Writer : Imtiaz Ahmed Mughal
He was the longest serving leader in Arab world and he transformed Oman from isolation to Gulf Kingdom.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, who over nearly five decades in power transformed his Persian Gulf kingdom from an isolated enclave into a developed nation known for brokering quiet talks between global foes, has died, has passed away at the age of 79.
Qaboos’s decades as an absolute monarch who used oil wealth to pull his country from poverty made him a towering figure at home, with roads, a port, a university, a sports stadium and other facilities bearing his name. Internationally, as the longest-serving leader in the Arab world, he used Oman’s place in a turbulent region, next to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, to become a discreet but essential diplomatic player.
In this article we will discuss the phases of historical developments and investment friendly policies of the king.
In the introductory phase of secondary genesis, without the government no one was able to invest in projects such as basic structure, productive industries or electricity generation. Local private fund that existed was mainly consumed by matters such as trade, brokerage, construction of residential homes and fund’s market but now a big stratum of wealthy people has come into existence that is very rich and possesses qualities which can play an important role in economic arenas which are of country’s basic importance.
King Qaboos, on the basis of his clear insight about the future of the country, is strongly determined to construct market’s economy in Oman; such an economy where government plays role in discipline and supervision and owners of private sectors accept the responsibilities of productive sector. The successful start of Muscat Stock Exchange established in 1989 indicates that there are bright chances of the progress of capital market in Kingate and circumstances are very supportive.
King Qaboos Bin Sayed while assigning his preference for 21st century said, “Private sector, now more than ever in any stage, is demanded to speed up its efforts more and more. It should increase its speed, generate more and more confidence in itself and derive maximum benefit from bright investment possibilities in hopeful productive sectors. This would InshAllah produce very positive and strong effects on our economy and social lives in the years to come. Other than this, it is important that this department has complete information about the worldly situations and occurrences resulting from free trade and investment.
This situation demands the fact that our productive departments become bearer to administrative discipline and possess great qualities with respect to productive quality and sales proficiency so competition skill could be generated in them. This is also very important because we are about to seek participation in World Organization for Trade.”
Creating a feasible atmosphere for foreign investors was included among those important priorities which King has assigned to government and law formulating departments who are engrossed in their work of making amendments in country laws. Apart from this, government itself also takes part in investing in bigger plans outside the country. For example, Oman is included as an important participant in the Qazvin Pipeline Group Company. This company was created to lie down the pipeline from the oil reservoirs in Nangaiz (Kazakhstan) to Black Sea’s Novorossiysk port located in Russia and manage its affairs.
From the first five year plan (1976 to 1980), King always tried to make sure the fact that realistic objectives should be completed at every step. President of Majlis-ul-Dola said that, “Plans also have the same condition; plans have been formulated in a flexible way. We know that we live in this world of dependence over one another. Where countries collectively affect each other. Planner should never consider him-self separate from the world so that it may not happen that he might feel that all what he wants is rightly attainable and whatever he wants he can bound with words on paper, from his pen.
He must keep in view the matters effecting on regional and worldly level. Oman always had complete feelings and wisdom for these aspects. It always had the confidence that it has the required flexibility that it can contest any emergency situation. Therefore, whatever happens in the economic grounds of our nearby world, we keep an eye on it and because of our awareness we don’t face apprehension or worry. Oman’s economy is on its way to progress despite the economic disequilibrium that has occurred on worldly level from the last three to four years and speed of our progress is in natural condition, we do not take help of wrong facts and figures in this regard. We are progressing forward step by step and no step is stepping back.
When situation is right to make a fast move then we pace up and when we suspect obstacles, we move cautiously but we never return back.
This can be said with surety that Oman’s economy has successfully dealt with the entire crisis till date though; success in this regard has been very arduous. This economy has been completely affected by the rise and fall of oil prices in the world market. In the last quarter of twentieth century, Oman was second in the whole world with regard to rate of economic progress. As per the facts and figures of World Bank that were published in the spring of 1999, from 1965 to 1997 Oman’s mediocre progress rate was 9.7%. Even in 21st century, most important objective of Oman’s economic Policy would be not just to depend on oil but to diversify the economic resources and increase and widen the role of private sector.
King Qaboos considers the development of this sector as a guarantee to the stable progress of the country. Accordingly, in the province of Zafaar while addressing the public he said, “Another point I want to direct attention to is that our country has chosen a very correct direction in encouraging the private sector.” This sector holds central importance in the economy of all countries of the world. Its power to compete and qualities to counter with obstacles provides a sound basis of progress both for the government and the public. The depreciated thinking of old times that was present in most countries of the world and according to which citizens of the country entrust all their belongings to the government and then relied on government to fulfill their needs, what happened to it.
Organization of such countries disorganized. They had to face poverty and political and economic instability. There is no such country of the world which diminishes the role of individual and his importance neither individual can rely for every matter on government. This thing is also against the religious teachings. Our religion respects individual possession and arouses humans for acts and endless endeavors.
When individual performs acts and becomes an owner of material goods then he provides means of employment for others. In this way, doors of sustenance are opened and Allah’s bounties spread through the individual and whole society. Then these blessings continue to multiply between them. Who has power he gives him power that he does not has. In this way destitute find means to work and they are able to rear their families.
Preferences for next 2 to 3 years have been analyzed in a document titled ‘Vision 2020’ and which has been approved by the King. Owners of businesses would have to provide basic means of employment so that young generation of Oman could accept the responsibilities of life itself. Problem of providing the employment means (that is providing the people of Oman with means of employment and being free of other foreign workers) is directly related to instatement. In 1998, King Qaboos during his annual tour of regions of country while addressing a large gathering of people Al-Batna stressed on employment means for young generation and said, “Act is worship. Our youth should never think twice while performing any responsibilities and never feel disgraced in doing any work.”
Contract department is a department in which a large quantity of foreign workers is working and apart from being a large sector, this sector has means of working in different occupations. It is among those departments which have a large margin for employing local workers. Work is work, there is no such thing which could be considered inappropriate on social basis. Since the time the people of Oman have been on this land, no doubt they have always been hard working. Who constructed homes in the past?
Let it be trade or catching fish, who countered the waves of the sea? Were there foreign laborers here in the past? Not at all, foreign workers were ever here. Money that is transferred outside country through unimportant foreign workers is unimportant.
There are some such occupations which we need, whole world has this gait, and no country of the world can be completely free from the workers of the other country. Even that Omanis themselves go to different countries and work there. These matters since start are mutually substituted among all countries of the world. Allah himself has asked the humans to roam all the earth. There is nothing wrong in this but the quantity and demand of foreign workers should be within a limit.
We are not dependent on them all. On this occasion King stressed on such an upbringing of youth that their mind has no such wrong belief that some occupations are respectful while others are degraded. Importance is only reserved to act and responsible attitude.
Apart from all these steps, government is striving to improve the economic conditions of rural and far-flung areas so the negative trend of moving to urban areas could be stopped and those areas should not be emptied where crops are harvested. Keeping in view this aspect, government has invested a large amount in setting up such towns and village where all factors of luxuries in urban houses and civilization charms are present.
Rural and urban areas have good results of same economic situations because in this way there is a significant reduction in movement of people working in rural areas to urban areas. Government always gives complete consideration to conventional agricultural tasks such as harvesting rearing animals and catching fish. There have also been changes at basic level in these fields. The practical evidence of this could be seen in the lives of people of Zafaar.
Once it happened that a spectacular Japanese car stopped at the corner place near the camels which were grazing. A native of that mountainous area wearing white dress got out of the car. He left the car with artificial atmosphere created by the air conditioner and moved forward with a pail in his hand to drain the milk of camel. After a few minutes, he left the sizzling heat of the sun and again into the comfortable and cold atmosphere of the car and drove away listening to the sweet melodies of music being broadcasted on radio.
This elegant man is no way similar to the grazer who wore tattered clothes and unstitched garment underneath and was found climbing mountains in search of his cows and camels a quarter century ago.
Fishermen go to distant parts of the sea on their speedy motor boats and throw in the net and stack the fish which they have brought with them on their return in refrigerators and later either sell them on local level or export them. There is a big difference in this time and that time, when stacks of fish were decayed on shore or they were dried in sun to be used as food for animals. There were even no markets in those days for their consumption. Today, fountain wells are used to irrigate date trees and vegetable fields and water is transported through big motors powered by electricity through industries to sweeten sea water.
Use of tractors to sow land and using harvesters to cut grown crops and use of much other agricultural machinery is very common now. Productive capacities have increased due to modern irrigation techniques and more land has been rendered useful for cultivation. (Presently only 1 % of Kingate’s land is brought under cultivation whereas cultivable area is almost equal to 7.5 %)
Over the past three to four decades changes have had big effects on Omani society. People of Oman are now individuals of a modern society from every aspect. Worth mentioning aspect is that this country has protected itself from dangers which usually are in search of nations and countries when they are crossing obstacles. Somewhere it also happens that people lose their national identity and national sense of honor. According to this if we ponder we can evaluate the individuality of this sacred and unique second renaissance whose beginning was marked by the address when King Qaboos took charge of the Kingate.
His personality, his methodology, his taste and adhering to the country’s historical traditions and following religious values: these are the matters that are the hallmark of bright and undefeatable revolution.
In the journey of advancement, neither historical evidences were affected nor was natural environment hampered. Generations which saw the sparks of industrialism in communist era might be surprised and may consider Oman’s experience as a story or imaginative fantasy. It is because in Soviet Union the act of destroying the civilization of fore-bearers had attained the stage of fanatic clamorousness. From the announcement of Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 to the beginning span of Second World War many of the civilization mementos were demolished. This included many Christian churches, Muslim mosques, Buddhists vihara etc. this pre-planned sabotage and non-religious devastation took in its control the elite’s houses, their properties and even their historical inhabitations. Old worshipping places were changed into jails and industries.
In order to purchase industrial machinery and equipment and acquisition of required material goods, numerous special antiquities of Russia’s cultural heritage were sold; which superior museums and cupboards of rich people had protected very carefully for centuries. Russia’s land perhaps will not be able to forget for a long time the continual destruction of natural environment; for which there is no example is history. These depravities are a witness to spiritual poverty and pusillanimity of the leaders who ruled for more than 70 years on the great power of the world. Even Europe where old history is highly worth and is looked at with respect might not have such countries that have kept antiquities close to the heart as Oman and protected natural environment in such a way that considered the protection of air and both as one of the country’s basic objective.
Accordingly, all these constructed historical monuments that have significance on the basis of art of construction or are valued on the basis of historical aspects, have been repaired. Presently, Kingate of Oman has 500 citadels and forts. Apart from these, there a dozens of mosques, palaces and buildings that had been constructed in the previous times. Country’s heritage of skilled construction cannot just be protected by amendments and protection of old buildings. The mark of King’s great aesthetic sense can be explicitly seen in cities that are considered the face of Oman and its identity in the present world. Muscat, Salal, Sahar, Nizwa and in all other important centers of the country, specialists in architecture have abstained from blindly following the American style of construction which after leaving its negative effects on Europe’s cities of historical importance have haunted the civilization aspects of the third world countries as a bad dream.
For publishing of interview featuring his taste and views about architecture in Figaro Magazine in 30 April 1994, King said, “I don’t like buildings made of mirrors, but we do not interfere at all in the adornments of entrances.” Concerned departments of Oman government do not sanction any new construction work unless and until departments associated to developmental matters complete the design approval process. This department is answerable to ensure that historical and civilizational structure of different cities is not grieved.
It is clear that buildings of today; their sizes, structure from different angles, construction style, aesthetic identity etc. are not what they used to be. The aesthetic rules are still living and existing. For example, just as in past main doors adorned with art work are considered embellished able in homes, similarly windows are also covered with attractive wood netting and trellis.
There might be no such country in the world, where striking similarity could be found between rulers esthete of architecture and cities mode of construction. It can be said with surety that all new buildings constructed after 1970 or those repaired or those whose renewal came into being; all of them are an indication of King’s taste of architecture. Consider it a reality or understand it as a general portray, but each and every stone of the walls of homes in Oman is a witness to this splendid character, which this person has used to change the fate of his country. Apart from the talk of forts, government also takes care of the destroyed remains of the tombs from illiterate times located in Al-Aien. These tombs were created by people who were removed from history a lot of time ago. Secure places have been established around these historical places. Similarly, the process of research excavation is being carried out around ancient historical towns.
Ancient evidences of Wabar have been found in the desert of Zafaar. Some people consider them the Irum Zaat- ul-Imaad as mentioned in Holy Quran. Excavation of antiquities near Khrori in Taaqa and Al-Baled in Salala is underway, after collecting the leftover and cleaning the debris, these monuments have been protected. Protection of heritage of past is not limited to the protection and amendments of historical monuments instead the aim of advocating the supremacy of past through new constructions is also clear. In the recent past, the navy base constructed on modern level at the place of Dawaam has been named on the name of Sayeed Bin King.
Most modern war fighter planes in water have been named on the previous planes which had taken part water war encounters and raised the flag of Oman’s legacy. King’s security squad along with other squads is equipped with the latest revolvers and machine guns instead of swords and old guns but they wear their cultural dress with great pride.