OER-BLME’s webinar on “Tackling Economic Disruption and Business Risk,” made a strong pitch for innovation, collaboration and public-private partnerships (PPPs) to drive Oman’s economic growth post COVID-19.
Powered by Oman Arab Bank (OAB), Dhofar Insurance Company and OCTAL, the webinar featured a distinguished panel of speakers -His Highness Dr Adham Turki Al Said, Assistant Professor of Economics, SQU and Managing Partner at The Firm for Business and Economic Consulting, Pankaj Khimji, Director, Khimji Ramdas Group, Stephen R Thomas, CEO, Renaissance Services and Majid bin Sultan Al Toky, Chairman, Dhofar Insurance Company.
Business disruption caused by COVID-19, business continuity plan from a strategic and financial perspective, negotiating shifts in the competitive and regulatory environment formed the crux of the deliberations. Mayank Singh, Group Editor and Director-Business Operations at United Media Services (UMS), moderated the webinar, which had around 550 attendees.
Shedding insights on the challenges posed by COVID-19, His Highness Dr Adham Turki Al Said, says small businesses and SMEs have been impacted the most. Cash flow is a big concern. Though bigger companies may survive, it’s the smaller ones that will bear the brunt. The knock-on effects are seemingly endless. Expatriate workforce may witness a significant reduction as companies will be forced to scale down staff as a result of the current situation.
Innovation and collaboration should be the focus going forward instead of companies looking towards the Government to bail them out of the crisis, Dr Adham says. Omani companies should innovate and seize the opportunities arising out of the crisis, especially in the manufacturing sector. A mindset change is what is required. What is needed is a solution driven approach to the crisis, Dr Adham adds.
On the impact of COVID-19, Pankaj Khimji says cash flow has posed a big challenge for businesses, adding that it will have repercussions on the labour market, the real estate sector and so on. Small businesses should be allowed to take loans to pay salaries. If loans availed can be deferred for some months, it will improve liquidity in the market, he averred.
Underlining the need to set an agenda post-COVID, he says sectors such as the travel, tourism, hospitality and ICV will thrive. “Oman has the potential to build its food security so that imports can be minimised. It also has enormous tourism potential,” he says adding that once the aviation sector opens to traffic, steps should be in place to woo tourists from across the globe.
Cash flow challenge
Concurring with the views, Majid bin Sultan Al Toky says the impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and many are yet to come to terms with the reality. No one had any inkling about the situation that will unfold necessitating several companies to reduce salaries and also send employees on unpaid leave. Companies now need to plan for ‘what next’ in terms of a return to scale as the post COVID-19 scenario unfolds. “There is bound to be mergers and acquisitions in the months ahead,” he adds.
Stephen Thomas says the double whammy from coronavirus and low oil prices have brought huge pressure on the Oman government impacting its economic diversification initiatives.
Agreeing with Pankaj on the challenges posed by COVID-19, Stephen says “We are all in this together. There is no magic wand. We all got to play a part in terms of what we can do efficiently, look at business opportunities that will keep projects and economy running thereby ensuring people have their jobs.”
Post-COVID, there is need for increased public-private partnership especially with regard to major projects. “This will get the private sector more involved,” he says. Sectors such as tourism will create more jobs, he notes.
The speakers expressed optimism that Oman will formulate an efficient exit plan to revive the economy. A majority of the attendees also expressed confidence that Oman’s economy will recover from the impact of COVID-19 within the next six months.
Business Live ME is the region’s fastest-growing business website. BLME’s core audience consists of powerful and Influential decision-makers. BLME events feature panel discussions, webinars, events, case studies, presentations, interactive workshops, and break-out sessions that highlight trending topics in numerous fields.
(OER-BLME Webinar is uploaded on YouTube/BusinessLive ME – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GXd_qeF-eg&t=2708s)