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Looking for the Tiger - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In the mid 1980s upon arriving at the airport in the Omani capital of Muscat, I was surprised when a passport control officer denied me entrance. I told him that I was a Saudi national on a tour of the gulf and that GCC nationals did not require a visitor’s visa.” In Oman we still require a visa,” he replied. (The situation has since changed and a GCC citizen can enter Oman without a visa.)

This made me exceptionally curious about the sultanate.

I later found out some interesting facts about Oman, namely that besides Sudan, the sultanate did not boycott Egypt and Sadat after the Camp David peace agreement, and that they exported oil but refused to join OPEC and that it traded with South Africa for numerous years during the apartheid era.

This type of “unilateralism” and independence in decision-making was a distinctive feature of Omani policy. During my college days, I noticed that Oman’s criteria for overseas scholarships strictly adhered to gender equality, and focused on practical sciences that benefit the labor market, such as engineering and medicine, a pioneering practice compared with the rest of GCC.

This spirit reflected on the political approach, bringing about a stable parliamentary experience and a gradually, peacefully and naturally evolving electoral experience.

Even the women of Oman are a part of the political process. They were given the right to vote and contest elections and deservedly entered the parliament and have been appointed to the sultanate’s cabinet. Small in size with a [relatively] small number of listed companies, the Muscat Securities Market remains the most stable, transparent and efficient one [amongst its regional counterparts], with strict application of corporate governance principles and strict compliance with disclosure, transparency and firm and prompt application of penalties in an amazingly civilized manner.

Oman’s diverse excellence has manifested itself in the world of sports. [Almost] everyone saw the Omani national football team’s superior performance in the Gulf Cup tournament and their appearance in the finals twice in a row, and the fact that Oman currently has the only GCC football player playing for a professional European football club.

There is another key aspect that contributes to the stability and social equality that exists in Oman today and that is its tolerance and unique acceptance of diverse opinions and religious dialogue.

All the above indicates that Oman has the potential of becoming an economic tiger in the Arab world, a region that has been plagued with negative and sad news of late.

Presenting a regional model that has the elements of integration and excellence revives the ability to build hope as the skies have long been full of dark clouds. Economic tigers usually compose groups once one emerges. However, this requires a strict system, the elimination of a plague known as extremism, the development of a judicial system that achieves justice and removes obstacles, and the development of the educational sector, and the introducing a strategic plan that allows individual citizens to lead a dignified life, enjoying clear rights and duties. This is how homelands and hopes are built. Oman is a beautiful country, taking into account that only God is perfect.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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