Unemployment in Oman
In its recent report on Oman, the IMF advised the sultanate to seek ways to arrest unemployment levels. (www.arabi anbusiness.com/imf-urges-oman-act-arrest-jobless-rise-437673.html).
This subject has been of enormous interest to me for over the last 15 years. While I was employed as CFO of Oman LNG, we held endless debates on how our then Social Investment Programme (one of the most ambitious and effective in many spheres of Omani society to date) can help to address this seemingly endemic and growing concern on unemployed youths.
Many years on, as I sit in my small establishment in Azaiba today, as many as five to ten Omani youth knock on the door in search of jobs. It hurts deeply to tell these enthusiastic young men that we are unable to employ them as we have no vacancies at the moment. Yet at the back of my mind, I always had thoughts on how I could contribute in arresting this growing challenge in Oman on a grand scale only if I had the means and resources to do so.
Today, while resting at home recovering from a nasty cold, I decided to set my thoughts in motion and drafted this article with the hope that this message will strike a chord with like-minded people who have Omani youth and national interests at heart.
I do appreciate that sharing my thoughts does not mean that what I am about to release is new; many others may have had similar thoughts and may have shared it on various forums, but at least this does not stop me from sharing what I have tucked away in my brain for long.
To start with, my thoughts do not originate from thin air, but rather from practical experience, when I pioneered a programme in Oman LNG to absorb six graduates in finance and multi-skill them in all aspects of finance, starting with basic hands-on tasks as processing invoices, warehouse roles, serving internal and external customers, treasury skills and banking interface to more challenging roles on strategic finance, financial closing and confidently presenting results to the company management and board of directors.
Today, it gives me enormous pride to see these young men and women completing their professional studies and contributing effectively to the Omani economy with responsible jobs in Oman LNG and other large companies of the nation.
While this achievement could not have been possible without the support of the management and the board, it goes on to prove that setting an effective programme and seeing it through to the finishing line can reap the desired benefits for Oman. More interestingly, this programme also inspired the existing staff in finance to push for their own career advancement.
During my tenure as founder, promoter and CEO of Gulf International Pipe Industry (GIPI), I set a similar exercise of 'growing own timber,' a term used for employing fresh graduates, nurturing and making them multi-skilled in their areas of business through intensive theoretical and on-the-job training for a defined period prior to assigning them with work and placing them on rotational basis for a certain period so that they become strong assets for the organisation and the country.
To date, 25 young Omanis, majority of who were from Batinah, have benefited from this programme and are considered 'skilled' in their profession. Again, this achievement could only be made through the support of my fellow shareholders and management colleagues at GIPI.
During the seven-plus years of study in the UK in the early to late 80s, I witnessed a continuous struggle of both, the Labour as well as Conservative governments to try and address a similar issue of unemployed youth.
They deployed many measures including the Youth Training Schemes, a 're-training' scheme for ex-army, police officials and those from other sectors who had taken early retirement or made redundant through shutting of coal mines etc.
These were gigantic measures compared to Oman’s scale. To put it in context, if we can achieve three per cent of UK’s results, unemployment will be eradicated from Oman.
Bringing all the above to practical application and achieving results requires significant commitment of resources and active organisation to physically implement it in a structured and professional manner. Currently, many programmes have been in place in Oman from Sanad, OPAL, Intilaka, MoM schemes, to the new buzzword: SME promotion.
All these schemes have the same genuine intent of tackling this common challenge. However, lack of a single and accountable authority to oversee, regulate, coordinate and execute the various programmes to fruition in a quantum much larger in scale than what is currently happening is an obvious gap.
To be concluded