The Business Year

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OMAN - Finance

Hussain Al Lawati

CEO, Development Bank

Bio

With a career spanning over 18 years in the banking and finance sector, Hussain Al Lawati’s extensive background in strategic planning, innovation, growth and acquisition ideally positions him to take Development Bank’s mission forward. His leadership in various senior management position at reputed financial institutions in Oman, demonstrated his exceptional ability to drive business growth. A Frankfort School of Finance & Management certified expert in SME Finance, Al Lawati holds a BA in accounting and is a Harvard Business School alum.

"The role of Development Bank has been completely redefined."
TBY talks to Hussain Al Lawati, CEO of Development Bank, about Oman Vision 2040, restructuring of the bank, and Oman’s development in the coming years.
How has Development Bank adapted its focus and strategy to align with Oman Vision 2040 and government initiatives?

We have evolved from being only an SME bank to now also focusing on the country’s broader development goals, increasing our capital and project sizes and making significant contributions to job creation as a result. Every sector outlined in Oman Vision 2040 is a top priority for us, with the 10th Five-Year Development Plan and its specific milestones our current focus. While we support every industry within Oman Vision 2040, our attention is primarily on industry, agriculture and fisheries, and tourism. In agriculture and fisheries, for example, many opportunities remain untapped while the industrial sector has many emerging possibilities, especially as regards green manufacturing. Tourism enjoyed a record year in 2023 with over 4 million arrivals, bringing with it prospects for high potential projects for entrepreneurs. Our job at DB is to help our SME community unlock all that these sectors have to offer and in doing so spur the creation of further opportunities and jobs in every governorate, add to non-oil export growth, reduce reliance on imports, and contribute to GDP growth.

Following 2023’s restructuring, which resulted in your appointment as CEO, what are the changes for the bank going forward?

The role of Development Bank has been completely redefined. Historically, the bank supported SMEs in a variety of sectors with microloans, subsided interest rates and interest-free finance for up to 10 years. We have also long promoted entrepreneurship through roadshows in schools and colleges, encouraging individuals to explore opportunities for economic growth. While we continue to offer strong support to SMEs and their ambitions through a range of tailored products, we have been asked to play a greater part in supporting Oman’s growth and entrusted with a broader role in the national economy. As a result, the bank’s scope now also encompasses bigger development initiatives including major infrastructure projects such as the new railway and airports. To give us the resources to fund these large-scale ventures, the bank’s capital has been increased to OMR500 million and loan capacities raised to OMR5 million, with OMR7.5 million possible in certain cases. This expansion aims to boost not only Oman’s on-going development but also its self-sufficiency, especially in regions outside Muscat.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for Oman’s economic development in the coming years?

Under the wise leadership and guidance of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, Oman has entered an exciting new era of progress and development, a new and renewed renaissance. We have had the FDI Standouts Watchlist rank Oman as the world’s fourth-most attractive country for FDI in 2023 and IMF projections see us as having the highest economic growth rate in the Arab World this year. Just recently S&P Global Ratings upgraded its rating for Oman from BB to BB+/B with a positive outlook. Then there is the 8.7% increase in the number of active enterprises last year with micro-businesses up 7.4% and small business up 18.7%. The number of Omanis in the workforce is up 6.4%. Our economy is sound, we have a robust base. As we look ahead, growth in priority sectors combined with major initiatives like Oman Rail and the country’s extraordinary green hydrogen potential—Oman is slated to be the world’s sixth biggest exporter of this by 2030—along with the up and downstream opportunities this will bring, position us well for the future. Development Bank is highly motivated by the part we will play in the next stages of Oman’s continuing renaissance. One significant challenge is making sure our entrepreneurs and SMEs fully understand the opportunities opening up for them right now in the economy—where they are, how they are going to be executed and the timelines involved. They should be aware of the support from institutions like Development Bank that is in place to help them capitalize on these incredibly positive developments in our economic landscape.

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