On January 10, 2020, Oman’s 79-year-old ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, passed away, leaving behind a great legacy built over a period of five eventful decades. During his reign, the seasoned politician and celebrated global peacemaker used his wisdom and vast knowledge to build the foundations of progress across Oman and improve the lives of its people, while offering valuable support to the country’s allies from the region and beyond.
The late Sultan Qaboos followed a wise neutral policy and often played the role of mediator between countries. This was a tactical approach in a fast-changing world, where conflicts can lead to tensions and have a long-term detrimental impact on all nations involved.
The late Sultan Qaboos was deeply interested in the Omani, Arab and religious heritage, as well as Arabic language, literature and history. During his lifetime, he supported multiple cultural projects launched or executed by regional and global organisations.
His contributions in this arena include the Sultan Qaboos Encyclopedia of Arab Names and Quran memorisation projects across the Arab region. He also founded the Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation – a biennial award sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – and contributed to the UNESCO initiative ‘Integral Study of the Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue’.
The late Sultan firmly believed in dialogue and peaceful solutions. In this context, he launched the Sultan Qaboos Declaration Project on United Human Values that aims to promote understanding and friendly relations among the people of the world.
Developing local talent and equipping Omani citizens with the tools to build a better future was always a top priority for him.
Leaving behind a capable, peaceful, stable and flourishing nation that will continue his legacy, the late ruler chose Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said as the new Sultan of Oman. He firmly believed that his successor would add a new dimension to our nation’s development journey.
Sultan Haitham previously held multiple high-level posts that prepared him for his current role and provided him with the necessary experience in foreign affairs as well as in preserving national heritage and culture. These included Minister of Heritage and Culture, Secretary General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Special Envoy of the late Sultan Qaboos. He also headed the main committee of the Oman Vision 2040, where he gained insight into the country’s past, present and future, as well as a thorough understanding of its citizens’ needs and the importance of national capacity-building and international dialogue.
Sultan Haitham has always supported the principles that governed Oman’s international relations under his predecessor, such as non-interference in other countries’ affairs, being a good neighbour, peaceful conflict resolution and promoting security and stability around the world.
On February 23, Sultan Haitham addressed the nation and reassured us of his and his team’s commitment to carrying on the vision of the late Sultan Qaboos. Omanis across the country felt a deep sense of pride as our new leader outlined his priorities for the coming months and years that are poised to usher in a new era of prosperity for our nation.
He stressed the importance of reviewing public finances and using them for the benefit of all Omanis. He expressed his intention to reduce public debt, which rose by almost a staggering 60 percent last year, compared to 15 per cent in 2015.
Furthermore, Sultan Haitham announced his plans to restructure government-owned companies and public sector entities with the aim of maximising their ability to serve the people of Oman and drive socio-economic growth.
He promised to tackle the challenges related to youth unemployment, and noted that the education, research and development sectors will be among the focus areas of the government’s improvement efforts.
We are confident that Sultan Haitham will succeed in leading Oman’s sustainable development journey that builds on our illustrious history. We convey to him our best wishes and high hopes as he assumes his strategic role to steer Oman and the wider Arab region towards a prosperous future.
Mohammed Alardhi is executive chairman of Investcorp, chairman of Bank Sohar and was longest-serving native head of the Royal Air Force of Oman