Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Up until now, I’ve not really commented on the protests that have sprung up all over Oman recently. That’s been partly because I’ve been too busy to take the time to write about it and have just been trying to share information with everyone, and partly because I’ve not really been too sure what to think.

These have truly been significant times here in the Sultanate. And who knows if the major changes are even over yet?

I’ve got a few things I wanted to talk about, and probably will attract some haters, but that’s fine by me. So, in no particular order of significance, just how it comes to my mind….

The riots in Sohar, and the death(s)(?) that occurred. I am going to side with the ROP on this one. Some people have made the comment that the ROP should have been in a higher state of preparedness due to other regional unrest – and yes, perhaps they should have been. Perhaps they already were? It’s not like Sohar was a known hot-bed of antidisestablishmentarians (I cant believe I actually just used that word in a sentence by the way) was it?

The protesters were breeching the peace, pure and simple, and were ultimately breaking the law. There had been damage to public property (street lights broken and a lot of graffiti), and so the ROP quite rightly went in and arrested a bunch of the perpetrators. Now this seemed to upset those that were not arrested, and in a show of solidarity they marched on the ROP station up there in Sohar. Up to this point, ok, I can understand the solidarity and the intentions of the march on the station to get their buddies released from jail. However, at this point, people turned violent, set fire to ROP vehicles, and more importantly, a gas truck – right outside the ROP station. They even started throwing rocks at the police station. Really – what on earth did these people think was going to happen? Did they think the police would come out and say, “Hey you know what? YEAH! We shouldn’t have arrested these people, hey don’t worry about burning down our police station, here’s your people back. Oh, and here, lets sit down and smoke some shisha too. Here at the ROP we’re full of sunshine and rainbows, and like to keep bunny rabbits in our cells”.

The ROP did what they were trained to do in a situation like that – disperse the crowds. They used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, and it worked. It is truly, truly a terrible thing that there was a loss of life (be it 1, 2 or 6), but calling for the resignation of the top guy at the ROP because of it, in my opinion is foolish. In the same vein of thinking, you might as well ask HM to resign because, after all, it was him that had appointed the head of the ROP to that position.

I also noticed that the “looters” of LuLu were not necessarily Omani, or Arab for that matter. I’ve seen a lot of pictures where the people running off with goods from the store were sporting big grins and bicycles fully laden with rice and other things. But that’s another matter.

The Royal Order to create 50,000 jobs. So the question being asked of course, is where are these jobs going to come from? Well as we have seen, the ROP are swelling their ranks and taking on 10,000 extra officers, and numerous other ministries have opened their doors and are posting jobs as well. Let’s not forget that there are a lot of major ITD’s in progress at the moment, and once those hotels, shops and support services are in place, there will be more jobs available then. To my complete surprise, I was amazed to hear people complaining that most of those jobs would be menial labour jobs, and not managerial positions. Of course they will be – everyone can not be a manager, it’s just not how life works. In my personal limited experience of life here (I’ve been living and working here for over 3 and a half years now), I’ve witnessed it twice in the company I work for: a junior Omani staff member joins the company, and within 2 or 3 months proclaims that they want a raise and promotion to a higher position. Yet the sad reality is, in both cases, these people were simply not as good as other expatriate staff at their jobs. Don’t misunderstand me here – there are most definitely extremely competent Omani’s here. Some of the smartest people I’ve met in my working life, I’ve met here and they are Omani. But that is not all, or, and my hand is on my heart here, the majority. It is my experience that these elite, smart and motivated Omanis are a very small minority of the general population.

Someone commented on Muscat Confidential’s blog post this:

Good blog - I am a regular reader.
With regard to this post, most of your ideas are spot on. However, taxes and other disincentives on business, applied broadly, are not the right way.
We are owners of a medium-sized establishment, and we have been here for years. We are earnest in our wish to employ Omani. However, most of them are not educated properly (for reasons you mentioned), plus they want to be managers immediately. Many also have a grudge against expatriate colleagues, even though the expats perform better.
To employ a competitively qualified Omani is expensive (relatively), and they are few and far between. Plus, they prefer to work for large corporations/semi-governmental.
The Omanisation policies have to be modified. Currently, they are like diktats - employ Omanis or else. There is no incentive for companies if they employ Omanis, e.g. lower tax, reduced fees, etc.
As a business owner, I would prefer to hire Omanis over expats, as they cost less in theory (no air ticket, less EOSB, etc.). But in reality, the expat is more productive. Disciplining an Omani is taboo and can land you in trouble with the Ministry (although it is legal to discipline Omani workers).
Just to give you an example: for the 40th national day, we were called by the Ministry of Manpower, and 'persuaded' to grant Omani staff a bonus for the 40th national day. We could have refused, but we would have exposed ourself to bullying by the MoM down the line. An Omani friend of our (business owner) told the MoM to buzz off. He can, because he is Omani.
And yes, many ministers and officials are extremely corrupt. But then again, many govt employees at lower levels need 'greasing' to facilitate things.
I love this country, and it has a lot of potential.

I totally agree with that persons comments. Omanisation is an essential process for the development of this nation – but it needs to go hand-in-hand with better employment laws and conditions for employers. A free market is, after all, what is required to keep the economy going – the government can’t keep up it’s bank-rolling of the state forever. The hydrocarbon dollars will eventually run out.

The dragon’s suggestion of compulsory National Service is a great idea. It’d teach young people some excellent life skills, and hopefully help grant those that serve some experience of life outside of the family, and a different social order to the one they are used to.

The RO 150 per month job seekers allowance. Again, this really needs tweaking to me. There is no personal taxation in this country, and I’d be very surprised if there is much monitoring of individuals income. It’s a problem that is rife in the “West” – benefits fraud. I will bet my hat that there will be people who claim this RO 150 a month, and yet have a job. How is this going to be monitored and controlled? How is it going to be funded eventually? Personal taxation is inevitable in this country. It just simply has to happen sooner or later. People can only have their cake and eat it for so long before they have to pay for it.

And finally, the protesters themselves. Well done – they have achieved some momentous changes within the country. But I’m scratching my head…. Why are they still protesting? To me it seems more of a social thing now. Sohar has a satellite tv projector going, Salalah has food stands and tents, and the only real gathering that I continue to understand is the people at the Majils A Shura who are having a speakers corner (and presumably a few people attempting to present themselves as possible runners for the next election). Just perhaps, maybe, it’s time to call it a day and go home?

le fin.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone wonder why we need Omanisation?

Why do you think that employers have to be forced to recruit a certain number of Omani's.

I agree entirely with the following comments:

Yet the sad reality is, in both cases, these people were simply not as good as other expatriate staff at their jobs. Don’t misunderstand me here – there are most definitely extremely competent Omani’s here. Some of the smartest people I’ve met in my working life, I’ve met here and they are Omani. But that is not all, or, and my hand is on my heart here, the majority. It is my experience that these elite, smart and motivated Omanis are a very small minority of the general population.

Ask any senior manager, of any company here in the Sultanate (whether that manager is an Omani or an ex-pat) and they will tell you the exact same story. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part Omani workers are very challenging employees. Absenteeism is high, punctuality is a huge problem, work rate is less than 50% of their ex-pat colleagues, and there is simply no loyalty or commitment to the employer.

School leavers need to be equiped with vocational skills to enable them to replace ex-pats. Not everyone can be a manager, and every successful manager I know owes much of their ability to the experience they gained whilst climbing the career ladder over a period of years, even decades, not weeks or months.

And as long as the majority of Omani's feel that such a high proportion of jobs are beneath them, unemployment levels will remain high.

I honestly believe that until two weeks ago, any hard-working, honest and determined Omani could have walked into practically any private company in the land, applied for a job and started the next day.

Let's see what the future holds. In the meantime, the protests threaten to seriously damage the nation's ability to attract tourists, and the first people who will suffer if that's the case are the many Omani's who work in the tourism industry.

The point has been made, huge changes have taken place, but I agree, it's time to call it a day.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, that's probably the ONLY blog I've read where I agree 100% with everything you've said.

Well put.

Now can you please form it into a letter and send to HM, Minstries and all other 'top dogs'?!

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Dear all

Allow me to introduce myself......

I am an Omani educated in both the U.S and U.K, with many ties to local expats who I truely call "Friends".

I do agree with about 0% of what you have said here. On the outside it looks like you are spot on with your analysis of the situation, however, allow me to call you my friend and inform you that our communities and culture are quite complex for this kind of straight forward simple explanation.

ROP were NOT reacting to a disturbance of peace. They in fact were the ones who lured the protestors into this situation, when they send their squads at 4am to beat up and arrest protesters who were peacefully asleep in the roundabout (which is not illegal). All those snatched from the round about were thrown in jail at the station.

When their frineds and relatives (the ones BLAMED for the violance) headed to the station to ask what they were accused of and free them, they were faced with arrogant, intimidating police officers. Who in my humble opinion were too coward and scared by the sheer number and rage of these protesters and so retaliated by pumping their egos in an attempt to scare the protestors.

Things got out of hand when the police decided to use tear gas, which has been stored for years and would come in handy in this sitiuation as live practice for their novice officers. At this time, the ROP head (Malik) was hovering above the heads of the protestors in a helicopter.

Soon the tear gas and rubber shots sound turned into the sound of LIVE shots, and Abdullah Al-Ghamlasi (a 40 year old spectator, filming using his phone)fell to his death. with a leg bullet wound and another bullet straight in the heart. All the live shots were fired from above.

If you want more details and evidence please join us on facebook


Where we will be happy to share the truth and nothing b ut the truth.

Believe you me, if it were as your account of events, H.M would not have sacked those he has. We hope that he continues and sacks the other arrogant, ignorant, old school and corrupt heads.

They are directly responsible for the poor performance of Omani youth in the work place and their lack of motivation. Grow up in a corrupt system, with distorted values and practices and you are bound to be quite frustrated in the begining, stay in the system and you will eventually be assimilated.

I wish for all of those who are corrupt within all layers of the system be rooted out like the weeds that they are.

His Majesty had been isolated by them and they made sure that he and his people were living under a false sense of fear.

And now his sons and daughters who he has focused for years to educate and enlighten, rise to the challange and free Oman and his majesty from the hold of a debilitating corrupt pack of ministers for almost 40 years.

A new time and new vision is being moulded by Omanis FOR Omanis.

to be continued..........

Muscat Man said...

I completely agree with your opinion!

Only one thing that I fail to understand in this part of the world is, In any country, be it developed, developing or under developed, the Citizens take up jobs starting from labour intensive jobs like drivers, cleaners up to Top Management level depending upon their Educational Qualification, Knowledge of the job & Experience.
Only in Oman & other GCC countries, the citizens have a general feeling that they are not supposed to do labour intensive jobs, but are supposed to be sitting in Air Conditioned cubicles, with a computer in front & a free telephone & car...

Even on the Agricultural fields near Mussanah & Barka, I have seen asian expats driving Tractors & working on the fields... Why don't the Omani Landlord there employ local Omani's for working in the fields? Is it a matter of prestige? Has any one seen a coffee shop(I am not refering to the branded ones)in Muscat where there is atleast an Omani Cashier, forget the thought of an Omani waiter or cook...

Companies like Galfar employ thousands of Asian Expats on every road project and Hospital project! How about Omanisation in this sector... Its your country man!!! the roads, hospitals, health centres and schools are for you and your children... will you not build it with you own people?? do you really need asian expats for that???

Here comes the Muscat Municipality!
Why dont you go for 100% Omanisation in Muscat Municipality??? Why don't you protest in front of Muscat Municipality demanding that all asian expats be thrown out with immediate effect and Omani's recruited in their place...

Dan and Jillian said...

Yeah, let's think about those 50,000 new jobs for a second. According to 2008 data, there were just over one million people in the workforce in Oman, *sixty percent* of which are non-Omanis. I suspect this number has grown even more disproportionate, since a recent Gulf News article claims that the expat workforce alone has crossed the one million mark.

Plus this: "The paper quoted Manpower Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Nasser al Bakri as stating that the figure disproves the notion that expatriate employment is falling in the face of a concerted Omanisation drive launched by the government in recent months."

Employers still want expats. The Sultan wants employers to hire 50,000 more Omanis (which could be as much as a 12% increase in the Omani workforce!). That means 1) a lot of hiring by the government; 2) a few expats in the private sector are pushed aside for Omanis; and 3) many companies create some pointless redundancies to fulfill the obligations of the royal decree.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

I asked my husband to hire an Omani for our farm. And Asian worker makes $60 rial a month. An Omani would take $200. He, being an Omani himself, said no work would get done, alas, so he'd have to hire an Asian worker anyway, or we'd have to do it ourselves.

I agree with all your thoughts Sythe. I found I didn't have anything to write on the protests after the changes in corrupt management came down. There's signs in Arabic in the roundabouts saying we want more but no one seems able to voice precisely what that is if you stop and ask the protesters.

But they hjave nice qhawa;D

Really sad looking at the kind of things happening in Oman said...

My Company Management(Omani) always prefers to Recruit a Female Omani Employee rather than a Male Omani Employee, if the job is a 8AM to 5PM office job like Secretarial, accounts, HR & Admin etc. Is there any specific reason for the same? Is this the same practice in other companies also?

My very own experience within my company are
1) If I approach my Omani Subordinate with a file or a bunch of papers at 4PM in the evening, the first reaction is, he will look at his watch to indirectly tell me that its time for him to call it a day... 2nd reaction will be, When do you want this work to be completed? Only If I tell him that this is just a 5 minute work or that he need not do it today itself, he can start working from Next day, he will proceed to the next question, "Explain me the work!" If I say that the work is really urgent, his immediate reply would be, Mr. X had given me this huge work 3 days back, Mr. Y had given me this big tender 1 week back, you always come at the last moment.... (whining at this point....) how can 1 person manage all this... (whining...)

2) A couple of years back, when Omanisation was enforced strictly, our Management threw out the Expats working in our Stores and recruited Omani's in their place. Earlier, for any delivery, We used to make & sign the Delivery Order and the rest is taken care by the Stores people. The reality today is, I have to personally visit the stores every time I make a delivery order to ensure that the correct item & quantity is delivered to customer.

3) Classic case!!! Our company owns 2 nos. of 3 ton truck and 4 nos. of pickups for delivery purposes. Each 3 Ton has 2 drivers!!! For delivery in and around Muscat, in the 8AM to 10AM slot, the drivers force us to load the materials the previous evening itself and you can see this driver going for a jolly ride at the Corniche or the 3 ton truck parked in one of the parks or beaches. You cannot protest this. If you want the material to be safe, then you have to plan your despatches from 10AM to 3 PM only. So that he will come at 9AM, get the materials loaded, he will ensure that he is outside office during lunch time to claim his lunch bill and then he can go home happily after delivery!!! no need to return to office...

To avoid all this, we have adapted a shortcut of calling a pakistani managed 3 ton hiring company, and there you have the truck in 30 mts, loading is completed in another 30mts, and the materials are delivered in a couple of hours. At the same time, our own drivers are busy making thier cup of tea, planning where to go out for lunch or what to do for the weekend!

I'm not cribbing... I'm just laughing at the state of affairs... said...

Do you own a Standard Chartered Bank - Oman Credit or Debit card? Do you really want to know what will happen in an emergency situation where in you lost your Card and you wanted to report the loss of card?

Call this Standard Chartered Oman call centre Number: 24773535

Disclaimer: you may have to make 10 to 15 calls and hang up for 8 to 10 mts each time... better call from a free telephone...there is a 10% possibility that some one picks up the fone, but still do not worry, they will not ask you to validate your details, they will simply say that they are transfering the line to the concerned department... lol... there's no one to answer at the other end...
Other possible replies you may get
1) All lines are currently busy, please try after some time(automated message)
2) Your call is important to us, please stay on the line (automated message)
3)Please stay online, your call will be answered shortly.(automated message)
4)You have been forwarded to a voicemail system, however the mail box of call centre is full.

So what is the only way out if you lost your Oman Std Chrtd card on a Thursday evening, only practical solution is to visit the Std Chrtd bank in Ruwi on SUNDAY MORNING and wait for a couple of hours in QUEUE and then give a written complaint!!! and you need to have the number of the lost card... finished if you have not stored the number elsewhere...

I hope this is not the way Standard Chartered works elsewhere in the world! Not even in our Neighbouring UAE!!! Is this something to do with the Compulsary High Omanisation in the Banking sector...

Anonymous said...

I think you are very far removed from reality. Not even worth commenting further

Anonymous said...

There's a problem with imposing personal taxation (I assume you specifically mean income tax): governments cannot take money from their citizens without giving them some say (however small) in how that money is spent. So in this sense the government is caught between a rock and a hard place.

You might have heard the phrase 'no taxation without representation'.

-Omani in US

Anonymous said...

I think there is one solution (other than democracy) that the government can implement that I haven't heard anyone mention so far, albeit one whose effects will be slow to emerge:

Invest in higher education and remove all the red tape that stands in the way of starting a business (Omanisation included). It worked for America.

-Omani in US

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the torrent of posts; I'll try to make this the last one.

You say 'Omanisation is an essential process for the development of this nation' and then also say 'A free market is, after all, what is required to keep the economy going'.

Both statements cannot be true at the same time.

-Omani in US

Sythe said...

Thanks for all your comments.

To the Anonymous commentators... you can choose a name and still remain anonymous, it helps us identify your comments!

To the Anonymous commenter who posted on March 9, 2011 5:00 AM, who agreed with 0% of my opinions above:

You only commented on my take on the ROP situation, or you disagree with all the thoughts I shared?

If live ammunition had been used, it will come out in the wash - there will be shell casings somewhere, and a lead bullet will either have passed through the unfortunate man that was shot, and be found on the ground, or perhaps in the man's body. Until you have solid evidence, the rest is just hearsay. As for your comment regarding the age of tear gas that was used, each canister has an expiration date on it, and they will be recorded in the investigation into the events. Typically, a canister of tear gas has a shelf life of around 3 years.

Omani in the US - You are taking my comments out of context: Omanisation, right now, is essential for the people of this country - people need jobs. But those jobs will not be available unless there is private commercial enterprises doing business here, to employ these people.

The simple truth is that it needs to be made a lot easier to fire people if they are not doing their job, albeit only if another Omani is employed in the same job. With people knowing that they are not untouchable (without going through considerable effort to get rid of someone), perhaps their attitude will change.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, really? It's still unclear to me that Omanisation is essential as the hard policy it currently is, rather than an organic free market. Perhaps I'm wrong.

-Omani in US

Anonymous said...

Why not let all expat contracts expire and only employ Omanis except for a few named important positions.
Make the Majlis Asura the elected Government and these elected Ministers report directly to the Sultan.
The Sultan also should perhaps consider reducing his powers so Oman becomes like the European and other democracies.
Oman is lucky it has its oil,gas other minerals
to enable these changes to be financed.
It will take a few years but in the long term it will be well worth it.
One should not be put off by the doubters who say the Omanis are not good enough.
They are, go for it.
The tourists will stay away if there is any trouble but they will return as the country has so much to offer.

Anonymous said...

The names of the corrupt officer in Ministry of Health is Mr.Ali AKA Dr.Ali ,some one from the higher authorities or ISS should visit his home and it is sure that they can understand where the money for Minsitry of Healt Project is vanishing.The office name in Civil Defence is Harib.

All these days they were very powerful and influential but from here on this will the end for corruption in Oman and these money launderers will be dismissed immedietly by HM for sure

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