Thrust on SME growth

The recently held SME development symposium focussed on instilling entrepreneurship culture in Omani youths and linking education to the labour market’s requirements.

In response to the Royal Directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Development Symposium was held at Saih Al Shamekhat in the Wilayat of Bahla under the patronage of Sayyid Khalid bin Hilal bin Saud Al Busaidi, Minister of the Diwan of Royal Court.

The three-day symposium was aimed at putting the contents of the Royal speech at the Council of Oman on November 12, 2012 into practice, instilling entrepreneurship culture in Omani youths, linking education to the labour market’s requirements, diagnosing hindrances in the development of the SMEs and proposing solutions to the difficulties. Through the symposium, the government seeks to discuss the status of the SMEs in the Sultanate and the impediments for their growth. The outcome of the symposium will be utilised to draft policies for current and future five-year plans. Public and private establishments interested in supporting SMEs took part in the exhibition, which has showcased the experiences of entrepreneurs and provided start-ups with guidance by successful entrepreneurs and CEOs.

Sayyid Khalid also inaugurated an exhibition on the sidelines of the event. “Programmes to follow up on implementation of the symposium’s outcomes will be held and recommendations made. Private and public sectors will ensure implementation of the plans,” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah al Bakri, Minister of Manpower, urged the youth to benefit from the opportunities available in the private sector. “It is important for the private sector to support entrepreneurs by adopting their ideas, encouraging them and providing them with a healthy environment for setting up projects,” he said.

Sultan bin Salim al Habsi, secretary general of the Supreme Council for Planning and member of the symposium’s main committee, said, “His Majesty the Sultan has given great importance to encouraging business initiatives and SMEs, which are the main component of the economic diversification strategy, helping create job opportunities for Omani youths and enhancing the growth of the economy. It is important for the private sector to take part in economic activity and ensure a direct contribution to growth.”

Khalil bin Abdullah Al Khonji, chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), said the interest in the SMEs was growing. Currently, entrepreneurs represent 3 per cent of the 500,000 youths.

He said that laws should be made simpler and fund should be increased to encourage youths to venture into such projects. He highlighted the role of education in the success of such projects.

Al Khonji added that the government employees would be encouraged to process such projects quickly. “To this end, OCCI has set up a special department for SMEs, which will be supported by a committee of businessmen. It also created a department for communication among the government bodies and business owners. After the symposium, there will be an awareness campaign for the facilities provided by the Tender Board to the SMEs,” he added.

The first session of the symposium touched upon entrepreneurship and free business culture and the role of education. It reviewed a number of case studies for entrepreneurs and discussed how to reduce the impact of hidden trade On the second day, the symposium discussed the policies, laws and procedures, as well as finance and investment. A number of ministers, undersecretaries, members of the State Council and Majlis Al Shura were present on the occasion.

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