OABC News

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The US Department of State Investment Climate Report on the sultanate released last week applauds Oman for continuing to improve regulatory frameworks to establish an economic climate conducive to foreign investment.

The report highlights Oman’s smooth transition of power in January, which reassured investors of the country’s political stability, and the country’s focus on ports, free trade zones, and logistic hubs as promising developments.

The US Department of State released the 2020 Investment Climate Statements on 165 foreign markets on September 9.

‘Oman is taking steps towards making the country a more attractive destination for foreign investment. However, to improve the country’s overall investment climate substantially, the government will need to lessen its dependency on oil, and open up key sectors to private sector competition and foreign investment. These measures have a renewed sense of urgency in the wake of the dual crises of the oil price collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic,’ stated the report.

Oman touts its geographic advantages and interest in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) in key sectors. It is located just outside the Arabian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, with proximity to shipping lanes carrying a significant share of the world’s maritime commercial traffic and access to larger regional markets. ‘Oman’s most promising development projects and investment opportunities involve its ports and free zones, most notably in Duqm, where the government envisions a 2,000sq km free trade zone and logistics hub at the crossroads of East Africa and South Asia.’

The report added that Oman promulgated five new laws in 2019 to promote investment – the Public-Private Partnership Law; the Foreign Capital Investment Law (FCIL); the Privatisation Law; the Bankruptcy Law; and the Commercial Companies Law.

‘Oman’s long awaited FCIL holds particular promise for removing minimum share capital requirements and limits on the amount of foreign ownership of an Omani company.’

‘His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik’s smooth accession following the passing of the late H M Sultan Qaboos bin Said in January 2020 showed Oman’s political stability, reassuring many investors,’ the report said.

Retrieved from: https://muscatdaily.com/Oman/388006/US-applauds-investment-climate,-stability-in-Oman-

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The Oman American Business Center (OABC) will host a free informational session for Omani exporters interested in promoting their products in the United States.

The session will discuss how to attend ASD Market Week, one of the oldest and largest consumer trade shows in the US, now available for online attendance.

Though the show cannot be conducted in-person, many are anxious to get back to business, which is why the organisers announced plans to launch the Virtual Product Sourcing Platform, from October 2, 2020, to March 2021.

This virtual directory gives the 225,000 invited buyers and 2,700 vendors the opportunity to connect and conduct business-to-business meetings. Buyers can source new products, refill orders and schedule appointments all through the online platform.

This virtual platform enables vendors to showcase their products in an  easy to navigate directory.

At the end of the online trade show, exporters are also invited to attend a full scale, live edition of ASD Market Week on February 28-March 3, 2021, in Las Vegas, NV.

The show focuses primarily on wholesale of fashion accessories, housewares, gifts and toys, apparel, affordable footwear, holiday and seasonal merchandise, souvenirs and novelties, electronic accessories, bedding and bath, health and beauty products and general merchandise.

“Oman is one of only 20 countries in the world, and one of two countries within the GCC, that has a free trade agreement with the US,” explained Ali Daud, chairman of the OABC.

“In this exclusive club of trade partners there is so much untapped potential ready to be explored. This online opportunity is a fantastic chance for Omani exporters to engage with the world’s largest economy and fish in the world’s largest ocean.”

“We are extremely excited to support companies looking to attend this event,” said Rebecca Olson, executive director of the OABC.

“The first unique opportunity presented here is the chance to connect with buyers over a long period: rather than 2-3 days, attendees can plan meetings and make connections over several months.  The second opportunity relates to cost – typically to exhibit at a show in-person could cost upwards of US$20,000. This show will cost less than 1/10 of that price, and could provide value and help companies gauge whether or not to make the trip in-person in 2021.”

After the info session, those who wish to register for the trade show will have the experience and support of the OABC at their service.

All members of the OABC will receive specialised training over multiple days, focused on how to attend the trade show and make the most of the experience as a vendor.

While the info session is mainly focused on companies looking to export to the US, importers in Oman may also attend the session.

Many of the vendors exhibiting will have ‘Made in USA’ products available. Thanks to the FTA, these products enter Oman duty-free.

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Retrieved from: https://muscatdaily.com/Oman/387868/His-Majesty%E2%80%99s-promotion-of-economic-freedom-praised-

The Heritage Foundation, a US-based research organisation formulating public policies, has praised the efforts of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in promoting economic freedom for the sultanate, modernising the economy and strengthening relations with the United States.

In a report published in The Daily Signal, an American political media news website, Anthony B Kim, research manager and editor of the Index of Economic Freedom, at The Heritage Foundation, said that Washington currently has a unique opportunity to build on the existing good relations with the sultanate and reaffirm it as a reliable partner in dealing with the many challenges facing the Middle East.

About the economy, the report stated that it is notable that Oman is the sixth-freest economy in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to the Heritage Foundation’s latest edition of the annual Index of Economic Freedom.

The country’s overall economic freedom score has increased by 2.6 points from last year, with significant improvements in all areas related to the rule of law.

‘As a moderately free economy, Oman’s economy has been undergoing modernisation and liberalisation, albeit gradually,’ it added.

‘Recognising the importance of developing a dynamic entrepreneurial environment, the government has acted to diversify economic activity and stimulate broader-based development. An effort is underway to develop a new bankruptcy and insolvency law, which would help to improve the country’s business environment and increase foreign direct investment inflows.’

Kim further said that such improvements in economic freedom would aid the government’s efforts to develop the economy beyond the oil sector more rapidly, positioning Oman as an even more valuable trading partner for the United States and others, and increasing the country’s standing and influence in the region.

‘Washington’s renewed good relations with Muscat will benefit not only the US, but other partners in the region as well, as the two longtime partners move forward together,’ he wrote.

The US is one of Oman’s largest trading partners, exporting about US$2bn in goods to Oman and importing around US$1bn in goods from the sultanate.

The first contact between the US and Oman was in 1790, and the relationship became formalised in 1833 with a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, the first bilateral trade deal between the US and an Arab Gulf state. In 1840, Oman sent the first accredited diplomat from the Arab world to the US.

‘Continuing that unique, long-established relationship with America, Oman has been a more strategic partner of the United States since 1980, when it became the first Gulf state to sign a formal accord permitting the US military to use its facilities.’

The US-Oman free trade agreement – the sultanate’s only bilateral trade agreement – was signed in 2006, and since then, it has led to increased partnerships between Omani and US companies in a broad range of industries, not limited to energy.

 

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On August 27th, the OABC Board and staff along, with the newly appointed team at the U.S. Embassy in Oman gathered to host a virtual farewell for Andy Barwig.

The occasion also included a special lunch delivery by Corporate Member Mumtaz Mahal, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. Andy has served as the U.S. Economic & Commercial Officer at the U. S. Embassy for the past three years and offered invaluable support to the OABC as a Board Member.

The OABC would like to wish Andy and his family the very best in his future endeavors.

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An interview with Peter Price, Vice President of Oman Operations at Hill International

  1. Can you please tell us more about Hill International?

Hill International (Hill) is an international construction consulting firm that provides program and project management, construction management, and risk management to clients involved in major construction projects worldwide. Hill is also recognized as a global leader in fully integrated facilities management (FM) services for over a decade. Hill has participated in over 10,000 project assignments with a total construction value of more than $500 billion. Hill is ranked as the 8th largest construction management firm in the United States according to Engineering News-Record magazine.

 

  1. What sorts of changes did Hill make early on in the pandemic, both on a global level for all offices, and here in Oman?

Our company responded and adapted well at the early onset of Covid-19 by informing our staff, globally and locally about how the virus spreads and ways to keep safe and work in a clean, socially distanced environment. We took protection measures such as providing our staff with the necessary PPE like masks and sanitizers, as well as checking temperatures of employees and encouraging our staff to continue practicing good personal hygiene. We made sure to speak to all our clients to coordinate and align our new hygiene methods amongst all sites to try and limit the possibilities of our staff getting infected. A fruitful result of our proactivity is that we recorded 0 infected cases in Oman. We asked our staff who didn’t feel well not to come to work and we paid for them to get the PCR test.

Hill International also followed the recommendations that were regularly sent from our global COVID-19 advisory & action committee, which has been diligent in researching all the up-to-date related information and sending it across the company. Due to our actions, we managed to take preventative measures to ensure the well being of our staff and clients without needing to shut down for a long period or take time off of work.

 

  1. What has the day-to-day work been like in the past few months and how does it compare to the work before COVID19?

In line with government regulations, our offices were closed for a short period of time and the head office staff were asked to work from home. Despite this adjustment our project teams maintained operations on sites, while maintaining social distancing, with the required permits from the local authorities. Although health and safety regulations were held to a high standard prior to COVID-19, they were heightened as a result of the pandemic to ensure the safety of all our employees. Everyone had to put on masks, check their temperature before coming into the workplace, sanitizers became ubiquitous and setting up socially distanced offices has shaped the dynamic of our day-to-day work. Adhering to social distancing regulations and limiting groups of people meant that we had to cancel all our events and conferences until the situation improved and it is safe to do so.

 

  1. What is the biggest challenge you are facing during this Pandemic?

The biggest challenge was to keep our people safe during these unprecedented times, and raise awareness and knowledge about COVID-19. We made sure to apply more hygiene rules in all of our labor camps and provide our workers with safety equipment.  Another challenge we faced was the disruption that occurred in the global supply chain as travel regulations were limited, affecting distribution across countries as well as locally.

 

  1. What do you feel is the biggest strength of your company right now?

Our greatest strength is our ability to adapt to change, as we managed to support our clients throughout this process and meet their needs despite these unprecedented times.

 

  1. Anything else you’d like to add?

Hill International is constantly evolving and changing for the better. Even during Covid-19, our company is flourishing and striving to be bigger and better in this industry. We are continuing to stay positive and be patient during this time as we know that it is vital for the safety of all humanity.Hill International has taken many measures to ensure the safety of all of its employees and has been successful so far in all of its endeavours, and we look forward to working with other members of the OABC and in the greater business community.

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We would like to thank each of our members and guests who attended OABC’s Speed Networking event. This event proved a fun and straightforward way to meet new people and do business in a unique format.

We truly appreciate the positive feedback and supportive emails and calls we received after the event, and we look forward to welcoming you for another high energy and effective event soon. Thanks as well to our media partner The Business Year for helping to invite more of Oman’s businesspeople to the session.

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Your vote counts! U.S. Embassy Muscat is now accepting completed ballots and Federal Post Card Applications (FPCAs) through the 2020 election cycle.

If you wish to return your FPCA or ballot via the Embassy’s mail service, please drop off completed voting materials in the Voting Box at the entrance of the Embassy.  Normal transit times via the Embassy’s mail service vary from one to four weeks.   
The Voting Box is available only on days the Embassy is open to the public. Due to COVID-19, the Embassy is currently open to the public on Mondays from 8:00am to 11:00am. The Embassy is closed on U.S. and Omani holidays.  U.S. citizens can check the Embassy’s public service hours at https://om.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/.

 

Follow a few simple steps to make sure that you can vote in the 2020 U.S. elections:
  1. Request Your Ballot: Complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) at FVAP.gov. You must complete a new FPCA after January 1, 2020 to ensure you receive a ballot for every federal election for which you are eligible throughout the 2020 election cycle. The completion of the FPCA allows you to request the absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (President, U.S. Senate, and U.S House of Representatives) including primaries and special elections during the calendar year in which it is submitted. All FPCA forms that are correctly filled out and include a signature and date are accepted by all local election officials in the U.S. states and territories.  You can use FVAP’s easy online assistant to walk you through the FPCA at FVAP.gov. The online voting assistant will ask you questions specific to your state. We encourage you to select the option of receiving your ballot electronically (by email, internet download, fax, depending on your state) as this is the fastest way for you to get your ballot. Include your email address in the FPCA to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option. Return the FPCA to you election office per the the instructions on the website. FVAP.gov will tell you if your state accepts the FPCA by email, mail, or fax. If you must mail your FPCA, please see bellow for mailing options.
  2. Receive and Complete Your Ballot: States are required to send out ballots 45 days before a regular election for federal offices and states generally send out ballots at least 30 days before primary elections. For most states, you can confirm your registration and ballot delivery online.
  3. Return Your Completed Ballot: Some states allow you to return your completed ballot electronically and others do not. If your state requires you to return paper voting forms or ballots to local election officials, then you can do so free of charge at the nearest U.S embassy or consulate. Place your ballots in postage paid return envelops or in envelops bearing sufficient domestic U.S. postage, and address them to the relevant local election officials.

 

Researching the Candidates and Issues:  Online Resources.  Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues.  Non-partisan information about candidates, their voting records, and their positions on issues are widely available and easy to obtain on-line.  You can also read national and hometown newspapers on-line, or search the internet to locate articles and information.  For information about election dates and deadlines, subscribe to FVAP’s Voting Alerts (vote@fvap.gov).  FVAP also shares Voting Alerts via Facebook (@DODFVAP), Twitter (@FVAP), and Instagram (@fvapgov.

Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website, FVAP.gov.  If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact Embassy Muscat’s Voting Assistance Officer at +968 2464-3600, or via email at VoteMuscat@state.gov.

Remember, your vote counts!

EY

On August 17th, OABC’s members attended, ‘Oman Tax Update’, in partnership with EY.

The presentation from the team at EY covered information on several changes to the Oman Tax Law including VAT, Corporate Income Tax, and Excise Tax. Panelists include Alkesh Joshi, Partner – Oman Tax Leader & MENA Energy Tax Leader and David Stevens, Partner – MENA Indirect Tax Leader.

The team at EY also generously offered all OABC Member attendees a free one-on-one 30 minute VAT consultation at a time of their choosing.

We give special thanks to EY and their team for presenting and for kindly offering a free VAT consultation.

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On July 21st, OABC Members were invited to attend ‘Update on the Oman Projects Market in Light of COVID-19’, in partnership with MEED.

A Premium Member of OABC, MEED is a Middle East business intelligence service that provides the latest news, data and analysis from across the Middle East. The session focused exclusively on Oman with plenty of time for question and answers.

We give thanks to Edward James, Director of Content and Analysis at MEED for his invaluable time and effort in preparing this session for us.

Abraham akkawi papp

The Oman American Business Center (OABC) invited its members and special guests to an online introduction to the Public Authority for Privatization and Partnership (PAPP), to discuss the objectives and process of PAPP and to discuss opportunities open to companies in Oman.

Fouad Eid, Vice President of the OABC, welcomed members and introduced the presenter, Mr. Abraham Akkawi, PPP advisor.  Mr. Akkawi defined the work of PAPP clearly for all attendees and discussed the objectives, process and and tendering steps to take when working with the Authority.

Samples of projects currently in the pipeline were discussed, including the Misfah Waste Water Plant, Bundle of Schools, Royal Oman Police Hospital and the new Truck Road in Salalah.

In his remarks about partnering on the event, Mr. Akkawi referred to celebrating PAPP’s one-year anniversary during the first week of July. “PAPP is now one year old, and we are signaling to the local and global market that Oman is ready to start transacting in PPPs in several priority sectors.”

“We are proud to introduce OABC’s 160 member companies to the Public Authority for Privatisation and Partnership today,” says Rebecca Olson, Executive Director of the OABC.  “PAPP is doing a fantastic job during a difficult year, and they’re engaging the private sector and providing access to companies looking for information on PPP’s.  We thank Abraham and other stakeholders for the generous time spent connecting with the business community, and look forward to more collaboration in the future.”

Attendees were given time to ask questions at the end of the session, and more details were given on specific opportunities. Members were invited to the OABC’s next online event: ‘The Oman Project Market in Light of COVID-19,’ to be held on July 21st.  The session welcomes Edward James, Director of Content and Analysis at MEED Projects as presenter, and is open to all members. OABC will also give 20 tickets to the public, on a first come-first serve basis.

In his opening remarks, VP Fouad Eid also thanked the Premium Members of the OABC and all members who have renewed their memberships during COVID-19: “Thanks  to the support of these members, OABC will continue to connect, inform, and strengthen Oman’s business community through programs, events, B2B introductions, and other creative initiatives.”