Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New visa laws causing a stir - impact will be chaotic

While corruption may be making the news overseas, here in Oman amongst the chattering expat class the scuttlebutt is all about those new visa laws.

Blogger of all things social in the english speaking community, Muscat Mutterings great summary of the new laws and their application in practice here.

Essentially,  while the law is made to look reasonable, the Ministry of Manpower have ensured no-one will be given a no objection certificate, the magic NOC, as required by the law to change jobs to a new employer.

So, if you want to change jobs, you can't even if you've been working for years, because your employer will refuse an NOC. To change jobs you have to leave the country for 2 years.

Ostensibly this is an attempt to bolster Omanisation. By forcing expats to leave through withdrawing visas from employers, the theory is that employers will replace them with Omani new hires. Yeah right.

I wonder what will really happen? Employers will retain expats even more than usual, because they know they won't get a visa to replace them. Salaries for expats will rise,  as their scarce resource means fewer of them. Plus, employers who do loose visas will fail to find qualified Omanis, will either reduce business, or find ways around the system, by employing on the black market and bribing officials to issue visas or to look the other way when the inspectors visit. The big oligarchs will as usual be exempted, by being in roles we all accept cannot be omanised, like construction ,or can afford enough sleeping Omani employees to meet the % required.

As usual with these sort of top down, outcome specifying laws, they will fail and only create unintended consequences. Well done Ministry of Manpower!

In other news, it was nice to see His Majesty greeting a visitor from Europe at the palace. I was getting concerned that he was out of the country. He has been busy getting things in order for the corruption trials:
- prisons up to agreed international specifications? check, issued decree 25/2014 ratifying Arab prison agreement.
- money laundering up to date and international standards? check, issued decree 27/2014, ratifying the 2010 Cairo Arab convention on anti- money laundering and terrorism financing.
- corruption laws being applied not arbitrary, but fair and international standard? check, issued decree 28/2014 ratifying Arab anti-corruption convention, plus already finally signed up for the UN anti-corruption standards too.

Whew. I wouldn't be too confident of those appeals succeeding.


  1. HM is awesome!

    Jet Driver

  2. UD,

    MAWLANA The Sultan is well and fine. He is very much in town doing his routine work. This is summer time here in the Gulf. He might or might not [his prerogative] travel to cooler climates this summer. Trouble is, Ramadhan is falling right in the middle of summer. One is expected to be at home ground during Ramadhan and Eid. Yet again, it is falling in the hottest month of the year [July}. That is the Catch 22 for everyone right now here in Muscat.


  3. UD,

    But why should employers retain expats even more than usual? they can bring another from outside the country as replacement!

  4. Just for anyone reading this (I know for your average low-end salary Caucasion female---no idea about an Indian dude for example on the lower lower lower end of the salary food chain here in the Sultanate) letters of no-objection can be forced through the Ministry of Manpower. I've done it before, on the grounds I was not paid on time or enough to live on ect.... This still is a means open to employees if they can document cases of ill-treatment ect....

    Otherwise... omygosh the situation totally sucks for people who aren't in big companies where moving around is easier...:(

    1. OPNO - the big problem is the removal of a right that expat staff had. With Oman trying to gain international acclaim in the area of human rights, this is a big step backwards.

  5. I'm quiet surprised by this new law. All my friends who works in Oman where always telling me how helpful government and companies are trying to make it as easy as possible to get a work permit and all documents, but I guess things are changing!

  6. Hello Mr Dragon

    Good to see you are back in the saddle - always enjoy the blog. This isnt related to corruption exactly but still...

    "Monopoly is a terrible thing, till you have it" is a famous Rupert Murdoch quote - I think he was paraphrasing Paul Getty (Standard Oil not the art collector). But what the average Omani doesn't realise is that there is a huge tax take on his every Riyal. The trouble is that this tax goes to a select cadre of already stupidly wealthy families rather than paying for roads and hospitals and so on.

    In effect the Commercial Agencies Law (check out ONA today/yesterday) prevents anyone importing anything into the Sultanate "without the approval of the local suppliers". So we have a nice monopoly going for more or less everything: want to buy a Toyota Landcruiser? - monopoly, want to buy branded tyres for your Toyota? - monopoly, want to buy spares for your Toyota? - monopoly. Get the picture? Almost everything Average Ahmed wants to buy is provided by a state-sponsored but privately-owned monopoly. The exception is a couple of dozen "basics" subject to price control by the PACP but your life would be pretty crappy indeed if your only purchases were on the PACP list. Therefore in effect almost everything you need is provided by a state enforced monopoly which - as monopolies tend to do - price gouge the average Joe (or Ahmed in this case). Witness the massive trade in grey market cars from the UAE and the loaded down vehicles at the Hatta border post. As all monopolies do this hits the poorest hardest - they can't afford to travel to Dubai to stock up, they simply have to pay...

    So who benefits from this old-fashioned monopoly, well I suggest you look at the esteemed names on the roof of your nearest car showroom/electrical goods store etc.

    When I leave I'm going to write a proper academic paper estimating the effective tax rate on poor old Average Ahmed but until then maybe some publicity wouldn't hurt...

    Best wishes

    A Fellow Sufferer

  7. He is risen!!! Uh-huh, and then he was gone. So, are you now back into hiding at the bottom of that bloody well in Jamkaran?

    Willie Dryer

  8. Not being able to change jobs without a 2 year hiatus out of country? Sounds like the good old days to me!

  9. No one said Omanisation shouldn't be there but the tool is being over stretched at this point. The credible call is towards slowing down its current situation a little after all the upheaval that happened and thinking long term instead of short term gains which will inevitably leave scars. I understand those in authority have already said that they have placed the mechanisms in place to address local issues but since then they seem to be adding on top of it more and more. One step forward, two steps back.


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