Message from His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hashil Al Maskari, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Brunei Darussalam
The Sultanate of Oman marks its 51st National Day anniversary on 18 November 2021. With firm resolve, Omani citizens continue to make more achievements under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, the Sultan of Oman who vowed to upgrade the march of nation building and enhance the pace of progress, striking a high note in Omani people’s enthusiasm for an ambitious renaissance that covers all spheres of life.
At the onset of the message on the auspicious occasion of the 51st anniversary of the national day of the Sultanate of Oman, I am honored to seize this opportunity to congratulate His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on Brunei Darussalam’s successful ASEAN Chairmanship for the current year, in these challenging times, Brunei continued to admirably play an important role as the ASEAN Chair in helping the region bounce back from the global pandemic and deal with other challenges facing ASEAN.
Furthermore, after registering its first locally transmitted COVID-19 case in over a year, I am pleased to take this opportunity to commend the Government of Brunei Darussalam’s approach in containing the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak. Owing to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s wise leadership, we are confident that Brunei will overcome this challenge.
Furthermore, thanks to the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam the vaccination drive has gained momentum and the country is destined to achieve a level which is needed to achieve herd immunity in the nearest future.
Moreover, I would also like to take this opportunity to laude Bruneians and foreign nationals residing in Brunei Darussalam for supporting the measures implemented by the Bruneian authority and for acting responsibly to stem the spreading of the virus. My sincerest gratitude goes to the competent medical professionals, doctors and nurses, law enforcement and border guards and others who are working tirelessly around the clock for the well-being and safety of everyone in this country.
Oman & Brunei: 37 years of outstanding bilateral relation:
This year marks the 37h anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam. The two sultanates established diplomatic ties on 24th March 1984 and, ever since, the bilateral relations have always enjoyed stable, healthy and steady development, and has attained remarkable achievements.
This process was greatly assisted by the official state visits paid by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassnal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to the Sultanate of Oman on three separate occasions. The first being in the 1984, the second taking place in 1985, and the third and the most recent visit in 2009. In addition, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, visited Oman in February 2014.
Furthermore, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, the Sultan of Oman, visited Brunei Darussalam in March 2014, in his capacity as Minister of Heritage and Culture during the reign of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimur. These royal visits strengthened the relationship between the two brotherly countries even further.
Since establishing diplomatic relations, the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam have concluded numerous agreements and Memorandums of Understanding in different fields of cooperation.
Bilateral relations are discussed and reviewed on regular basis by the Foreign Ministry of the Sultanate of Oman and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam through the “Bilateral Consultative Meeting”; mechanism that was established in 1992 to strengthen bilateral relations. So, far twenty meetings have taken place, alternating between the two capitals of Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei and Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.
Despite the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic our two brotherly countries bilateral relations continued to grow from strength to strength. On 11th January 2021, the Foreign Ministries of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam held the 20th Bilateral Consultative Meeting (20th BCM), via video-conferencing.
During the 20th BCM, the two sides acknowledged and agreed to further strengthen the existing bilateral cooperation between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam in various areas, including trade and investment, energy, agriculture and fisheries, higher education, tourism, health, defense, and people-to-people exchanges.
Cultural cooperation is one of the strong dimensions of Oman-Brunei bilateral relations. Oman has participated on regular basis in Brunei international book fairs. Brunei also took part in Muscat book fairs during the past few years.
In this regard it worth mentioning that, on the year 2019, the Sultanate of Oman was privileged to be the first country ever to be invited as a country of honor at Brunei Book Fair, since it was inaugurated almost two decades ago.
Additionally, in line with the Embassy’s efforts to make the most of the Bruneians admiration for Arabic language, a fifth batch consisting of four teachers from the Ministry of Religious Affairs studied Arabic Language in the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic Language to Non-Native Speakers, for duration of eight weeks during the year 2019, on a partial scholarship from the Government of the Sultanate of Oman.
The first four batches consisted of students from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB).
So far, a total of twenty-four participants from Brunei had benefited from this program. Currently arrangements are underway for the sixth batch of Bruneian students to study Arabic Language in the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic Language to Non-Native Speakers during the course of next year.
Furthermore, recently the Ministry of Education of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs established an impressive cooperation in the field of Arabic language teaching and learning, that has resulted in several promising initiatives that further strengthened the teaching and learning of Arabic language in Brunei Darussalam.
The Embassy has also emphasized promoting people-to-people exchanges between Brunei and Oman. As part of this effort, six Omani publications corners were officially launched at the library of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) in February 2016 and at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD)’s library in May 2017, at the Library of the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) on 25th July 2018, at the library of Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) on October 2019 and the library of Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Défense Academy on October 2020, with the latest Omani publications corner launched at the Library of the Language and Literature Bureau on 27th July 2021. Thus, the total number of Omani publications contained in these six corners are more than two-thousands (2,000) publications.
Additionally, as part of the Embassy’s effort to foster ties with the People of Brunei, within the framework of public diplomacy, which is considered an effective tool to help formulate people’s perception of each other’s countries and cultures.
The Embassy continued its annual practice of inviting batches of students from local public schools to visit the Embassy’s premise. During these visits I personally presented on aspects of Oman’s cultural and tourism appeal such as its geographic location, natural beauty and diverse landscapes, in addition to its culture and heritage. My presentation also explored some of the similarities between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam including the form of governance practiced in both countries, and efforts to modernize while maintaining distinct cultural identities, as well as the strong bonds of friendship forged through shared historical, cultural and social ties between the two countries and their peoples.
Moreover, our two brotherly countries enjoy productive cooperation in the field of education; the Sultanate of Oman continued to offer Bruneian students’ scholarships under the Omani program for Cultural and Information cooperation. At the same time, we are also grateful that over the past years the government of Brunei Darussalam has accepted many Omani students to pursue their studies in various local universities and institutions of higher learning on Brunei government scholarship.
Speaking of students’ exchange, several Omani students from Sultan Qaboos University and University of Nizwa studied in UBD for one academic semester, during the past few years.
Oman and Brunei also enjoy promising cooperation in the field of sports, only last April 2021, The National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Oman Football Association. The MOU entailed cooperation in vast areas including conducting more exchanges between the two Football Associations as well as the hosting of friendly matches.
Moreover, in a move that took trade and investment cooperation between the two sultanates to a higher level, Brunei inked a deal with Oman in April 2009, to establish a US$100 million investment fund, shared between the two sultanates and based in the Omani capital of Muscat. This deal resulted in the unveiling of Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC).
OBIC invests in private equity of high-growing sectors through acquisition, or by investing in existing companies or starting new projects.
OBIC continued to make the most of business opportunities available in the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam local markets, in order to further boost the two countries economic development and contribute to their economic diversification plans.
OBIC has invested in many projects in the Sultanate of Oman since its establishment 12 years ago. Among the most important of these projects are Kempinski Hotel, located Al Mouj-Muscat; the European Hospital being built in Al Ghubra; and the desalination plant in Sohar.
On the year 2019, OBIC has acquired (50 per cent) share of Golden Corporation Sdn Bhd (GC), a company that specializes in fish farming, in addition to providing high-quality seafood products, based in Brunei Darussalam. This was OBIC first investment in Brunei.
Furthermore, on 9th December 2019, Oman Investment Authority (OIA) of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) agreed to increase the capital of Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC) by another USD 100 million. Thus, bringing the total capital of the company to USD 200 million.
Additionally, both countries have identified and explored over the years during the Bilateral Consultative Meetings between the Sultanate of Oman Foreign Ministry and Brunei Darussalam, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a number of new investment opportunities in various industries including the upstream and downstream, oil and gas sectors, halal food, banking and finance, agriculture and fisheries. With the hope that these investments won’t be limited to either Oman or Brunei, but could also be extended to joint investment in third countries.
Moreover, the longstanding shared values and similar energy landscapes of Brunei Darussalam and the Sultanate of Oman have been key in nurturing close ties between the two countries, with the Brunei-Oman Joint Seminar – first held in 2014 in Brunei and the second held in Muscat, Oman in 2016 and third taking place in Brunei 2019– symbolizing this partnership. We are hopeful that the fourth session of the aforementioned seminar will take place next year 2022, at Muscat.
The biennial seminar, hosted alternately between Brunei and Oman, was established as a platform to share best practices in areas of mutual interest between both countries and to foster joint opportunities, as well as to enhance understanding of the business and investment environments in both countries, especially in industry sectors.
Cooperation in the field of energy and related fields further fortified with the exchange of professionals through the staff cross-posting between Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Oman Liquefied Natural Gas (Oman LNG), an arrangement which has been ongoing for several years.
Défense cooperation is another dimension of Brunei-Oman bilateral relations that has also grown steadily over the past years, with both countries armed forces regularly participating in command and staff courses and other military events held in the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam.
With reference to what I have highlighted earlier it’s evident that relations between the two Sultanates have extended beyond the political spheres to include other important areas of cooperation and we firmly believe that with the joint efforts of both sides, more positive results will be yielded in the Sultanate of Oman-Brunei Darussalam excellent and mutual beneficial cooperation.
Therefore, based on these cooperative relations shaped by economic necessity and investment opportunities and incentives, there is ample reason to expect our two countries partnership to reach new heights and cover more sectors including industries, tourism, logistics, fisheries, as well as, technology, health care, water, environment, and renewable energy.
Furthermore, we hope that the friendship and cooperation between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam will grow from strength to strength and we are confident that with the outstanding leadership of their Majesties Sultan Haitham bin Tarik and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, the bonds of friendship between Oman and Brunei will be further cemented in the years ahead.
I would therefore like to express my thanks and appreciation to the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for their kindness, generosity support and cooperation in promoting the good relations between our friendly countries.
I am, thus confident that our two friendly countries relations in the coming years will witness further enhancement of closer bonds of friendship and partnership. Ultimately, my heartfelt wishes to Brunei Darussalam to further success, progress, peace and for the Oman-Brunei relation further development and prosperity.
Celebrating Renewed Renaissance, Setting Further Milestones:
It is with great pride, immense happiness, deep love and gratitude to the Builder of Modern Oman, the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimur and His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, that Omani people celebrate the 51st National Day on the 18th of November 2021.
The achievements brought about over the past 51 years can be seen in all fields and on every yard of the Sultanate of Oman’s territory. The late His Majesty established the pillars of a modern state on solid grounds of justice, equality, responsible citizenship and rule of the law as part of His Majesty’s keenness on safeguarding the unity of the nation and the solidarity of citizens in every part of the country.
The main focus of the Sultanate of Oman’s Renaissance has been on the creation of a modern nation based upon a system of laws and institutions that reflect the development of its society and state. The Basic Law of the State embodies all aspects and helped establish ‘the state of institutions and rule of law’ and paved the way for wide-scale cooperation between executive and legislative institutions within a framework of equality, in earnest quest to facilitate citizens’ access to justice.
Oman National Day is an occasion in which citizens exhibit their joy over the achievements made, as well as their love and gratitude to their benevolent leader.
The celebration comes at a time the Sultanate of Oman is making progress in every field, inspired by the directives of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, who continued charting the roadmap of the renaissance. That’s how modern Oman has emerged as a country admired by the whole world, because of its civilized contribution to human experience and its dignified presence in regional and international arenas.
Royal directives to tackle coronavirus pandemic:
To contain coronavirus (Covid-19) that wreaked havoc in countries of the world, the Sultanate of Oman formed a Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The Supreme Committee has been taking ‘moderate’ decisions and precautionary measures that ensure the safety of citizens and residents, while at the same time catering to social and economic implications on this benign land.
The Supreme Committee is responsible for cooperation with the departments concerned and regulating social response. It worked for the procurement of internationally approved vaccines and oversaw the implementation of a national immunization campaign. This was commended by His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik when he chaired the Supreme Committee’s meeting on 18 August 2021. His Majesty said that, “This improvement could not have happened had it not been for the appropriate decisions taken and the efforts exerted by the departments concerned in the Sultanate of Oman, albeit the health sector.” His Majesty the Sultan of Oman lauded the “high sense of responsibility shouldered by all members of society through abidance with the decisions and the measures set by the authorities concerned to safeguard public health—individuals and society at large”.
The decisions resulted in the improvement of Covid-19 indicators in the Sultanate of Oman, which, the reports said, registered great decline in mortality, infection and hospitalization rates, while recovery from the disease reached 98.5%.
Meanwhile, the government accorded special attention to the ensuing economic impacts of Covid-19. The decisions, which took into account the fallouts of the pandemic on establishments and companies, included exemption from fines of some services. Special exemptions were sanctioned to small and medium enterprises and holders of Riyada Card for Entrepreneurs. This is in addition to a package of incentives for borrowers, individuals, banking institutions, financing and leasing firms.
The designation of a Youth Day in Oman (26th October) reflects the attention accorded to the young generation by His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik. It asserts the leadership’s deep conviction in the potential of youth in promoting the country’s development.
Speaking at a meeting of the Council of Ministers he chaired in October 2021, His Majesty the Sultan underscored the significance of devising a mechanism and for opening channels of communication with youth to explain all the requirements of the development process in all sectors. He gave directives to listen to youth and study their needs and aspirations. He also instructed governors and the authorities concerned to hold regular meetings with youth for this purpose. He advised the officials to raise issues of interest or concern to youth, listen to their opinions and help them perform the role expected of them in contributing to the comprehensive nation-building march.
Meanwhile, HH Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said, who presided over the Youth Day celebration last October, said that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth launched a smart portal supplied with the latest techniques that make it a prime website for talented youth, artists and innovators.
The attention accorded by His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik to Youth is also reflected in the Royal support to employment initiatives, a set of which came around in May 2021, when coronavirus pandemic had its greatest toll on local and global economic conditions, leading to the shrinkage of the labour markets. The Royal attention resulted in the launch of an executive plan to provide more than 32,000 jobs.
Omani women’s affairs take centre stage in the Renewed Renaissance thought of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, who has been keen that women enjoy their rights guaranteed by law and operate alongside men in different fields of national service. Attention to women is one of the “national fundamentals” of the country.
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, celebrated last March, Her Highness The Honourable Lady Assayida Ahd Abdullah Hamed Al Busaidi, Spouse of the Sultan of Oman, commended the great efforts exerted by women in Oman and the rest of the world while building their nations, supporting their families and societies and contributing effectively to the management of human and global issues.”
HH The Honourable Lady addressed women on Omani Women’s Day this year. She said, “On the occasion of Omani Women’s Day, the 17th of October, we would like to express thanks and appreciation for every woman who advocates good deeds and elevates the values of tolerance, amity and benevolence. Our greetings go to every woman who contributes to building this dear country from her position as an active participant delivering her social, national and humanitarian duties in all fields.”
Nations attain their prime only through education, and this has been a principle espoused by Omanis since the outset of their blessed renaissance 50 years ago. His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik stressed that “attention to education figures high in the scale of national priorities”. Accordingly, a motivating environment has been furnished for supporting the march of research and innovation. This translates into the allocation of a ministry mandated with higher education, research and innovation and the establishment of the University of Technology and Applied Sciences, with branches in governorates of the Sultanate of Oman.
The university’s articles of association were issued in June 2021. In the same month, the Council of Ministers approved the setting up of a branch for the university in the Governorate of Musandam. It comprises a number of specializations reflecting the Royal attention towards the development of the governorate and the realization of sustainable, comprehensive development there.
In the same context, the College of Duqm was established in September 2021 in the Governorate of Al Wusta at the Special Economic Zone in Duqm. The university is governed by the laws regulating universities and colleges in the Sultanate of Oman and the hopes attached on the National Research and Development Strategy 2040 in line with Oman Vision 2040.
Royal directives to set up six schools to the tune of RO 8,850,000 will raise the number of scholarly institutions to 2,430 schools, 11 government and private universities and 18 private colleges.
The decline and fluctuation in oil prices and precautionary measures to address the impacts of Covid-19 affected the economies of many countries of the world. Since Oman is not isolated from the global community, it had to take measures to address the situation. These included the initiation of a medium-term Fiscal Balance Plan (2020-2023). Last April (2021), His Majesty the Sultan chaired a meeting of the main committee tasked with the National Programme for Fiscal Balance to follow up the progress of the programme in its second year. The programme was designed to bring down the general debt and to secure financial sustainability.
The 10th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), the first leg in the executive plan of Oman Vision 2040, which is based on four axes comprising 14 ‘national priorities’, 88 ‘strategic goals’ and 68 performance indicators.
The Tenth Five-year Plan seeks to achieve a number of goals, among them “activating the economy, upgrading the efficiency of management of public finance, realizing balance among measures for rationalization of public spending, espousing disciplined financial expansion policies, accelerating the rate of implementation of major strategic projects and government-private partnership projects, attracting more direct foreign investments, visualizing growth trends based on expected oil price rate of $48 per barrel during years of the plan and enhancing governorates’ participation in achieving goals of Oman Vision 2040”.
The plan targets average annual growth of 3.2% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through emphasis on promising economic sectors like converting industries of high technological content, agriculture, fisheries, fish farming, food and agriculture industrialization, transport, warehousing and logistics.
Encouraging investment environment:
The government of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik created an investment-encouraging environment through legislations, ports, free zones and logistics, coupled with a unique strategic location in the meeting point of global commercial markets, political stability and security.
The ports of Duqm, Salalah and Sohar boast a range of advanced facilities that enabled them to achieve quick finalization of tasks and cut the distance between world ports. This is in addition to the free zones in Duqm, Al Mazyouna, Salalah and Sohar and upcoming Khazaen hub in the Governorate of South Al Batinah. Investment incentives like tax exemptions extending to more than 30 years and foreigners’ 100% ownership of properties, among other incentives, add another fillip to the Oman’s position.
The political and regional changes that happened during the Renewed Renaissance period proved that the Sultanate of Oman’s foreign policy stands on firm grounds. Oman advocates principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, positive contribution to safeguarding international security, promoting common public interest through dialogue and understanding among countries and nations.
These principles were affirmed by the Sultanate of Oman before the 76th UN General Assembly in New York last September. “Under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, the Sultanate of Oman pursues its commitment to the basic fundamentals of its foreign policy embodied in good neighborliness, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, respect for international law and international charters and support for cooperation among countries. The sultanate of Oman considers the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and through harmony and tolerance as a civilized conduct that leads to better and more lasting results than disputes can achieve”.