10 January 2017

Syed Haitham Hasan
Muscat: Omanisation quotas for the construction sector could be slashed to 10 per cent for building trade if a new law proposed by Oman Society of Contractors (OSC) is approved by the government.

In the annual meeting of the society on Monday, Shahswar Al Balushi, CEO of OSC highlighted the framework of the law which proposes to cut mandatory Omanisation from 30 per cent to 10 per cent in 2017 in the construction sector, to relax stringent labour laws. The 2017 budget shows expenditure for construction sector at OMR1.2 billion, a majority of which will be used to pay 2016 payments and dues, leaving very less for new projects, he said. 

This year will remain hard for the sector and therefore we need to help the construction industry by relaxing the laws, he said.

According to Al Balushi, the Omanisation percentage currently rests at seven per cent in the construction sector, much below the government allowed standards. The proposal mentions a gradual rise in Omanisation from 10 per cent this year to 15 per cent in 2020.

Even at 10 per cent, we will be doing much better than now. This law will bring true Omanisation and it is in process to get approved, he added.

Outsourcing official work like bill of quantities and designs is often used as a tool by construction companies to cut expenses and according to OSC officials, the new law will curb the widespread freelance work by expats in the sector and allow companies more flexibility in hiring staff to do the work legally.

Currently hidden trade and freelance work by expat workers are seen often because of the laws.

When a company cannot hire workers according to their requirements, they are forced to outsource work, he said.

Al Balushi added that firms are often blocked because they cant keep up with Omanisation percentage and are unable to secure clearances for workers.

According to the Dr. Hamad Al Dhahab, chairman of OSC, construction sector must shift to automation and skilled labour work to be more attractive to Omanis.

The manual labour is not attractive for Omanis and therefore private sector must focus on technology which will require skilled labours. This will create more job opportunities for Omanis and the percentages will be easy to comply with, he said.

The law however is unlikely to bring any respite to expat exodus as pool of contracts are running dry and most companies are struggling to secure contracts.

There is nothing proposed on capping expat workers. The point is there is not a lot of work so expats leaving is imminent. Its even hard for Omanis to find work. The economic situation doesnt allow companies to keep staff and pay them when they arent required, he said.

Times of Oman 2017