Oman extends expat visa ban

Oman extends expat visa ban
Oman's expat visa ban is aimed at improving employment rates within the civilian population. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 28 April 2019

Oman extends expat visa ban

Oman extends expat visa ban
  • Visa ban will be extended in the construction and cleaning industries
  • The ban has led to a significant reduction in local unemployment

DUBAI: Oman’s visa ban on certain professions has been extended for a further six months as the country continues in its push to cut unemployment among its citizens.

The ban extension issued by the Ministry of Manpower will see a continued freeze on the issuance of visas for people working in the construction and cleaning industries, national daily Times of Oman reported.

There are exceptions to the extension including small and medium enterprises registered with the Public Authority for SME development.

Oman introduced the expat visa bans in January 2018 for a six-month period for certain professions.

There have been two extensions since then and it has also been expanded to cover other industries and professions – during that time tens of thousands of Omanis have found work.

Historically Gulf countries have been dependent on expatriate workers to power their economies; with a 2013 study indicating as much as 71 percent of Oman’s labor force were foreign-nationals.
In Qatar, expatriate workforce was as high as 95 percent while in the UAE it was 94 percent; 83 percent in Kuwait; 64 percent in Bahrain and 49 percent in Saudi Arabia.
The Gulf states have since launched nationalization programs to absorb more of their citizens into the labor force, as well as address high levels of unemployment.
Between December 2018 and November last year, a total of 60,807 expatriate workers left Oman’s labor force or an equivalent 3.6 percent reduction in their numbers.

Oman's expat population has dropped significantly since the introduction of the ban.


Jack Ma video reappearance fails to soothe all investor concerns

Jack Ma video reappearance fails to soothe all investor concerns
Updated 42 min 11 sec ago

Jack Ma video reappearance fails to soothe all investor concerns

Jack Ma video reappearance fails to soothe all investor concerns
  • Ma had not appeared in public since Oct. 24, after he blasted China’s regulatory system
  • Chinese regulators have set about reining in Ma’s financial and e-commerce empires

HONG KONG: Billionaire Jack Ma’s 50-second video reappearance has done little to resolve Alibaba Group’s troubled relationship with regulators that is making some investors hesitate about owning the Chinese e-commerce giant’s stock.

Relief at Ma’s first public appearance added $58 billion in market value on Wednesday as Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed stock soared, though doubts crept in a day later and the stock fell more than 3 percent as the broader market steadied near two-year highs.

Ma had not appeared in public since Oct. 24, when he blasted China’s regulatory system. That set him on a collision course with officials and led to the suspension of Alibaba fintech affiliate Ant Group’s blockbuster $37 billion IPO.

A source familiar with the matter said Ma cleared his schedule late last year to keep a low profile, prompting discussion at Alibaba about when and how he should reappear to assure investors.

It was decided he should do something that would appear as part of his normal routine, rather than anything overt that could irk the government.

While Ma has stepped down from corporate positions, he retains significant influence over Alibaba and Ant, and the regulatory crackdown on his business empire coupled with his absence was a concern for some investors.

There was skepticism that Ma’s brief reappearance meant all was well with his businesses.

“The coast is not all clear for Alibaba and it is a judgment call whether you believe the company can still thrive in the changing environment,” said Dave Wang, a portfolio manager at Singapore’s Nuvest Captial, which owns Alibaba stock.

“Without some skepticism, the price would be a lot higher,” he said, adding his firm had increased exposure to China and with it Alibaba, which he believes can prosper over the medium to longer term.

Two of the company’s investors in the US who have sold out or reduced positions in Alibaba said they needed more reassurance about the company and the regulatory environment before reconsidering the stock.

“One of our top criteria is leadership and we were investing in Alibaba because I really respect Jack Ma as a leader,” said William Huston, founder and director of institutional services at independent investment advisory firm Bay Street Capital Holdings in Palo Alto, CA, with assets under management of $86 million.

“We all know that just because he showed up ... doesn’t necessarily explain what is going on.”

Huston, whose firm cut its holding in the Chinese firm last year from 8 percent of its portfolio to less than 1 percent, said the halting of the Ant IPO in November had caused uncertainty, and that Alibaba was “not a prudent investment” for it going forward.

David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisers, Florida, which has about $4 billion in assets, said he held Alibaba last year but also sold as the Ant IPO was pulled.

“When you don’t know what to do in an evolving situation like this you can’t use traditional securities analytics to reach decisions. We are standing aside and watching,” Kotok said.

Chinese regulators have set about reining in Ma’s financial and e-commerce empires since the Ant IPO suspension, which has weighed on its stock that remains below levels prior to the cancelation of the Ant IPO.

“What his actual state is will be completely up to Beijing to reveal to us,” Leland Miller, CEO of US-based consultancy China Beige Book.

“What we do know is whether Jack is running around, Jack is hiding or something else, Alibaba is not in the clear. There is a lot more of the story still to see.”

Some investors are, however, betting on long-term potential for Alibaba in the world’s second-largest economy.

Dennis Dick, a proprietary trader at Bright Trading, who holds Alibaba shares, said he had protected against a potential fall when speculation about Ma’s whereabouts began by buying put options.

He covered those puts earlier in January on a report that Ma was OK and retains a long position in the stock.

“We have been investors for many years ... there’s a very strong team of executives and Alibaba is bigger than just one person,” said a Hong Kong based long-only investor, declining to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media.