Tribute to His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said "I promise you to proceed forthwith in the process of creating a modern government. My first act will be the immediate abolition of all the unnecessary restrictions on your lives and activities. "My people, I will proceed as quickly as possible to transform your life into a prosperous one with a bright future. Every one of you must play his part towards this goal. Our country in the past was famous and strong. If we work in unity and cooperation we will regenerate that glorious past and we will take a respectable place in the world. "I call upon you to continue living as usual. I will be arriving in Muscat in the coming days and then I will let you know of my future plans. "My people, I and my new government will work to achieve our general objective. "My people, my brothers, yesterday it was complete darkness and with the help of God, tomorrow will be a new dawn on Muscat, Oman and its people. "God bless us all and may He grant our efforts success."
And so began the reign of Sultan Qaboos on 23 July 1970.
The official title of this country in 1970 was the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, which reflected the factionalism present at this time. This official description did little to promote the country as one maintaining political stability and indeed, the administrative system executed its functions in a manner which certainly discouraged change and progress, a situation which had been manifest for the previous 50 years. While the rest of the world moved on, Oman remained oblivious to the march of human civilisation. Nations eager to move forward were unconcerned by the plights of those who chose to shun the progress of the 20th century.
Oman was an isolated state having no relations with other Arab or Islamic countries and this isolation pervaded all aspects of Omanis' lives. Curfews were imposed: anyone found outside the city walls after the retort of the cannons would be shot unless he carried a lantern. Radios were banned as they were considered the work of the devil. Healthcare was virtually non-existent: in 1970, there was only one missionary hospital in Muttrah and a handful of admission units in Muscat. Only three schools existed throughout the whole State - having been built at an average rate of one every 19 years.
Women endured agonies for their children who toiled in the fields, working with primitive tools and struggling with paltry water rations. The suffering increased and the Omani population began to flee their homeland. They left unwillingly, but with little other choice, and sought countries where their existence would not be humiliated, nor would they be subjected to oppressive laws.
A total national collapse was imminent. But the Omanis' belief in their country was firm and these stalwarts remained steadfast in their conviction that things would return to their rightful order in the future.
The new dawn arrived on 23 July, 1970, by way of Sultan Qaboos bin Said's accession to the throne, a leader who bridled at the suffering of his people and whose own ancestry bore the scars of long struggle.
Qaboos bin Said was born in Salalah in Dhofar on 18 November 1940, the only son of Sultan Said bin Taimur, the then ruler of the country. He spent the first 16 years of his life in Salalah, where he was educated, until his father sent him to a private educational establishment in England. At the age of 20, he entered Sandhurst Royal Military Academy as an officer cadet. After passing out of Sandhurst, he joined a British Infantry battalion on operational duty in Germany for one year, followed by a staff appointment with the British Army. After military service, Qaboos studied local government in England and went on a world tour before returning to Oman in 1964. The following six years were spent in Salalah studying Islam and the history of his country and people. However, during this time, the Qaboos became aware of the poverty of his people and the poor standards of living to which they were subjected. On 23 July 1970, his father abdicated and Sultan Qaboos bin Said acceded to the throne.
Without delay, he invited those who had left Oman to return to their homeland, calling on them to join him in working together to improve the country. They were welcomed to participate in designing the course of the new nation, irrespective of their former inclinations, as it was “for God to forgive what had gone before”. To this end, many exiles and once hostile forces became supportive and declared their intent to assist in the difficult struggle which lay ahead of them.
In his statement broadcast to the people of Oman on the day of his accession, he spoke of his promise to improve standards of living:
"I promise to dedicate myself to the speedy establishment of a modern government in no time. My first aim will be the abolition of all unnecessary restrictions that overburdened you…I will take the necessary legal steps to ensure the recognition of foreign powers and I am looking forward to the immediate support and the long-range cordial cooperation with all nations, especially with our neighbours, with whom we will conduct consultations for the future of our area."
From this time, the slow path to development and modernisation began. It was a long, sometimes arduous process, particularly in the first five years of His Majesty's reign, but success was assured and the challenge was met, head-on.
Clearly, Sultan Qaboos was aware of the situation which had gripped his country and was convinced of the need for swift action in order to contain the spread of malcontent and disillusionment. The first enemy which he addressed was the state of bi-polarity. By August 1970, he had unified the country, abolishing the title Sultanate of Muscat and Oman. Thus was born the geographical entity known as the Sultanate of Oman. This new name reflected the urgency in attaining social cohesion and national unity. At the same time, His Majesty replaced the plain red national flag with the distinctive red, white and green standard which is now flown across the country.
This period became characterised by new extremes in the internal contest for power. Sultan Qaboos resorted to military force in order to eliminate a group of renegades based in the south who repeatedly declined the opportunities extended to the Omani population. For five years the fledgling country was compelled to bear arms against internal factions, whilst concomitantly trying to build itself up. In 1975, these factions were finally vanquished and the country was able to devote its undivided attention to progress and modernisation.
One of the Sultan's first priorities was to address illiteracy, realising that education, "if only under the shade of a tree", was the most effective weapon against ignorance. Within the first five months of his rule, 16 primary schools were established to educate over 9500 pupils, a 662% increase in the number of children receiving education. Additionally, girls were able to receive free government schooling for the first time.
Educational establishments spread dramatically across the Sultanate for the next five years. By 1975, there were 262 schools and institutions, comprising 213 primary schools, 45 preparatory schools, 3 secondary schools and 1 teacher training institute.
Children and adults with learning disabilities have not gone unnoticed by His Majesty. In 1984, the Madrasa Al Tarbiya Al Fikriya School was established to cater for the needs of children with severe learning disablities. The school is run by the Ministry of Education, which transports the pupils to and from their homes. Children can spend up to 11 years at the Madrasa School where they are taught the school curriculum and as they get older, vocational skills such as carpentry, agriculture and home economics.
The Al Amal School for the Deaf is located in Qurum and was established in 1980. It is a day school but has accommodation for children from the Interior regions. The pupils are taught subjects such as Arabic, science, history, sports, geography, art and music.
His Majesty has a deep sympathy towards Omani youths and is committed to preserving Oman’s deep-rooted traditions and customs which have been inherited from her ancestors. This commitment ensures that the Omani youth is protected from the dangers of the subversive influences which are engulfing the world’s youth today.
“The world you have inherited is a world where fanaticism, stubbornness and law-breaking have become the norm. Violence and suppression are practised in most parts of the world and sometimes one feels driven to despair about the future of humanity. However, we believe that the day when we can defeat these wrongful practices will surely come. This is the goal which we all seek to achieve.”
Sultan Qaboos’ hope for a civilised future for all humanity and his ambitions for Oman to play a prominent role in the world form the backdrop to his concept of modern material and human development. He desires a nation which is proud of its heritage but is always ready to reach out for new horizons. Consequently, these are the founding concepts of the Sultan Qaboos University.
From 1982 to 1986, the vast campus of the University was under construction. In 1986, it was inaugurated and received its first intake of students. The University now has seven colleges covering many subjects from Agriculture to Medicine. Some students travel long distances in order to study, while others choose to stay in the halls of residence.
The government subsidises the study fees, books, food and on-campus accommodation, as well as public transport to and from the University. Sultan Qaboos has kept a careful eye on his university since its opening, and in May 2000, during an official visit there, he stressed the importance of scientific research, stating in his speech, “we have to keep abreast of development at all times.” To enable the students to do this, His Majesty has allocated a RO5 million grant to set up a multi-purpose hall at SQU and has also sanctioned an annual allocation of RO500,000 from his own personal funds to support scientific research programmes and the establishment of an advanced industry zone. His Majesty’s firm belief in the power of education is rooted in the Holy Quran: “the ignorant are not equal to those who know.”
However, not only did Sultan Qaboos focus on general education, he also saw the need for vocational training, an integral part of nationalising the country's workforce. Nine vocational training centres were built in the first 20 years of His Majesty's reign offering three-year courses in commerce (covering aspects of business, banking, insurance, administration, accountancy and secretarial work) and technology (covering electrical studies, radio and televisual engineering, electronics, air-conditioning and refrigeration, communications, power engineering, mechanics, welding and other engineering skills).
A further contribution towards adult education will arise in the form of the forthcoming establishment of the Oman Nursing Institute which will have a capacity to teach 100,000 students. It will teach skills in intensive care, low birth-weight babies, dialysis patients and maternity care. The Ministry of Health has been inspired to set up this college by His Majesty’s directives to enhance Omanisation and social and economic evolution.
It also became important to Sultan Qaboos to break down the barriers between his country and other nations. In 1971, Oman lodged applications to join the League of Arab Nations and the United Nations, both of which were successful. Soon after, in 1972, diplomatic relations were established between Oman and Great Britain, India, Pakistan, United States, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain. In 1973, Oman became a member of the Non-Aligned Group of Nations.
The Sultan’s hard work in enhancing Oman’s status in the eyes of the world was increasingly successful and directly reflected its foreign policy:
- To develop and maintain good relations with Oman’s neighbours.
- To maintain an outward-looking and internationalist outlook as befits long-standing maritime traditions.
- To have a pragmatic approach to bilateral relations, emphasising underlying geostrategic realities rather than temporary ideological positions.
- To obtain security through cooperation and peace, rather than conflict.
In 1973, the Seeb International Airport was opened, which replaced the confined airstrip at Bait al-Falaj, a runway which was situated perilously close to the mountains. This was an immediate testimony to the country's progress and modernisation and a crucial link to the outside world. The country’s national carrier, Oman Air has a small fleet, but operates domestic and international flights to the Indian sub-continent and parts of Europe, in conjunction with other airlines. The handling company, Oman Aviation Services receives traffic from most international airlines.
A modern port, Mina Qaboos, replaced the tiny ancient port of Muscat in 1974, with a capacity to handle two million tonnes, annually. Over the years, the port has been improved and expanded.
During 1973, a low cost housing scheme was implemented for those on limited incomes and subsequently updated in 1977, with the issue of the Social Housing Law. The Sultan’s Government provided the basic infrastructure such as access roads, water and electricity, while the residents paid only RO25 monthly towards the cost of their home. In July 1977, His Majesty decreed that all members remaining in the scheme would be exempted from paying the balance of the installments which, in total, amounted to RO37 million. In 1991, the soft housing loan scheme was introduced. The loan is granted to the borrower on condition that it is repaid before his retirement from the public or private sector. The borrower must not be over 60 and the monthly deduction from his salary must not be detrimental to the family’s overall income. The loans are granted for the following purposes:
To build a house
To purchase a ready-built house.
To buy and complete an unfinished house.
To complete an unfinished house.
To extend an existing building.
With the inevitability of modernisation, it became apparent that the Sultanate's administrative system would require overhauling in order to be the backbone of the development movement which was sweeping the land. This task was undertaken alongside the Five-Year development plans (see below) as laid down by His Majesty. In real terms, the true development of Oman did not come until 1975, after the civil war was finally ended. However, in the first five years of Sultan Qaboos' reign, he established a Cabinet of Ministers and a body of new Ministries. These Ministries were instituted on a scientific basis and introduced in the three years from 1972-1975. The main Ministries at this time were those of Interior, Information, Social Affairs, Justice, Defence, Trade & Industry, Health, Agriculture & Fisheries, Oil & Minerals, Transport, Education, Awqaf & Islamic Affairs, and Development.
The next step was the reorganisation of the traditional activities of the State through modernisation of the existing administrative mechanisms which existed in the form of 'general directorates'. The most important of these were converted into Ministries: Security, Foreign Affairs and the State.
During this time of Governmental re-shuffling, a number of independent boards were set up to supply electricity and a law was enacted constituting a Municipality for the country's capital city. A directorate of development and planning, and a Higher Development Planning Board was established in 1972, which was subsequently linked with the Centre for Planning. New labour proposals were formed defining the nature of relations between employee and employer and a set of statutes were created to institutionalise these relationships. The most notable of these statutes came in the form of Royal Decree 34/1973 which covered the recruitment of local and guest labour, vocational training, contractual relations and the regulation of wages, holidays and working hours.
Attention needed to be paid to local administration and the attainment of a decentralised administration as a medium term goal. The public were encouraged to participate in government schemes and local administrative bodies were formed to manage what were then considered remote areas such as Dhofar and Musandam.
With the creation of the Commercial Companies Law, the small-growth industries became protected and an economy started to form which was based on free competition. In 1974, the Central Bank of Oman was established to control and regulate financial activity, underpin financial dealings and foster commercial and industrial activity.
By the end of 1974, the number of State employees had grown from 1750 to 12035, whilst the number of completed investment projects in 1975 had increased to RO1670 million, in comparison to RO 554 million in 1971.
Whilst building essential infrastructure and designing the country’s course, Sultan Qaboos aspired to build an armed force which would embrace a “deterrent perspective”, a tool which would meet Oman’s defence needs and could rally together. The Sultan’s Armed Forces
was developed and built up with combat-ready men, but a fine balance was made in funding the forces, so that, “the tank [should] not be at the cost of a loaf”. His Majesty, the Supreme Commander, has insisted that the various components of the Armed Forces are maintained at a maximum level of vigilance, capability and combat readiness. In order for this to happen, it was vital to provide the infrastructure and installations of training. These included military training establishments from schools and centres for personnel training, to military colleges such as the Sultan Qaboos Military College and the Officer/Cadet Training School, to the Command and Staff College which supplies officers to occupy command posts in the various branches of the Army. At the same time, it was necessary to upgrade the administrative and technical support systems within the Army in order to keep pace with its expansion.
The Royal Air Force of Oman
(RAFO) has been transformed under the Supreme Commander, into an effective airborne protection which employs the latest methods in the training of its pilots and technicians to handle advanced equipment and aircraft such as Hawk and Jaguar. The RAFO goes through continuous programmes of training and exercises whilst ensuring that Omani air space is continuously monitored by its air defence network.
The modernisation of the Royal Navy of Oman
(RNO) was conducted using an intelligently and aptly devised programme of development which was also facilitated by Oman’s well-established history of sea-going exploration. In 1994/95, the ships RNV Al Bushra, RNV Al Mansour and RNV Qahir Al Amwaj were dedicated as part of the ongoing plan to establish a first rate fleet, competent to protect the 1700km coastline and the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, which is the lifeline of international shipping in the Gulf region.
In his fourth National Day speech, Sultan Qaboos declared, “Our heroes, I share life with you – I strive to make out of you a strong army, loyal to the soil of this dear land. A striking force among the armies of our Arab nation, so as to defend the cause of truth against the forces of evil.”
Sultan Qaboos had made a determined start to modernising his country and in 1976 he introduced the first of his Five-Year Plans. This first plan to develop Oman had a number of main objectives:
By focussing on these issues, Sultan Qaboos had realised the importance of maintaining and developing a modern administrative system which would contribute to the process of total development and subsequently to the anticipated increase in the level of investment in all of the manufacturing and services sectors. Economic indicators have proved that over the five years this plan was implemented, the volume of investment in both public and private sectors was RO 1670.2 million, a surplus of 23% over the anticipated figure. (However, this surplus was also enhanced by the unnaturally high oil prices at this time.) Local commercial activity included the formation of Oman Mining Company in 1979 which began extraction of copper and other minerals from several sites near to Sohar. In the same year, the Public Authority for Water resources was established whose responsibility was to maintain and construct dams, aflaj, wells and to aid research into desalination plants.
Not all of Sultan Qaboos’ improvements focussed on commerce and industry, however. In 1979, alarmed by the depletion of the Arabian oryx by poachers, he established the Arabian Oryx Project
at Jiddat al-Hirasis, which has successfully re-introduced the indigenous species to the wild. The environment is of great concern to His Majesty and he has protected many other species from possible extinction by banning their hunting. The Dimaaniyat Islands
are home to many varieties of birds and are established breeding grounds for the different types of turtles found in Oman’s waters. Consequently, the Islands are only accessible outside of breeding seasons.
The second Five-Year Plan was initiated in 1981. Certain laws were tightened up in order to close loopholes in existing legislation, thereby overcoming obstacles in the domain of work practice. A Royal Decree was issued concerning the establishment of a Civil Service Act, designed to remedy certain difficulties and obstacles faced by the components of the administrative system. It addressed the need to regulate the relationship between the State and its employees and made some adjustments in the area of rights, duties and admin/vocational issues. Another Royal Decree made in 1984 legislated for executive aspects of the new Civil Service Act which was to be responsible for the resolution of many administrative and organisational obstacles which had arisen from the application of the previous Act. The Institute of Public Administration was established as one of the scientific foundations concerned with State administrative development. The Institute was invaluable to the country for accelerating Omanisation and satisfying the need for trained manpower.
To continue the task of improving the efficiency of the State administrative system, a number of Ministries were reorganised to establish administrative functions as well as the needs of a development policy. Among the outcomes of this reassessment were the abolition of the Ministry of Public Works, which was taken over by the Ministry of Housing; and the amalgamation of the Ministries of Justice, Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.
A central emphasis of this second Five-Year Plan was to expand the number of vocational training centres to assist with the objectives mentioned above. At this time, a number of massive projects were also undertaken, such as the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, the Al Bustan Palace Hotel, the Royal Hospital and the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).
Between 1985 and 1990, developing the administrative system took on a greater urgency and it became apparent that there was a need to overhaul the various administrative institutions to reflect their expansion in line with economic and social progress, and the growth of the production and service sectors. These changes were manifested by establishing the Ministry of Civil Service as an independent ministry which would reorganise and develop the State administrative system. A number of radical amendments were made to the regulations governing work practises and the civil service. The Civil Service Board was also reconstituted and its scope was redefined. This new Ministry developed training programmes, upgraded work standards, and improved the efficiency of the system. Additionally, a number of studies were undertaken which were geared towards elimination of administrative and bureaucratic problems likely to arise from the implementation of the new work practice regulations.
In 1982, the first oil refinery in Oman, Mina al-Fahal was opened, as well as the Rima oil fields. (However, it was not Sultan Qaboos’ desire to rely on oil as the major source of revenue for the country and the next Five-Year Plan brought guidelines for diversification.)
In early 1987, the Royal Hospital, Ghubra was opened, which is now considered one of the most modern and specialist referral health institutions in the Middle East. It offers the most advanced and modern medical care available and is counted among the foremost landmarks of the progress achieved since Sultan Qaboos’ accession to the throne. In conjunction with the various medical disciplines, the hospital offers a substantial range of hi-tech services, such as nuclear medicine, transplant surgery and open-heart surgery. It also has a superb paediatric department.
In May 1989, the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) was founded by Royal Decree with the purpose of increasing opportunities for investment in Omani stocks by freeing up the share market and allowing for private and corporate investment in joint and mixed stock companies. The MSM has broadened the shareholder base in clear practical implementation of the philosophy of the free economy. It enjoys a reputation of being a secure exchange not given to the hazardous excesses caused by unrestricted speculation. Exchange law strictly prohibits fluctuations in the value of shares of more than 10% in any one day of trading.
A Ministry of Labour & Vocational Training was set up in 1990 whose major role it is to “underpin the efforts to upgrade the national workforce and promote recruitment from amongst young Omanis possessing the necessary specialised administrative and professional skills”.
The fourth Five-Year Plan (1991–1995) continued to streamline the administrative system and eliminate its residual negative aspects. This plan introduced improved methods, a demonstration of more integrated economic planning models geared to ensure harmony and balance between the various components of the national economy and a scaling-up of conceptual planning to deal with a wider range of activities within the national economy. There were six fundamental guidelines to this particular plan:
- To continue the diversification of income sources through enlargement of the production base and the achievement of higher growth rates in the non-oil sectors.
- To emphasise the regional dimension in development and to channel a greater slice of development aid into the regions outside Muscat so as to promote greater integration and stimulate economic activity in the regions.
- To develop and enhance human resources with the aim of encouraging greater public participation in enterprise and in the national economy.
- To concentrate on schemes which would benefit the State’s financial position and improve its capability to confront international or regional variables which might occur at the time of execution of the plan.
- To work to achieve a suitable rate of growth in the Gross Domestic Product such as would raise living standards while remaining within the confines of available resources and the overall capacity of the national economy.
- To support free economic activity based on fair competition and equal opportunity.
The diversification of income sources increased the emphasis on non-oil producing sectors, such as agriculture, industry, tourism, mining and fishing.
The fifth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000) has been regarded as the beginning of a new era of development planning in Oman. It differs from the previous plans in that it calls for much wider participation from the public and private sectors, the use of computerised macro-economic modelling techniques and planning Oman’s development within both a regional and global context. The plan prepares for the next century and implements a prudent fiscal policy which includes aspects such as:
Strict adherence to the framework of the plan in the preparation of the annual State budget; limiting public debt; and striving towards a balanced budget by the end of 2000. Diversification of the economy will use the following strategies:
- Technology transfer to produce high value-added products
Private sector development
Promotion of greater integration with the world economy
In October 2000, Oman became a member of the World Trade Organisation, and is also a founder member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.
Foreign capital and technology are an important aspect of the country’s economic development and, due to His Majesty’s wise planning and foresight, Oman enjoys political and economic stability with relatively low debt obligation. It is hardly surprising that Oman has become the first Arab Gulf State to obtain investment resources from international money markets with a US$225 million, five-year Eurobond issue, which will raise the country’s profile among international investors and help promote private sector development.
It was in 1981 that Sultan Qaboos formed the State Consultative Assembly as an initiative of the Agriculture and Fisheries Board. The private sector members were represented by the Omani Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the remainder were appointed by the government. Eleven years after coming to power, His Majesty reiterated the philosophy underpinning the type of democracy he sought for his country.
“Human experience has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate in every age that attempting to stimulate the experience of others is futile. Equally that attempting to leapfrog over reality and the objective circumstances of any society is fraught with danger. We therefore refuse to emulate or to follow either the principle or practitioners of the short cut and choose to retain our own brand of realism in thought and action for our own successful experience has shown this choice to be right and proper. We do not take action without prior analysis and full conviction and when we act, we view the process and monitor the results.”
The initial aim of the Consultative Assembly was to be a forum for the combined efforts of the government and people’s constituencies, wherein the objectives of the development plans could be scrutinised and prioritised.
“The purpose of this system,” stated His Majesty, “is to elevate the activities of the assembly to a level compatible with the lofty aims for which it was established. These aims are that the needs and wishes of the people be deemed paramount in the formulation of our national economic and social policy, ensuring that the assembly can become a vital arena for the exchange and integration of views and where true cooperation may be exercised in confronting the tasks of development which lie ahead.”
Sultan Qaboos’ Royal Decrees which related to the establishment of the State Consultative Assembly specified its scope and authority in the following five points:
- In commenting on issues which the government may bring before it of general policy, aspects of development and recommendations on legislation and actions taken to complete development plans.
- In commenting on economic and social laws in force in the Sultanate and recommending improvements considered necessary in the opinion of the assembly to meet the demands of development.
- In recommending measures and government procedures that might be taken regarding aspects of the development process which the government has not yet addressed, so that the development process may be accelerated, and productivity and efficiency raised at national level.
- In commenting on impediments to private sector activities in the economic and social fields and making suitable recommendations for the surmounting of such obstacles within the limits of available State resources.
- In commenting on other issues which His Majesty Sultan Qaboos may refer to the assembly.
The original composition of the State Consultative Assembly was: 17 members representing the government sector and 28 members representing the people’s constituencies.
Five years after the establishment of the Assembly, Sultan Qaboos was asked about the possibility of its extension to which he replied, “This assembly will not be frozen…it will evolve as is the imperative of progress and development.”
During the Sultan’s 20th National Day celebrations, His Majesty announced the establishment of a Majlis A’Shura, a State Consultative Council whose members would represent the 59 wilayats of Oman.
“In appreciation of the success which this [State Consultative Assembly] has achieved,….we have decided upon the formation of a Majlis A’Shura in which all the wilayats of the Sultanate are to be represented. There will be no Government membership of this Majlis. The membership will be totally composed of representatives of the wilayats. This is a further step on the road of participation which will serve the aspirations and ambitions of the citizens throughout Oman.”
There were two main driving forces behind this decision. First, there was the recognition by His Majesty that the A’Shura experiment embodied by the State Consultative Assembly was successful, and second, he had pledged to himself that the experiment would be developed so that opportunities would be presented for others to take on greater responsibility in the reconstruction of the country. Sultan Qaboos stressed the following fundamental points which he perceived as governing the progress to democracy in Oman and which would determine its failure or success:
The Majlis A’Shura has a number of tasks which its members must perform:
- To review all draft economic and social legislation as prepared by the various Ministries before such legislation is enacted
- To put forward proposals as the Majlis sees fit in the domain of upgrading economic and social laws in the Sultanate.
- To voice opinions on issues of public policy which the government may bring before the Majlis and to make suitable proposals in this regard.
- To take part in the preparation of the country’s development plans and monitor their execution within the framework of the State’s general strategy and available sources.
- To participate in the raising of public awareness of the aims, tasks and priorities of development and the efforts being expended to achieve it, so that the nature of the needs and aspirations of a region be known and the bonds between people and government be strengthened.
- To participate in campaigns to conserve the environment and to protect it against the ill effects of pollution.
- To review issues relating to public utilities and amenities and to suggest ways of upgrading and increasing the efficiency of these services.
- To examine obstacles which might stand in the way of trade and enterprise and to suggest suitable ways of overcoming such obstacles.
- To voice an opinion on various other matters which the Sultan chooses to bring before the assembly.
His Majesty has also decreed that women may become members of the Majlis A’Shura and the 2000 nominees had a 30% representation by women. This is an unprecedented move, not only for Oman, but for the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. The participation of women in A’Shura and in holding other senior positions in, for example, the Omani Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Planning Board, reflects the Sultan’s desire to see working women gaining the trust and respect of the population.
“We call upon Omani women everywhere, in the villages and the cities, in both urban and Bedu communities, in the hills and mountains, to roll up their sleeves and contribute to the process of economic and social development…We have great faith in the educated young Omani women to work devotedly to assist their sisters in their local communities to develop their skills and abilities, both practically and intellectually, in order to contribute to our Omani Renaissance which demands the utilization of our entire national genius, for the realisation of our country’s glory and prosperity. We call upon Omani women to shoulder this vital role in the community and we are confident that they will respond to this call.”
Diversification of the economy has been a foremost concern of His Majesty since the early years of his reign and with careful planning, he has gently eased the economy away from complete reliance on oil. Between 1989 - 1991, central Oman was found to be rich in natural gas, total estimated reserves currently standing at 29 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Petroleum Development Oman are developing the gas fields and Oman LNG
has been established by Royal Decree to handle the downstream operations of the gas export, namely the liquefaction, transportation and sales of LNG. The LNG plant in Qalhat, near Sur will produce a nominal 6.6million tonnes of LNG per year from two LNG process trains. In April 2000, the first shipment of LNG was sent to Korea.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said approved the Sultanate's sixth Five-Year plan via Royal Decree 1/2001, on 1 January 2001. The plan is being implemented within its designated financial time scale and the Ministry of National Economy is to publish the details in special reports.
The Omani government has, for thirty years, channeled revenue into both economic and social development, even during the oil price crises. As a result of this policy, the Sultanate has made significant progress in a number of areas:
The Gross Domestic Product increased from RO104 million in 1970, to RO6000 million in 1999.
Per capita income increased from RO 158 (1970) to RO2581 (1999), placing Oman in the category of high-medium income countries of the world.
The contribution of non-oil sectors to the GDP increased from 31% (1970) to 69% (1999), while input of oil revenues in government revenues decreased from 100% to 68%.
The daily oil production increased from 332,000 bpd (1970) to 904,000 bpd (1999), while oil reserves increased from 1465 million barrels to 5744 million.
The government spent RO1971 million in developing the health sector which now has 54 hospitals and 162 health centres. In 1970, there were only two hospitals.
Life expectancy consequently increased from 49.3 years (1970) to 72 years (1999).
The World Health Organisation's Report 2000 placed Oman as the World Number One in terms of health system efficiency and utilisation of financial resources.
In the education sector, the number of pupils increased by more than 620 times to 566,000, with a concomitant rise in schools from 3 (1970) to 1103 (1999). The number of higher education students studying outside the Sultanate in 1999 was 23,000.
The total length of paved roads increased from 10 km (1970) to more than 8000 km (1999).
Telephone lines increased from 1000 (1975) to 220,000 (1999).
In 1999, the government's investment into agriculture and fisheries reached RO562 million whilst in the industrial sector investment reached RO462 million and RO23 million in the social welfare sector.
The fifth Five-Year plan was marked by many achievements, such as the LNG plant, the Basic Education system, the privatisation regulations as promulgated by Royal Decree No. 22/96 and the establishment of the Omani Centre for Investment Promotion and Export Development (OCIPED). Added to these successes, was great financial support for the private sector's economic diversification activities.
The sixth Five-Year plan has been devised according to the Oman Economy Vision 2020, embracing the Sultanate's entry into the World Trade Organisation and the formation of the GCC Customs Union. Financial resources estimates for the sixth Five-Year plan amount to RO1,285 million, an increase of RO224 million since the previous plan.
The new plan will concentrate on rationalising government spending, maintaining current low inflation rates and developing programmes to increase the opportunities for secondary school leavers to enter into higher education establishments; enhance economic diversification activities; guarantee the stability of the actual per capita income and achieve an annual GDP growth rate of at least 3%.
Other major projects which are expected to enhance economic diversification include Port Salalah, the Sohar aluminium smelter and petrochemical plant, agriculture and tourism.
On Friday, 4 May 2001, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Bausher, Muscat, was inaugurated by His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said who led the prayers for the opening of this spectacular, holy edifice.
Construction on the mosque started six years ago and the completed building is arguably the largest and most beautiful building in the whole of the Sultanate. Instructions for construction were issued by His Majesty, who proposed that the mosque would not only be a place to worship, but also a seat of Islamic learning, thought, literature and values.
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque is situated off the main highway to Seeb from Muscat. It covers a plot of 416,000m2 and is built on an elevated podium. The main prayer hall is square, with a central dome at 50m. The main hall can take up to 6000 worshippers, while the women's prayer hall has a capacity of 750. The outer sahn
can take 8000, while the inner sahn
can take around 6000, making a total capacity of over 20,000.
The boundaries of the site are delineated by four minarets, each rising to 45m high. The main minaret, which is situated within the north riwaq
wall, facing the highway, stands at 91.5m.
One of the main internal features of the mosque is the carpet in the main prayer hall. This handmade Persian carpet took four years to knot and measures 70 x 60 metres. It comprises over 1700 million knots and 600 workers were involved in its manufacture.
In his opening speech, Sultan Qaboos stated that:
"Mosques are the houses of God who commanded us to mention His name and to worship Him through our prayers in the mosques. Prayer is the pillar of religion. In the mosque, we read the Holy Koran and recite the words of His Messenger. In the mosque, beneficial lessons are taught. They are the lessons that lead to truth and along the straight path.
Oman embarked on a major development programme with almost no resources in construction and civil administration in 1970, led by her wise and magnanimous ruler, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Faced with a past filled with victories and achievements but a present filled with despair and deprivation, he opted for a rapid, but controlled development, one which has led his country, over three decades, into the 21st century. In undertaking her journey to modernisation and development, Oman has retained her inherent qualities and Arab identity, guided in every aspect by the wisdom of the Islamic faith and the benevolent rule of Sultan Qaboos.
31St National Day
major challenge for world leaders has been the terror attacks perpetrated against the United States in September 11th 2001.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos sent a cable of condolences to President George W. Bush of the United States following the attacks against targets in Washington and New York on September 11, 2001. His Majesty expressed his heartfelt condolences to the US President, the American people, and the families of the victims. He also expressed his deep sorrow for this attack, which has resulted in vast destruction on infrastructure and the deaths of over 5000 innocent people.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, in his wisdom, has created a foreign policy based on four tenets:
1. The development and maintenance of good relations with Oman's neighbours. 2. An outward looking and internationalist outlook as befits longstanding maritime relations. 3. A pragmatic approach to bilateral relations, emphasising underlying geostratic realities rather than temporary ideological positions. 4. The search for security through cooperation and peace rather than conflict. These principles are consistently applied and have proved both valuable and durable. Oman's adherence to these principles has allowed foreign policy to be flexible and to meet the challenges of the new international environment with confidence. Oman has participated in many multilateral peace talks, particularly concerning the Middle East and steadfastly opposes the use of violence and terrorism.
During his National Day speech in 1994, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos re-affirmed his country's tradition of religious broadmindedness. Condemning fanaticism based on a lack of correct knowledge among some Muslims which could lead to violence, discord and hatred, he gave a reminder that Islam rejects such exaggeration and bigotry because it is the religion of liberality. In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Merciful
Praise be to God, who hath sent his servant, The Book, and hath allowed therein no deviation. And peace be upon His Prophet and His devoted followers.
Dear countrymen, fulfilling the promise we made at the same time last year, we consequently meet in the city of history, learning and heritage. In the citadel where the glory of our country originated - the city of Nizwa. The city which has played a distinguished role in the progress of Omani civilisation; the city that still illuminates with its grace and eminence; the city which has been the home of great leaders and the sanctuary of intellectuals, scholars, poets, and men of literature. This great city has a special place in the hearts of our Omani people. Notwithstanding the era of stagnation in the past, this great city is now rising to the heights of its ancient splendour through the achievements of recent years. We hope that our decision to celebrate this Year of Heritage on its soil marks a turning point that will put it on the path to another stage in its continuing evolution in various fields of life.
The celebration of the 24th Anniversary of Oman's Renaissance in this historic city commemorates the renewal of its civilizing role in the life of our great and precious country, in its drive to realise, with God's help, the hopes and aspirations of our people.
We commenced the process of development and evolution comparatively recently. Our weapons in the fight against backwardness, and the challenges we have encountered have been the stern and wholehearted determination that our people have displayed.
Through this hard work and support to the leadership by all our people the successful development of our country is to be seen everywhere. These achievements justify our faith in a glorious future for our country. We thank God for His generosity and guidance in our efforts. We call upon Him to continue to extend His grace to us.
Countrymen, Oman throughout its very long history, has contributed to the building of human civilization, a contribution that is universally acknowledged and renowned. The strategic location of this country, the lively spirit which took Omanis to all corners of the world - sailing the seas, facing the dangers, exploring new horizons, and reaching out to other peoples with their traditions and cultures - all these factors had a lasting effect on the civilization that was built by our forefathers and succeeding generations. The civilization is now a living heritage embodying and reflecting the saga of our history, and the deep-rooted richness of the Omani experience.
If we are, countrymen, to take pride in the great heritage that we have received from our ancestors, this pride must not be our ultimate aim. We should not live in the past. That is the character of those who have no determined attitude towards the future. And that is certainly not the character of the Omani. He possesses the vibrant energy and active spirit that can carry him forward to the furthest horizons. Nothing can deter him. It was therefore our duty to our forefathers to emulate and surpass their achievements. Those achievements act as the stimulus to attain more development, in harmony with modern life and scientific evolution. Otherwise our destiny would certainly be the shameful backwardness of those who have lost their strength and courage, and are mentally paralysed and apathetic in their attitude to life.
There is no doubt that history has proved that nations do not advance and develop without the continuous renewal of their ideas. This also applies to individuals and peoples. Failure in this respect results in fatal consequences. Therefore, we have determined, from the first day of our Renaissance, not to succumb to this disease.
We have maintained and preserved our identity and intellectual inheritance, and we have adopted every means for our development and modernization. It has been very clear to us that our heritage is not only represented by forts, castles and ancient buildings, but by spiritual customs and traditions, by science, art and literature transmitted by one generation to another. The real preservation of heritage will not be accomplished unless we understand this, and cherish it. With God's help we have succeeded in the past years in achieving the greater part of this noble national goal.
Our decision to celebrate this year as the Year of National Heritage is a means to emphasise the value of our inheritance and to preserve the knowledge and the feeling on the part of our people that the present is indissolubly linked with the past, and that their future will be the result of their work both in that past and the present. If everyone contributes to the fullest extent of his knowledge and personal resources to our country, the future stability and prosperity of our country will be safely assured.
There was a high purpose in our efforts to prepare the Omani people in order to dedicate themselves to the service of their country. To do so, it was essential to provide comprehensive education for all, and to link this education with our culture and historic traditions, on the one hand and with all elements of modern life on the other. Therefore, schools and institutes have been established everywhere in Oman, and they are increasing in quantity and quality according to community requirements and the policy designed to meet them. From this base, and since the teaching of Islamic studies at university level is currently being conducted by several different Government bodies, with different curricula, which could result in anomalies in graduates' levels of educational knowledge and thought, it is our desire to unite the responsibility for this teaching in one establishment in order to improve and enhance this education. We have therefore issued our orders to study the establishment of a new College of Jurisprudence and Law in Muscat that will produce graduates in all branches of these disciplines. This will provide Oman with the qualified persons it needs. In addition, a study is now being pursued for the establishment of a Higher Institution in Nizwa which will provide members of the Judiciary for the courts. The entrants to this institution will be university graduates in Jurisprudence and Law. On graduation, they will be awarded a Higher Diploma as Members of the Judiciary.
The challenges of the future are enormous. Enlightened mentality, comprehensive knowledge and high technical skills are the essentials to meet them. Therefore, it is necessary for the education system to work hard and to provide these requirements in good time in order to achieve these goals in the development of the community, so that the community may keep pace with those in other fields. This is the task that the education system must shoulder. It is the duty of everyone of us to work for its success.
Dear countrymen, security and stability for all nations comes from God's grace. Under their protection, the nations can be free to progress and flourish, and utilise their capabilities to the full. The talents of the individual cannot blossom unless he and his family feel secure. Therefore, it is one of the prime duties of the State at all times to guarantee this security. If this security is removed, then destruction and anarchy will result. It follows that it is the duty of every citizen to be the guardian of all the nation's achievements that were won by the devotion and sacrifice of our people. It is also their duty not to allow alien ideas, masquerading as beneficial promises, to jeopardise the security and stability of this country. They must be cautious - and impress upon others to be so - to reject such approaches. They must hold fast to the principles of Islam that call upon us to have a spirit of tolerance, intimacy and love.
Extremism, under whatever guise, fanaticism of whatever kind, factionalism of whatever persuasion, would be hateful poisonous plants in the soil of our country which will not be allowed to flourish.
Almighty God has sent down the Holy Koran with wisdom and clarity. He set out in it the general principles and Laws of Jurisprudence, but he did not express these in details which might differ from place to place and time to time. He did so to enable us to interpret the Law of Islam according to its basic principles and the requirements of life. When Islam spread following the time of the Prophet, new questions arose when Muslims needed to know Islamic answers to these questions. What did they do? They resorted to interpretation in an attempt to find suitable answers. As a result, they proved that Islamic Law was capable of dealing with any situation. Unfortunately, the backwardness of Muslims in recent times rendered them incapable of making use of their inheritance, and they did not even try to renew it, by reference to the original principles and bases, in order to solve the problems that arose in their lives. The least thing we can mention about this stagnation, which the Muslims themselves accepted, does not accord with the nature of Islam which calls upon us to adopt intellectual development and face the challenges that confront us at any time and in any environment, by drawing correct logic and suitable solutions from Islamic teachings of the past. It is really sad that this stagnation resulted in a weakness of the Muslim nation, which, in recent years, has brought about fanaticism based on a lack of knowledge among the Muslim youth about the correct facts of their religion. This was exploited by some to perpetrate violence and propagate cases of difference which led to discord and hatred. Therefore, in order that Muslims should not remain backward, while others advance, they are required by the Law of Islam to rectify this situation and renew and revise their thinking, so that they can apply the right solutions to modern problems that are facing the Islamic community. Thus they can show the world the reality of Islam and its principles which are applicable to all times and places.
Obstinacy in religious understanding leads to backwardness in Muslims, prevalence of violence and intolerance. This, as a matter of fact, is far removed from Islam which rejects exaggeration and bigotry, because it is the religion of liberality.
Countrymen, our world that we live in has become interlinked, in many of its economic, social and political concerns. On that account, our firm position that we have always adopted will remain the basic principle for our foreign policy and our assessment of our dealings with the countries that pursue the same or a similar principle.
Our observance of the world in the past few years has given us reason for optimism. Countries have become convinced, more than at any time before, that armed conflicts are no longer justifiable, but obstruct development and endanger international peace and security. Human logic and feelings are supporting this tendency as a historic phenomenon the world has never seen before. However, on the other hand, we have seen with regret that the propensity of mankind to violence towards himself has increased, embodied in the aggression of one group against others within communities. It has become clear that all countries must cooperate to put an end to this internal violence which is jeopardising the fabric of communities in the world. The results of this could extend to many places if international efforts are not made to help nations and peoples who are suffering from this phenomenon to find the right solution.
Dear people, peace is a principle in which we believe and a goal which we are striving to achieve without ceasing and without excess in accordance with what Almighty God has said: 'But if the enemy incline toward peace, Do thou also incline toward peace and trust in God.'
Countrymen, we take the opportunity on this great occasion to greet you on this anniversary of this Glorious Day. We call upon Almighty and All-Powerful God to grant that we shall meet on the 25th Anniversary, having achieved the goals for which we have striven. We extend a special greeting to our vigilant Armed Forces and all security organisations for the unceasing work to guarantee stability to our Omani community and protect the achievements of our blessed Renaissance. While we take pride in their efforts, we reaffirm our continued support for them in increasing their high efficiency and competence, and in facilitating the fulfilment of their noble national duty.
We ask Almighty God to protect our beloved Oman from all evils and enemies. We pray to the Almighty to grant us all the success we need on our long road towards glory, honour and achievement."
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