Hands up if you know where Oman is!

Setting up and running a business in Oman may not be top of the list of priorities of many Western investors and entrepreneurs. In fact, let’s begin with a little honesty here. How many of us actually know where Oman is? Thought so. Can’t see too many hands up!

British Royals Charles, The Prince of Wales, and Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, certainly know a thing or two about Oman after their recent two-day visit there. The visit, part of a nine-day official mini-tour of the Middle East, which also took in Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underlined Britain’s close ties with the country.

In fact the Brits have had trading links with Oman going back more than 350 years. It’s incredible to think at that point in history America’s Declaration of Independence was still more than a century away. In the meantime, Britain’s transformation into a colonial superpower continued almost unopposed, aided and abetted in no small measure by the rise of the corporate bank such as HSBC, which provided business with the investment required to capitalise on and to further develop its burgeoning overseas trade.

But, as they say, that was then and this is now. By the way, Oman shares its border with the United Arab Emirates to the north-west, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the south-west. Iran lies to the north, across the waters of the Strait of Hormuz through which about a fifth of the world’s petroleum passes. Considered as an oil tanker ‘choke’ point, the strait is one of the most important and strategic waterways in the world. Know where Oman is now?

For many years the Omani economy has benefited hugely from its enormous oil and gas wealth which  propelled this once backward-looking country into the modern era. It’s no secret, however, the sector is providing diminishing returns, even despite the increased use of drilling techniques to extract once unreachable oil reserves. Oman’s government has been well aware of the situation for decades and is continuing a sustained program of industrial and service-led diversification.

According to the British government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) department, current economic policy is to gradually decrease the country’s reliance on oil through downstream oil industry development, port development, IT start-ups, fisheries, and an expanded tourism industry.

A number of large infrastructure and developmental projects are now under construction which include new build ports, airports, roads, industrial zones and special economic zones. More opportunities can be expected to rise out of the next five-year cycle that started in 2011, says the UKTI, with spending expected to total somewhere in the region of $30 billion.

Oman therefore presents investors and entrepreneurs with good short to medium-term prospects, bolstered by a strong and open market economy. All the incentives are there to attract companies from across the globe. For Western business in particularly, the fact English is widely spoken and accepted in the Omani business community is a real positive. Another is the zero rate of personal income tax levied by the Oman government, a real aid in attracting overseas expertise.

Finally, add full repatriation of capital, net profits and royalties to the mix along with good air links to all major cities and easy access to African and Asia markets. Now that you now know the where and the why of investing in Oman, all that’s left is the when. So what are you waiting for?

If you want to know more about doing business in Oman then click here.

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