Oman and Qatar sign deals on military, taxation and tourism during Sultan Haitham visit

Oman's ruler has made only his second foreign visit as the sultanate's leader

Oman’s Sultan Haitham witnessed the signing of deals on military co-operation, taxation, tourism, ports, labour and investment in Doha on Monday at the start of a two-day visit to Qatar.

Sultan Haitham was met by Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on the tarmac at Doha International Airport. The pair later exchanged state honours.

Sheikh Tamim was given the Civil Order of Oman of the first degree, one of the highest Omani decorations granted to kings and heads of state whose countries have distinguished relations with the sultanate.

In return, Sultan Haitham was presented with the Order of the Founder's Sword, considered the highest Qatari honour.

Monday's meeting marks Sultan Haitham's second foreign visit since ascending the throne in January 2020. His first was to Saudi Arabia in July, when he met King Salman.

The ongoing talks focus on investment co-operation as Oman looks to boost its finances, which have been hit by lower oil prices, Oman's News Agency reported.

The deals included an agreement on double taxation and tax evasion on income and capital taxes, and an investment co-operation agreement between sovereign wealth funds the Qatar Investment Authority and the Oman Investment Authority, said Qatar's Amiri Diwan, from the administrative office of the emir.

An Omani official accompanying the delegation said maritime transport services to boost exports between the two countries through their ports was high on the agenda.

“The talks will focus on the activities of Omani ports like Duqm, Salalah and Sohar to increase maritime trade with the ports in Qatar,” the official told The National.

He also said the two sides would talk “in the fields of agriculture, energy, communications, transport, and tourism, banking, and education".

Officials from both sides will discuss foreign policy objectives and efforts to maintain regional peace and security to combat terrorism “within the frame work of Gulf Co-operation Council countries”.

“The Yemeni situation will also be on the agenda to find a peaceful solution, but the investment and projects discussions will be the highlight of the visit,” the official said.

Since the oil price crash in 2014, Oman's debt to gross domestic product ratio has leapt from about 15 per cent in 2015 to 80 per cent last year. Its plans to diversify revenue away from oil and to reduce spending on its bloated public sector have made slow progress because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Oman, in financial terms, is among the weakest of the Gulf oil producers but has long played the role of facilitator in efforts to resolve regional conflicts, because of its neutral foreign policy.

This week, the two countries announced the start of the production of buses from a joint investment in a plant in the central Omani town of Duqm.

Karwa Motors is a joint venture between state-owned Mowasalat Qatar, which has a 70 per cent share, and Oman Investment Authority, which owns the remaining 30 per cent.

It will have a capacity to produce 500 buses a year.

Updated: November 22nd 2021, 4:26 PM