Muscat: As Oman celebrates its 50th National Day today, the jubilant mood is tangibly lessening the sombre atmosphere created by COVID-19. A cross section of residents and citizens took time to reflect on the strides made by Oman so far and look at the challenges that lie ahead for the country.
Kiran Asher, Group Managing Director of Al Ansari Group of companies, who has been in Oman for over three decades and is well-known in the Indian community, said the enormous progress Oman has made over the last 50 years has brought prosperity for all its citizens and residents. Asher said even a situation identifiable as a threat has been turned into a new opportunity. “Post COVID-19, Oman will see a rapid acceleration of e-commerce enabling its residents to have goods and services available online.”
Philippe Georgiou, a Greek expat who is a former strategy consultant at Oman’s Ministry of Tourism said there has been substantial development in the tourism sector. “Be it the creation of a long-term comprehensive tourism strategy, new airports, upgrading of the road network, or presence of new hotels and tourism accommodation units, everything points at creating a new visibility for Oman. The dramatic expansion of domestic tourism is another key development in this regard.”
The notable progress Oman had made in tourism and infrastructure was hailed by Roy Lasantha, a Sri Lankan resident in Oman and the President of the Sri Lankan Social Club. “Education has seen changes in leaps and bounds, and we have today many international colleges that have opened branches in Oman,” he said.
Mohammed Towhid, a Bangladeshi citizen born and raised in Oman, also praised Oman’s progress in the educational field. “The Omani government ensured that education is provided to every wilayat [province] and that no one is deprived of this important necessity. This is a tremendous achievement, in my opinion.”
Azra Aleem, who came to Oman from Pakistan 26 years ago, is astounded by the rapid progress Oman has made in the healthcare services. “When I came here, there were few hospitals, but now, we are spoilt for choice. There has been a boom in the number of private healthcare institutions and hospitals with more international names slated to join the fray,” she said.
Asher said being in the nascent stage of development, Oman needs to continuously develop on various fronts to keep up with developed countries. “Oman is an unknown gem for many tourists, and I am confident that once we are all able to travel again, tourism will be a great contributor to our economy. We are fully ready to participate in all projects that support the growth of infrastructure, and to diversify into non-oil income generating sectors.”
COVID-19 has given rise to many new opportunities in business ventures. But, this is also a challenge in itself that is impacting the economy and needs to be overcome, said Roy. “Looking ahead, I see challenges that need to be addressed pertaining to skill development and employability for Omani youth and economic self-sufficiency for the country to be on the top of the list. With the visionary leadership of our Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, we are sure Oman will prosper and have an empowered economy.”
Towhid also agrees on the opportunities that have arisen during the pandemic, with a spurt in interest in domestic tourism being one of the major point to note. He, however, felt that every region, and every town in Oman should get the same focus, to make a powerful impact on developmental front.
Azra said that in the short term, the challenges that should be addressed pertain to provision of adequate testing facilities for COVID-19, medical staffing, and public health awareness. “In the long run, Oman needs more than two medical colleges as the demand for doctors and nurses the world over is growing and will continue to do so. Healthcare should also be made easy for residents and citizens alike with better and inexpensive insurance policies.”