Vision 2040 is going to be yet another turning point in the History of the Sultanate. Within a few months of taking the helm, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik has embarked upon a total change in the economy and its administration. Apart from a major reshuffle of the cabinet, changes were brought about in the administrative apparatus of the government. A number of authorities have been merged to bring about more efficiency and economy in functioning by restructuring and establishing new reporting lines.
Moreover to streamline the investment and revenue stream of the government, Oman Investment Authority was established bringing in 65 major government companies under its fold. In a total restructuring of the Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of National Economy were set up. To augment the revenue stream, Oman tax Authority was established. The Value Added Tax (VAT) system which has been introduced is expected to add RO 400 million to the revenue which by itself should wipe out the budget deficit in three-four years’ time.
To attract foreign investors and accelerate the economic diversification process through fast track, all the free zones and special economic Zones were brought under Oman Public Authority for Free Zone. To develop and foster the investment culture and further attract foreign investors, Muscat Stock Exchange Company has been formed. Manufacturing, Tourism, Transport & Logistics, Mining, and Agriculture & Fisheries have been identified as the five core industries to spearhead the acceleration of the economy. In response to these prudent measures announced and action taken, the World Bank, International Monetary fund, IIF and other rating agencies have already given a bright outlook to the Oman economy.
Medium Term Fiscal Plan 2020-24
The government has announced the Medium Term Fiscal Plan 2020-24 with the aim to achieve the above objectives on a fast track. The Fiscal balance plan includes initiatives across five pillars.
Financial framework of the tenth development plan 2021-2025:
The plan emphasizes on
1. Strengthening the social protection system to protect low-income earners by maintaining the level of spending on basic services such as education, health, housing and social security and welfare.
2. Providing financial and investment incentives to the governorates of the Sultanate, to enable each governorate to exploit their respective constituents so as to achieve sustainable development, activate trade and generate employment opportunities for citizens.
3. Motivating economic diversification and development of economic sectors by creating means of additional financing for certain productive projects and raising the level of partnership between the public and private sectors
4. Ensuring the transfer of the proceeds of the sale of twenty thousand barrels per day of oil during the Plan years to use it to pay part of the loan installments.
5. Improving the credit rating of the Sultanate to enhance investor confidence through control on deficit rates and public debt.
It is logical to conclude that such a rapid visualization and conceptualization of achieving the noble objectives, requires deployment of tremendous amount of human resources, financial management, self-governance and monitoring by the regulators enabled by total digital transformation. This has been addressed in the financial framework of the development plan. The plan emphasize on Strengthening of sustainable human development and safeguarding human capital by developing the school and university education system to raise the level of education and to enhance the competitiveness of graduates in the local and global markets.
Opportunities for professional Omani accountants
Oman may require tens of thousands of finance professionals to steer the economy to achieve the objectives of Vision 2040. The country can develop highly qualified Omani accountants who can compete with the Accountants from any developed countries. To achieve this Oman should have an Institute to administer the examinations compatible with the rules and regulations of the country. The laws and regulations in each country are structured based on the geographical terrain, demographic composition, available natural resources, business environment, customs and culture prevailing there. Let us draw up a curriculum which is required to be learned by accountants and auditors either practicing or working in the business environment in Oman.
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Oman (ICAO)
It has been a long-felt need to have a national qualification for professional Accountants and Auditors in the Sultanate of Oman. Accounting and auditing Institutions the world over play a key role in the development of human capital. These institutions are responsible for administering, training and conducting examinations for students, and further organize continuing professional education (CPE) for its members. The primary bodies in each country are affiliated to the International Federation of Accountants.
Auditing institutions greatly contribute to the professional development by maintaining high accounting, auditing and ethical standards for the regulation of the profession. They contribute to the national development by enabling entities to fulfil their duties by being accountable and transparent to the public.
The practice of auditing is the cornerstone to good governance and ensures that unbiased accounts are available to the public to know whether resources are managed responsibly. Auditing ensures integrity and instill confidence among citizens and stakeholders. The auditors also support the governance responsibilities of oversight, insight and foresight. They are the custodians of the national wealth and they are the conscience keepers of the economy. Let us develop such an institution which will uphold and inculcate the core ethical values – ‘Institute of Chartered Accountants of Oman’. Let us inspire and encourage the accounting graduates to join for professional accounting programs. The Institute, if established, will be the first of its kind in the whole GCC.
The author is the Founding Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Account.ants of India (ICAI), Muscat Chapter and former President of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) Oman.