The Sultanate of Oman celebrates today, November 18, the 47th National Day, a day of pride and glory for all the loyal people of Oman, who express their gratitude, appreciation and love to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said who revived the ancient glories of Oman and built a full-fledged modern state based on equality and citizenship and seeks to achieve progress, growth and rule of the law for all citizens, renewing the covenant and loyalty to move forward under his banner and behind his wise leadership.
On this glorious day, Omanis feel proud of the achievements made throughout the past 47 years of the blessed renaissance march under the wise leadership of Sultan Qaboos to establish a modern state, which is witnessing the world’s contribution to civilisation and intellectual presence in the active regional and international forums and achievements of development realised at the internal level in a testimony to the volume of government efforts that have been made since the dawn of the blessed renaissance through development plans and programmes, which focused and continue to focus on the people and society.
It covered all sectors such as education and higher education, health and social services, electricity and water services, transport, communications, ports and airports, and the labour market that accommodates the efforts of men and women alike.
On this glorious anniversary that the nation takes pride in year after year, carries a great leader’s march, a promise and a sincere endeavour despite the great challenges to restore Oman’s long-standing status, in which the Sultan laid the foundations of national unity as a solid foundation on which sustainable development efforts are based in the different fields.
Oman has become, as outlined by the Sultan, an oasis of security and prosperity as well as a modern state where all Omanis enjoy decent living, security and safety.
Over the last few decades, Oman has achieved great milestones in the areas of health, education, basic services and infrastructure, which have raised the living standards of citizens to high levels.
These achievements were made possible through the policies of all government units through the optimal use of resources and allocations.
The state budget for 2017 aims to maintain and strengthen these achievements within the framework of the priorities available through maintaining the level of basic government services such as health, education, training, electricity, water, telecommunications and social security assistance, and to work on improving the quality of the basic government services as much as possible and the high standard of living.
The Omani government has started the National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification (Tanfeedh), which is one of the national programmes of the ninth five-year plan 2016-2020 in a bid to maximise the benefits from the natural and other resources in sectors under special economic conditions and challenges facing the country and other oil producing and exporting world countries as the contribution of oil and gas in GDP declined after the sharp drop in oil prices in world markets and the continuation of that since mid-2014.
However, these conditions created a new environment to meet these challenges.
Sultan Qaboos’ government sought to reduce government expenditures, complete infrastructure projects, take measures to maintain the efficiency and stability of the national economy, and take measures to maintain the efficiency and stability of the national economy and strengthen domestic liquidity.
In addition, the government sought to increase the contribution of non-oil sectors to GDP, increase exports, achieve economic diversification, push government institutions to provide better and faster services, and establish long-term partnerships with the private sector, focusing on the five promising sectors identified by the ninth five-year plan such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries and minerals, in addition to reducing the dependence of government companies in their projects on government funding.
The Sultanate aims to focus on the local and international markets to finance these investment projects in accordance with innovative financing solutions in the medium and long term, where innovative finance is one of the most important sectors in terms of supporting the plan during the course of the employment sector and the labour market.
In this regard, the government aims to achieve the planned economic growth and provide the required support to realise the potential outcomes of the recommendations of the follow-up and support unit of the Tanfeedh programme in terms of improving the investment climate, strengthening the role of the private sector, working to increase the rates of investment and focusing in the development budget on investment in the promising and productive sectors identified in the ninth five-year plan so as to enhance economic diversification, increase employment rates, achieve financial and economic stability in the medium term, and strengthen social development according to the set programmes.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has praised the solid financial measures the Sultanate’s government took to reduce the country’s budget deficit by increasing the efficiency of the tax system, controlling the current spending and reducing capital spending.
The IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia said that the Sultanate is making great and continued efforts to encourage the growth of foreign investment.
In May, Sultan Qaboos chaired the cabinet’s meeting at Bait Al Baraka where he expressed his satisfaction with the achievements of the comprehensive development march in the country in terms of good growth rates that take into account the economic and social dimensions within the efforts of the government and state institutions to maintain the level of services provided to citizens.
The Sultan expressed his appreciation for the exerted efforts to support the policies of economic diversification, which made appropriate progress during this period.
He also praised the significant role of young people, and the importance of encouraging them, supporting their abilities and improving their qualifications in order to enable them to benefit from the available opportunities.
In mid-October, the Sultan presided over the cabinet’s meeting at Hisn Al Shomoukh in Manah, during which he expressed satisfaction over the government efforts to deal with the global economic situation, which helped the Sultanate achieve appropriate rates of economic growth in investment projects while preserving the services offered to the citizens, stressing the importance of continuing that approach.
On the economic front, the trade balance of the Sultanate had a surplus amounting to RO492.5mn at the end of the first quarter of 2017, according to preliminary statistics issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information.
Among projects in the oil and gas sectors, the Sultanate announced this year the completion of the first phase of the Khazzan gas field project, which includes the drilling of 200 wells connected to the central processing unit.
The majority of the project’s production will be dedicated to local consumption, with a small share to go to the liquefied natural gas plant in Sur to cover exporting orders.
Since the beginning of the blessed renaissance, education has seen close attention from Sultan Qaboos.
Statistics showed that 588,339 students were enrolled in the current academic year 2017-18 distributed over 1,129 public schools in the different provinces of the Sultanate.
The number of teachers this year was 56,000, while the number of school administrators and technicians was 10,641.
The total number of students at the Sultan Qaboos University this academic year was more than 16,000 in the bachelor’s degree.
The number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education in the Sultanate was 135,493, including 65,199 students in government institutions and 70,294 in private ones.
Omani students enrolled in universities and colleges abroad were 6,297.
With the ongoing national development efforts in all fields, the Sultanate adopts an approach based on the values of peace, coexistence, tolerance, dialogue and close co-operation with other nations and peoples, adherence to the principles of justice, equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of states, and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the provisions and principles of the UN
Charter and the norms of international law in order to enhance confidence-building standards based on mutual respect for the sovereignty of states and good neighbourly relations, in a manner that preserves the security, stability and prosperity of states.
In this context, Sultan Qaboos, during his presidency of a cabinet meeting in October, affirmed the Sultanate’s support for all efforts exerted to bring peace and stability to the countries of the region in order to continue their march towards greater harmony and progress.
In continuation of the views exchange at the highest level between the Sultanate and brotherly and friendly countries, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited the Sultanate on Feb 15, and the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah visited Muscat on Feb 20.
King Abdullah II of Jordan also visited the Sultanate on May 14 and met with Sultan Qaboos as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who visited Muscat on May 17.
The Sultanate has always affirmed in international forums that peace and dialogue are necessary and important for humanity and that establishing them is a collectively responsibility and that the United Nations must work in this direction and its role requires the support of various countries and the international community to promote national and international interests, and this can only be achieved by giving a strong role to the United Nations to protect humanity from conflicts and wars.
The Sultanate also stressed that political and economic conflicts are the result of the inability of the international community to commit to providing support and assistance to the least developed countries, resulting in many problems and conflicts such as the issue of global migration from different continents.
It also created concepts of chaos, revolutions, and instability in many regions and action and co-operation should be addressed to solve it.
The Sultanate made this clear in September in its speech before the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, stressing the need for the UN to once again lead the peace march and activate its agencies in all aspects of development in order to enhance its role in achieving the sustainable development goals, noting that other countries should exert more efforts and cooperation to restore the character of the United Nations and its pivotal role in international relations with the promotion of a culture of dialogue and understanding to ensure peaceful resolution of disputes.
The Sultanate also affirmed its condemnation of terrorism in all its forms, whatever its justifications and its support for all other efforts aimed at eradicating and combating this scourge by taking appropriate measures, based on the relevant resolutions, treaties and conventions.
On the other hand, in the context of the high interest in preserving the environment locally, regionally and internationally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) announced that the National Parks Council of Singapore won the Unesco Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation 2017, the highest international award in this field that the Sultan has allocated since 1989.
The National Parks Council of Singapore was awarded the prize at the World Science Forum, held in Jordan from Nov 7 to 11.
The blessed renaissance of the Sultanate, its bases and pillars established by the Sultan and elevated to the highest levels of glory, enters a new era filled with hopes and confidence in achieving further progress and prosperity for the country and for the citizen under the leadership of Sultan Qaboos, depending on citizens’ work and minds to continue the efforts and achievements made and to extend them to all parts of the beloved homeland in various fields, and to maintain this renaissance to grow and flourish year after year, and generation after generation.
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