|17 February, 2020

Small businesses in Oman exempted under foreign investment law

New law promises to facilitate and simplify the procedures for obtaining all approvals, permits, and licenses needed by a foreign investor

Image used for illustrative purpose. General view of old Muscat the day after Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said was laid to rest in Muscat, Oman, January 12, 2020.

Image used for illustrative purpose. General view of old Muscat the day after Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said was laid to rest in Muscat, Oman, January 12, 2020.

REUTERS/Christopher Pike

Businesses that relate to daily lives of common man have been exempted from the 100 per cent ownership under the new Foreign Investment Law.

Aimed at making the business climate in Oman more attractive, the new law promises to facilitate and simplify the procedures for obtaining all approvals, permits, and licenses needed by a foreign investor for his project.

However, keeping the larger interest of small-time entrepreneurs in Oman, foreign ownership has been excluded from around 37 businesses including translation, photocopying services, tailoring (both men and womens clothing), laundry, vehicle automotive repairs, transportation and sale of drinking water, manpower and recruitment services, hairdressing and salon services, taxi services, driving instructions, fishing, and rehabilitation homes for the elderly, disabled and orphans.

Speaking to the Observer, an Omani entrepreneur welcomed the move, and said, There are several Omanis surviving on such small-time neighbourhood business, which cannot withstand the direct competition from foreign investors.

He added, It is also important to keep the prices of some services affordable for common citizens, which may not be the same with the entry of some big players.

Foreign investors may bring some sophistication into the market, but they will be not able to offer affordable services with emotional attachment with the customers. Small time traders like tailors, laundry, and maintenance people are essential along with branded operators, said Ahmed, who owns a car AC repair outlet.

As per the law, Foreign investment shall be carried out by an establishment or a company in a permitted activity by owning the invested foreign capital in whole or by contributing to it, and a license for this shall be issued from the authority.

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