Which country earned ‘Most Improved Nation’ in the 2010 Human Development Report? The country whose major art display reflects on how trade ties go as far back as linking Mesopotamia’s civilization with the Indus civilization. And who also claims Sinbad the Sailor…or as some refer to as “Sindhbad” the Sailor because of his trips to present-day Pakistan. By this point, we hope you have arrived at one of the Gulf countries. The correct answer: Oman. Last week the Embassy of Oman organized the #OmanSymposium around this central theme: pluralism promotes human development–especially in Oman. An entire display outlining religious tolerance kicked off the Oman Symposium event.
In 1967, the first development projects began in Oman because there were no docking ports and no color television sets. IMore importantly, telephones were limited to government ministers. Until 1970, Oman had only 1 school. The seventies represented the greatest period of change in Oman economically, socially, and education-wise. Politically, not so much.
One of the strongest HDI impacts was the growth of transportation infrastructure. By 2014, the World Economic Forum ranked Oman as 17th in overall quality of transport infrastructure. Currently it has a rate of 5% on import duties, which is considered “low”. Indirectly, other benefits accrued for other sectors, like oil: About .9 million barrels per oil ae produced and transported. Oman jumped up in its “Doing Business Index” ranking from 114th in 2007 to 47th in 2013.
Oman’s ability to enforce property rights greatly improved from 2007 til now, making it among the top 25 countries to enforce property rights for doing business.
Oman set two 5-Year plans: the Year of Industry and the Year of Agriculture. Now, Oman is underway with Vision 2020, an initiative from 1993 that focuses on developing its human capital…which brings us to education: the way to socially engineer any type of human capital.
Education For All… Shift to Quality
Another HDI impact was that the literacy rate among Omani women grew so dramatically that they now represent the majority of university studies. According to one of the presentations, “percentage of women studying had grown to the point that it became necessary to allocate quotas at Sultan Qaboose University for men.”
Now Oman’s current economic development challenge must integrate a more education labor force with its diverse labor in the form of migrant workers. At the same time, like its other MENA neighbors: update its education system to prepare the next generation of unemployed but “ready to study abroad” population.
The Best Is Yet To Come
As Governor Jon Huntsman, who served as U.S. Ambassador to China, stated, “Oman was a model of development.” As the keynote speaker, Huntsman argued for Oman to invest more into its Research & Development sector, R&D.
The best is yet to come. The US can help Oman.
At the same time, how to prepare for the “Best”–when it arrives– requires a bit of adjustment.
- Enact a minimum wage for foreign labor workers.
- Note that the 68% of local population is under age 30 and REVISE educational curricula to encompass team building homework assignments. (Even super-advanced economies like the U.S. are rethinking how to improve upon Pre-kindergarten learning and challenge the necessity of going to college.)
- Define which type of SMEs and size would BEST encompass local population before signing any type of partnership promising to improve this sector.
Big Difference Between SMEs And Same
The main criticism we would highlight from the discussion at the symposium would be the emphasis on small to medium enterprises (SMEs) without emphasizing how general this term really is–which has no baseline for comparison. What do we mean? Well, when a speaker says he won’t get into the definition or the criteria, which he remarked as the “nitty-gritty”, then it’s way easier (and convenient) for the speaker to make generalizations. An SME can range from having 2 employees to 200 employees. Employee size is only 1 characteristic of SME size, and yet, generally overlooked when reduced to a 10 minute presentation. How will partnerships, which were heavily sought after in the networking sessions, emerge if the parties can’t even get on the same page of what type or size of SMEs should be targeted.
To the speaker who served as the “expert” on development based on his Iraq and Pakistan experience. (Clearly the term expert was liberally applied. It’s not like SMEs catapulted to success in Iraq or Pakistan.) Stop Invoking SMEs As If They’re All the Same!