Today's Times of Oman ran with this rather juicy headline: Replace expats in all top jobs with Omanis: Majlis Al Shura.
The story reports that members of the Majlis Al Shura said, "Nationals should replace expatriates in all managerial and leadership roles and positions". The article then goes on to report that Omanis with same qualification and educational certificates as expatriates should received the same wages and benefits as they do.
An "expert on manpower issues who didn't want to be named" (I don't blame that person!) was then reported as saying: "The suggestion by the members is not a studied move. Omanis are still not ready to be replaced at top managerial posts. How can we replace all top positions with Omanis when they may not have the experience or qualifications"?
I'm not going to reference the article anymore, but for further reading, you might want to check out the comments section of the ToO facebook page for this particular story.... some interesting, and disturbing at times, comments.
Again, this is a situation where people are getting polarised behind one end or the other: Yes, bin the expats camp, or the No, what are you thinking camp.
Should Omani's be in all of the top management jobs for companies here in Oman? The answer, boys and girls, is - No.
The answer is much simpler than degrading ourselves to the possibly racist stance that someone of a particular citizenship should have a particular job, primarily because of their citizenship. The answer is simple: The best person for the job should be who is in a top managerial position. That could mean that person is Omani, Indian, Brazilian, or whatever.
If Omani's want to lead businesses, then its quite simple: start your own company and be successful, or be the best person for the job.
But there is of course another side of this story: There are expats who are in managerial positions who, possibly, are not the best person for the job and are possibly limiting the business prospects of that particular company.
There are people who will hire their own countrymen over others, there are employers who will pay salaries based on where people are from (in some cases) but I think this one is a bit harder to define. There is a market rate for labour in the Sultanate, and further afield. If someone wants a British trained and experienced Engineer (for example) the salary must be attractive enough to tempt that person away from the UK, and thus needs to be competitive with UK salaries. The same goes for a Sri Lankan Engineer. The question of what salaries should be, should be tied to what are the global market rates for these people? As for people hiring from their own countries... this could be better restricted by a stronger HR involvement in the hiring policies of companies here, which is already highly Omanised, so the tools are there to start the change.
Should an Omani engineer, who has an Engineering degree from SQU be paid the same as a British engineer with a degree from Cambridge University (the UK's current top Engineering university)? Probably not. Why? Cambridge's degree is harder to obtain and has a better reputation.
Should the same Omani who has their degree from SQU from 2014 be paid the same as the Brit with the Cambridge degree and 25 years of experience? Probably not. Why? 25 years of experience.
There are always exceptions to every rule, and after nearly 8 years here in Oman, I've met some truly highly intelligent and capable Omani's. I've also met a lot of people that aren't - both Omani and expat alike. Like it or not, education in Oman needs a total overhaul. People need to fail. People need to work hard (I'm not saying people don't work hard already). Once education is sorted out, everything else will flow from there, with the small bump being those expats that are hanging onto their jobs and will refuse to go easily. But they can be dealt with.
The suggestion from the Majlis Al Shura to Omanise all top managerial positions in companies here in Oman is, at this time, just a suggestion to the Ministry of Manpower. Should the Ministry of Manpower take that suggestion as an instruction? I don't know. Stranger things have happened. It's been said time and time again, business doesn't just happen because the Government says it should. There needs to be opportunity and there needs to be success in order for a business to thrive. If I was a business owner, I'd hire the best person for the job 100% of the time if I could, because that would be the best thing for my business and thus I could grow it, and make more money, and also create more jobs.
Times are changing, and expats should remind themselves that they are guest workers here, and things come to an end. I've done nearly 8 years here, I've worked on some incredible projects and enjoyed a great life, the highlight being the birth of my 2 children here in Muscat and that will always mean Oman will have a place in my heart. But things always come to an end, eventually. It's good to remind yourself of that from time to time!