Muscat: It has been a long 43-year journey in which Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed has transformed Oman into a modern state.
To mark the new beginning under Qaboos Omanis celebrate July 23 as Renaissance Day.
When Qaboos, a graduate of the Sandhurst military academy, acceded to the throne on July 23, 1970, the country had only three schools, two hospitals and just about 10km of roads.
He first changed the country’s name from the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman to the Sultanate of Oman and embarked on the task of ending the country’s isolation. Qaboos used the country’s oil revenues to modernise the nation while maintaining the country’s rich culture and heritage.
Today the country has over 1,000 schools and every region has a health centre and hospitals in every major town.
The development process has not been without problems for Qaboos. As soon as he took over the reins he had to deal with a leftist rebellion in Dhofar, which he eventually defeated.
The Arab Spring also impacted Oman but Qaboos deftly handled the problem by ringing in several changes, including giving more powers to the elected advisory Shura council.
The Omani ruler responded to public demand for more jobs by creating over 56,000 jobs for Omanis and announced an unemployment allowance. To make the private sector more attractive to Omanis, the government also fixed minimum wages (320 Omani riyals or Dh3,043) for citizens in the private sector.
Qaboos has been emphasising the development of human resources and has asked the private sector to play a bigger role in that endeavour.
While efforts are on to develop human resources, the government is also developing infrastructure and creating opportunities for employment.
Duqm Port is seen by many as one such project that is expected to change Oman’s fortunes and make it a strategic stop for shipping, including movement of the world’s energy needs. To support Duqm Port, Oman is already on the road to creating links like a road and rail network.
Oman Rail is one of the ambitious projects that would not only link important towns in the country but also link Oman with neighbouring countries and help increase trade.
While Qaboos has transformed Oman into a modern state, people are now talking about the 71-year-old monarch’s successor.
In Oman the eldest son of the reigning Sultan succeeds him on his death. In the absence of a male heir, the reigning Sultan may nominate a brother or another male relative from among the descendants of Sultan Saeed Bin Sultan.
Qaboos has no children and has indicated that once he passes away it will be up to the ruling family to meet and agree on a candidate. However, if the family cannot agree on a candidate, then the Defence Council will decide, based on the name Sultan Qaboos has placed in two sealed envelopes in different locations prior to his death.
Rules set out in a Basic Law say the ruling family should choose a new sultan within three days of the position falling vacant. If the family council fails to agree, a letter containing a name penned by Sultan Qaboos should be opened.
Those authorised to witness the opening and attest its contents include a defence council comprising military and security officials, supreme court chiefs and heads of the two advisory councils (Shura and Adawala).