During the meeting, His Majesty the Sultan stressed on the economic importance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and also announced a new fund for their development.
In his address, His Majesty the Sultan said, “It is our pleasure to meet with you in the land of Bahla, which is known for its rich history, being one of the most important Omani cities that is abundant with traditional crafts and heritage that all Omanis know and are proud of.
''The wilayat of Bahla is also an incubator for traditional crafts and good heritage. We would like to tell you that we have decided to set up a college here in the wilayat of Bahla which will be named Ajyal College for Craft Sciences and Industries.
“The college will play a role in rehabilitating Omani men and women in traditional crafts industries in a bid to revive and develop them. We believe that the output will be 200 people in the initial stage and reach 800 in the coming four years.”
His Majesty the Sultan said, “Another thing we want to say and we want Omanis to be aware of, is that during the past years there have been a number of sources for supporting the youth and helping them set up their ventures, the most notable of which is the Sanad programme, which has played its part well.
"There are other sources in different governmental departments as well. We have decided to combine these sources under a fund called Al Rafd. This fund will help young men and women with their SME projects. The initial capital of the fund has been decided at RO70mn which will be increased by RO7mn each year. ”
Highlighting the outcomes of the SME Symposium held at Saih al Shamekhat, His Majesty the Sultan said that for the first time, a symposium came out with decisions and not just recommendations. They include 14 binding decisions. They are also time-bound; some of them will be adopted immediately and others in the coming years.
“Among the important decisions the symposium came up with is the one on allocating land to entrepreneurs, whether industrial, commercial or agricultural. We believe this is something which will aid our young men and women.
"Some years ago, the trend was to distribute land plots to low-income families so that they could benefit from them. But now, the land will be for long-term utilisation and we pray to Allah that our young men and women show interest in varied fields.”
As for expatriates' money transfers, His Majesty the Sultan pointed out, “Billions of rials are transferred each year. The government and all segments of society should carry out their duties to put an end to this hidden trade.”
His Majesty the Sultan also added, “The hidden trade causes great damage to the Omani economy, it decreases the available suitable job opportunities for our sons and daughters.” His Majesty affirmed that the 'hidden trade has become categorically unacceptable'.
On the expatriate labour force, His Majesty the Sultan said, “We need expatriates now and in the future. Each country has expatriate workers and even large industrial countries depend on expatriates in certain areas. At a certain point of time, we decided to create a reasonable ratio of expatriates in the sultanate.
"The ratio we considered was always between 30 and 33 per cent of the population. At present, expatriate numbers have increased greatly but in some aspects they are temporarily justified, such as for some major projects in Duqm and other places and the upcoming railways project. Expatriates are required because domestic workers still prefer certain jobs. Inshallah, Omani manpower will be present in all professions and projects.”
His Majesty the Sultan also said that he has given his Royal Directives to the government and the Council of Oman on developing a timeframe to return to the statutory ratio.
His Majesty the Sultan said that illegal expatriates have become a burden on security agencies and also cost the state, adding that infiltration is tackled on a daily basis.
“We deal with this in a way that does not upset countries from where these infiltrators come. Although it's a burden, we will continue to combat this phenomenon.”
His Majesty the Sultan also said developmental projects will continue whatever the circumstances. “ Everything will go as planned and the Supreme Planning Council will do its duty by studying all aspects and thus we will know how the development has progressed. We need to focus on the areas that need attention.”