The Business Year

Said Al-Maawali

OMAN - Economy

Said Al-Maawali

Minister of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology,

Bio

Prior to joining the government, Said Al-Maawali led the turnaround program of Oman Drydock Company. He has also worked in PDO, OXY, Sohar Aluminum, Oman Oil, and Oman Tank Terminal Company. He has served on several boards as chairman or director including Sohar Aluminum, Vale Oman, Oman India Fertilizer Company, Oman Gas Company, and Sohar Industrial Port. He holds a degree in engineering from Imperial College, London.

By making sure the transport, IT, and communications sectors all work smoothly in line with each other, the ministry is banking on these sectors booming in the medium term.

You finalized the logistics efficiency national indicators initiative (Tamayuz). How will that help the logistics sector be more competitive on an international scale?

The basic goal is to make the entry and exit points to the country—the ports and land borders—the most competitive in the region. We can do that through the service offering given by the ports, port operating companies themselves, freight forwarders, airports, shipping agencies, and anyone that works on the land borders. If we get them to compete and be the most efficient in providing the service, including cost effectiveness, then hopefully this will position the country to be even more competitive than it is now.

The ministry held a workshop on the challenges faced by the land transport sector. What are some of the key issues the ministry is working on resolving as a result of that?

The current picture and ecosystem are unacceptable. It is causing us lost opportunities in jobs, lower quality, costs to the end user, and leakage of the economy in this sector to others. If we organize this sector better, we can position it to also become an attractive place for employment. At the moment, it is viewed as an unattractive sector for the youth in the country. This sector is fairly advanced elsewhere, and we need to bring it up to that level. There are companies that are today deploying AI in the business, which helps make operations more cost effective and offers value for money for both investors and users of the sector. We need to focus more on it, and we can do a better job of utilizing our strategic location if we organize this sector. At the moment, we are not in the right arena and are underplaying out ability.

Where do you see the role of the ministry in Oman’s diversification strategy and Vision 2040?

It is clear that one of the main sectors targeted for growth within Vision 2040 is logistics. The country expects better growth in logistics, and this will happen not through building more but by using what we have more efficiently. Linking logistics with IT, when it comes to land transportation, will help us bring the sectors up to standard. If we do this faster than the others, we will have an advantage at a regional level. Digitalization is an enabler of all other sectors, and we see it as an opportunity for growth. The size of the digital economy in Oman is fairly modest, so the starting point is low, and we can only go up. The goal is to be around five times the current size by 2040, and that is possible. China, for example, had five-fold growth in the ICT sector 11 years ago. We want to increase five-fold in 20 years, so it is not an unreasonable target.

How are you ensuring the security of the transition to e-governance?

A great deal of positive things have occurred in digitalizing the government, and Oman was perhaps the first country in the region to start working on this, as early as 2004. The indicators are positioning us as 50th place globally—in the first quartile—so we are doing well. However, we cannot maintain that position if we do not do more. In terms of security, there are parts that happen in this ministry for proactive security as well, which is making sure everything is secure whether hardware or software. There is also the formation of the Cyber Defense Center last year. That is the last line of defense for the country to defend its digital borders. There are multiple security layers within the government to make sure this is done, it is secure, and it helps us ensure a better future whereby we are more efficient as a government in what we do.

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