It featured speakers and policy makers who are currently or have previously been in academic and policy leadership positions. The consequent sessions discussed the topics “Oil, Fiscal Policy and the Macroeconomy” and “Climate Change and Environment”.