In the forty-three years since he came to power His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said has been the architect of Oman's growth and progress . It's His Majesty's vision that has seen the country blossom and develop into the vibrant 21st century hub we know today .By setting out and adhering to a selection of national goals , achieved over a series of five years plans . Sultan Qaboos has oversaw a comprehensive programme that has transformed Oman bringing it into the modern era , while remaining faithful to its traditions,heritage and historical identity.
Since His Majesty accession to the throne in 1970, one of the most striking features of His Majesty’s leadership has been the strong relationship that has developed between the leader and his people. In all stages of the country’s long-term development strategy, top priority has been accorded to the Omani citizen, regarded as the nation’s most precious resource in the drive towards achieving sustainable development.
Addressing central issues of public concern in his speech at the opening of the Council of Oman (Majlis Oman's) fifth term at Hisn Al Shumoukh in the wilayat of Manah in the Governorate of A'Dakhiliyah on 31st October 2011, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said expressed his total confidence in his countrymen and women and urged them to work diligently, inspired by consciousness of their responsibilities and duties. His Majesty pointed out that the next phase in Oman’s development would be a critical one, which will demand further sacrifices from all citizens.
Sultan Qaboos’ speech also touched on the consultation (Shura) process in Oman. He explained that the Shura was established on firm principles which would ensure its natural progression, in a number of stages, in direct response to the demands of each successive stage of national development. It was, he noted, designed to meet the needs of the Omani community and, as part of a clear-sighted vision of the future and of the steps needed for its implementation, will keep pace with Omani society’s aspirations towards greater participation in national decision making.
Referring to the expanded regulatory and legislative powers granted to the Council of Oman with its two component bodies – the State Council (Majlis Al Dawla) and the Consultation Council(Majlis Al Shura), His Majesty said he looked forward to seeing the Council take a decisive step forward. H.M. Sultan Qaboos confirmed his intention to continue to give top priority to the development of human resources and reiterated his belief that people are the cornerstone of any development process designed to promote human happiness, decent living standards and security. “The forthcoming stage will witness, with God’s will, even greater focus on providing more opportunities for youth to enable them to expand their knowledge,” His Majesty said. “Education is the cornerstone of progress and development, and in order to produce a responsible, aware generation endowed with expertise, skills and aspirations, towards a higher level of knowledge, a comprehensive assessment of the country’s educational progress needs to be carried out in order to ensure that those aspirations become realities and enable people to benefit from the available job opportunities in the public and private sectors,” he added.
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression is one of the prime elements of Omani society.His Majesty reaffirmed its importance and pointed out that any obstacles to it should be removed, including the practice of forcing one’s opinions upon others, or suppressing the rights of others to express their ideas freely.
However, it is important that balance and moderation are maintained; inflexibility, extremism and a refusal to allow alternative views are unacceptable and carry with them the seeds of their own destruction.
“The State’s laws and regulations guarantee every Omani the right to express his opinion and to contribute constructive ideas to enhance the march of progress in the country,” His Majesty said.
“We have always believed it is important there should be a wide range of different ideas and opinions, and that people should not be prohibited from thinking freely, because this is evidence of a community’s strength and its ability to benefit from these opinions and ideas to serve its aspirations for a better future and a finer, happier life. However, freedom of expression does not mean that any one party has the right to force its opinions on others or suppress the rights of others to express their ideas freely, since this has nothing to do with democracy or law; and keeping up with the times does not mean imposing ideas on other people,” Sultan Qaboos added.
His Majesty the Sultan directed the Council of Ministers to take all necessary steps to implement a national plan to provide employment in the public and private sectors for national job-seekers, both male and female. His Majesty welcomed the plan, which called for implementation from 1st September 2012. The plan provides for the creation of 56,000 job opportunities – 36,000 in the public sector (civilian and military) and 20,000 in the private sector. Priority will be given to those with the educational qualifications, skills and training needed by the different sectors
- On 14th August 2012 His Majesty ordered that all recipients of loans from the Oman Housing Bank registered up to that date should be exempted from all banking and administrative service charges until final settlement of their outstanding loans. As for new borrowers, at His Majesty’s directive, a 75% reduction will be implemented, and the new subsidised loans and the loans given after the amendment, will have bank and administrative fees cut by as much as 75% in the case of low-income recipients. Some 11,700 citizens across the country benefited from these exemptions.
- On 13th August 2012 H.M. Sultan Qaboos Bin Said gave directives for the cancellation of Grade Five from the Schedule of Grades and Salaries listed in the Civil Service Law promulgated under Royal Decree No. 120/2004, and rectification of the effects resulting from it. His Majesty also approved – retrospectively - the financial costs necessary for disbursements to cover pay differences, with effect from the date of the law coming into force on 1st January 2006. The cancellation of Grade Five reflects the importance attached by His Majesty to rectifying the situation of employees who had been transferred to that grade, which was originally introduced with the promulgation of the Civil Service Law.
- H.M. Sultan Qaboos Bin Said issued orders that branches of the Oman Charitable Organisation (OCO) shall be opened in Salalah, Sohar and Sur to enable an expansion of the scope of its activities and services. The OCO has formed three charitable committees to manage its operations in the three governorates. On H.M. the Sultan's directives, each of the new branches will be headed by the governor of the governorate in which it is located and will include local dignitaries, as well as people experienced in charity work and individuals selected from government social work departments. The committees will draw out the general plans for the new branches’ charitable operations, which will include overseeing fund-raising campaigns and providing aid.
- His Majesty has issued directives for the implementation of new development, service, subscribe and medical projects in the western border areas of the governorate of Dhofar, including the wilayats of Dhalkut, Rakhyut and Al Mazyounah.
- His Majesty the Sultan issued orders for the completion of preliminary procedures for floating the Daba-Lima-Khasab road project tender; this infrastructure project will make a significant contribution to easing the flow of traffic and the transport of goods to and from the governorate.
- The directives include taking the necessary steps to develop Port Khasab, such as constructing jetties and providing suitable areas for handling commercial and tourist traffic, including reception facilities for tourists and the captains and crews of commercial vessels. Other measures include supplying tug boats and the provision of training in operating them, as well as improvements to the area around the harbour in line with the recommendations of the appropriate consultative studies. (See Ports, p-302) Carrying out the necessary expansion work on Port Khasab to enable it to handle its economic and tourist activities during the next Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).
- In September 2012, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said issued orders that Students on partial scholarships should be provided with the same grants as students on full scholarships. This applies to 340 students studying in 16 states: Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain,Qatar, the Emirates, Lebanon, Morocco and Malaysia.
- The Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic to Non-native Speakers was established in the Wilayat of Manah on Sultan Qaboos’ orders. It received its first batch of students on 25th August 2012. The College is the first specialist facility of its kind to be set up in the Sultanate and a significant addition to the Arab world’s Arabic language teaching programmes for non-native speakers. It offers an effective channel for promoting contacts between Oman and non-Arabic speaking peoples and, as such, is expected to help strengthen ties between their cultures
- His Majesty has also issued directives for the establishment of the Hisn Al Shumoukh Library in the Governorate of A'Dakhiliyah as a new cultural resource for researchers and scholars in the Sultanate. As a rich repository of learning, it demonstrates His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said's eagerness to disseminate knowledge and build cultural bridges. The services provided by the Library will also inspire the community as a whole to make use of the extensive facilities for knowledge and culture available within its walls. Officially opened on 27th August 2012, the Library will provide a major resource for the benefit of the country’s cultural and educational institutions, as well as individual scholars and researchers
Royal Decree No. 99/2011, issued on 19th October 2011, amended some of the provisions of the Basic Law of the State to give the Council of Oman wider powers. This reflects His Majesty’s belief that the consultation process should be expanded in the interests of the nation and its citizens with every member of society playing his or her part in the Sultanate’s development. The Decree amends Articles 6, 42, 44, 56 and 58 of the Basic Law of the State, which deal with the Council of Oman’s prerogatives and the system governing the functional relationship between the different stateauthorities. This historic amendment is designed to grant the Council of Oman legislative and regulatory powers. Royal Decrees No. 9/2012 and 10/2012, issued on 29th February 2012, on the Supreme Judicial Council and the Regulation of the Management of Judicial Affairs, grant the judiciary complete independence, ensuring a total separation of responsibilities and enabling the different powers operate independently of each other and with maximum efficiency. To simplify procedures for the country’s citizens and give each of Oman’s regions the administrative importance it deserves, Royal Decree No. 114/2011, issued on 26th October 2011, divided the Sultanate into eleven governorates: Muscat, Dhofar, Musandam, Al Buraymi, the A'Dakhiliyah, the North Al Batinah, the South Al Batinah, the South A'Sharqiyah, the North A'Sharqiyah, the A'Dhahirah and the Al Wusta. The law establishing the Municipal Councils promulgated under Royal Decree No. 116/2011 issued on 26th October 2011, marked the beginning of a new stage of popular participation and represents a further step towards integrating different sections of society with government institutions. The Municipal Councils will play a role complementing that of the Consultation Council (Majlis A'Shura) in preparing future development plans. While the municipalities’ efforts will henceforth be placed within the context of local and national development.
Royal Opera House Muscat
His Majesty also attaches great importance to culture and science in Oman. The magnificent Royal Opera House Muscat was inaugurated in October 2011. His Majesty opened the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) Cultural Centre as part of the Sultanate’s 40th National Day celebrations and the foundation stone was laid for the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Centre in Salalah
A number of academic chairs have been established in the name of Sultan Qaboos for the study of Arab and Islamic civilization and to promote greater mutual understanding between cultures. There are chairs at sixteen of the world’s leading universities, including – among others - Harvard and Georgetown in the United States, Cambridge in the United Kingdom, Melbourne in Australia, Utrecht in the Netherlands, Beijing in China, Tokyo in Japan and Lahore in Pakistan, as well as several universities in Gulf, Arab and Islamic countries
The Sultan of Oman’s Chair for Arab and Islamic Studies
Australia: In the field of education, an agreement was signed in March 2003 with Melbourne University for the creation of this Chair is the latest in a series of endowments to prestigious universities throughout the world. It is just one example of the Sultan’s role in promoting exchanges and mutual understanding between cultures and peoples.
A chair for Water Management and Economic Diversification,
On 14 December 2005 at the Roosevelt Academy affiliated to Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The Dutch government resolved launching of HM Chair in recognition of His Majesty’s contributions and efforts in the field of international peace and cooperation, and development of the Sultanate as a modern state under his leadership.
Royal Decree No. 18/2011, issued on 27th February 2011, instituted the Sultan Qaboos Award for Culture, Arts and Literature and provided for the formation of its board of trustees. There are two versions of the Sultan Qaboos Award; the first of which is awarded by His Majesty for culture, arts and literature in the Sultanate and the Arab region, while the second is specific to Oman. One winner is chosen for each of the three categories, which means there are three winners annually – one cultural, one artistic and one literary. The Sultan Qaboos Award for Voluntary Work was launched to encourage and highlight the role of the voluntary sector in serving family and community. The non-government voluntary organisations are de facto partners in the Sultanate’s sustainable social development. The Award is also designed to encourage a spirit of constructive competition in serving the community and promoting co-operation and a sense of social responsibility. The individuals, institutions and associations responsible for the first batch of winning projects were announced at a special ceremony on Omani Volunteer Day on 5th December 2011.