This balanced approach to economic and human development promises to reinforce the foundations upon which Oman’s future progress and prosperity is sustained over the long term. Indeed, the Architect of Oman’s Blessed Renaissance who steered the nation’s transformation from an Arabian backwater to a much-heralded model state, is once again at the helm as the Sultanate begins another pivotal phase of its development. His Majesty the Sultan’s vision, articulated at the outset of the renaissance in 1970, continues to serve as a roadmap for Oman and its people at this momentous juncture in the nation’s history.
On this 41st National Day, the people of Oman pay tribute to His Majesty whose visionary and benevolent leadership has helped put the Sultanate firmly on a course to economic development and prosperity. This is evident in the plethora of accolades that have come Oman’s way over the past year, extolling the country’s distinguished rankings in a wide array of areas, notably in healthcare services, peace and political stability, social welfare, educational infrastructure, economic freedom, and marketplace competitiveness.
The most prestigious of these tributes has come from the United Nations, which in a recent global survey, assessed Oman as the ‘Most Developed Nation’ over the past 40 years. Equally distinguished has been the flurry of citations ranking the Sultanate as among the most peaceful countries in the world.
Not surprisingly, Oman has found itself playing the world’s mediator in brokering peace and reconciliation between feuding nations, as well as negotiating the release of prisoners and hostages on behalf of friendly states. On the economic front, Oman has proved commendably resilient to the financial meltdown that has played havoc with a number of economies around the globe. In fact, the Omani economy witnessed a significant turnaround in GDP growth in 2010, primarily driven by a recovery in crude oil prices in the international markets.
The GDP at current prices grew by 23.4 per cent in 2010 in contrast to a decline of 22.6 per cent in the previous year.
While nominal GDP emanating from the hydrocarbon sector registered a robust growth of 41.2 per cent, the same from non-hydrocarbon activities witnessed a growth of 11.1 per cent during 2010. As a result, the share of petroleum activities in the overall GDP increased from 40.6 per cent in 2009 to 46.5 per cent in 2010 while that of non-petroleum activities declined from 61.6 per cent to 55.5 per cent during the same period.
Employment generation will remain a fundamental underlying objective of the 8th Plan. Around 200,000 to 275,000 new employment opportunities are expected to be created during the plan period, at the rate of 40,000- 45,000 jobs annually. The importance of this goal was driven home earlier this year when His Majesty the Sultan issued Royal directives for suitable placements to be found for an estimated 50,000 Omani job-seekers.
The great majority of them have since been accommodated in civil, military and security departments of the government.
These measures augur well for the sustained growth of the Omani economy, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Real GDP growth is projected at 4.4 per cent by the end of 2012, up from 4.1 per cent in 2010. The current account surplus as a share of the GDP is set to climb to 14.5 per cent in 2011 compared to 8.8 per cent in 2010.
A report by the Washington-based Institute for International Finance (IIF) envisions an even brighter economic scenario as a number of big-ticket infrastructure schemes outlined in the 8th development plan are implemented.
The influential institute predicts energetic growth in GDP to nearly $74.8 billion in 2011 at current prices, soaring to a record $77 billion in 2012.
Further, as a nation that has put its people at the centre of its policies and programmes, Omanis continue to reap the benefits of economic development and progress. Under the stewardship of His Majesty, infrastructural and developmental investment has reached the far corners of this expansive country, contributing also to the uplift of remote communities and settlements.
Among the host of services and amenities enjoyed by Omanis is free access to healthcare and general education — privileges that are the envy of many modern nations. Dozens of new schools and health centres are added every year to the country’s ever burgeoning educational and healthcare infrastructures as part of the government’s vision to provide these services on the doorstep of local communities. Alongside the steady expansion of these infrastructures is an ongoing effort to enhance quality and efficiency levels within these key service sectors.
In particular, the healthcare sector has all the hallmarks of a success story. But despite the remarkable strides made by this key sector, the hospital building programme continues apace.
Scores of new healthcares along with several hospitals are envisaged for construction during the current 8th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) with a total allocation of around
RO 330 million.
But the 41st National Day commemorates more than just the Sultanate’s extraordinary socio-economic accomplishments of the past year, and indeed the four preceding decades, under the wise reign of His Majesty the Sultan.
It celebrates a series of landmark gestures initiated by His Majesty over the past year granting a genuine political voice to the Omani people. As a result of these gestures, the newly inaugurated seventh edition of the Majlis Ash’shura is now a significantly enfranchised and empowered representative body. Along with the Majlis Addawla, the revitalised Council of Oman (Majlis Oman) is set to play a national role, given the enlargement of its mandate encompassing the legislative and audit fields.
Indeed, the gradual development of the shura process, underpinned by strong foundations and stable pillars, has led to the establishment of a Council that is now ready to contribute effectively to the decision-making process for the higher interest of the country and citizens.