Thursday, May 15, 2014

Omanisation. You're doing it wrong

*This is going to be a really long post. Maybe grab a coffee or a beer, and get comfortable.  

So.... I got bored last month, and hopped on a jet to Muscat because I have really been missing you guys. I had a lovely stay and the weather cooperated, I can report that the new Muscat expressway is a thing of wonder, that the traffic in Ruwi is still terrible, and that we are totally and unequivocally failing at Omanisation.  

You don't need me to tell you this, of course, as you need only look around anywhere in the capitol and see that expats doing like, 75% of everything. Dude who made my coffee? Expat. Man who rented me my car? Expat. grocery store bagging guy? Expat.  Lady who sold me a pretty cocktail dress? Expat. Dude who asks if you want fries with that? Expat. 

There is, truthfully, no fucking reason we should need to import people, by the thousands, from half way around the fucking planet, in order to enquire, do I or do I not want fries with my Big Mac. Seriously.  (also, great run-on sentence there! Hi5!)

Before we continue, may I ask you to ponder the profound demotivational poster below? Think of it as a Zen Koan, and meditate deeply on how it may apply to our current employment situation in the Sultanate. 

*See also "Christmas is Over" 
While I was in town last month, I noted an interesting article in Muscat Daily, which I will Excerpt below, though I encourage you to go read the whole thing

The sultanate's population crossed the 4mn mark on April 1 this year, with Omanis making up 55.8 per cent, latest statistics revealed by the National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI) show. As on April 2, the total population stood at 4,000,345 - 2,232,949 Omanis and as many as 1,767,396 expatriates (44.2 per cent)....
NCSI figures show that compared to December 2013 figures, the number of Omanis has increased by 20,256 in the first quarter of 2014, while expatriate numbers increased by 23,049 during the same period.....
Muscat governorate had the highest number of expatriates – 62 per cent of the governorate's total population – at the end of March this year. Omanis constituted 38 per cent.
You read that right, in Muscat governate, expats make up more than 3/5ths of the population. that's just over three people out of every five, and nationally, we have imported more expats, than we have managed to produce "organically" despite our high birthrate. In a country that has been pushing Omanisation HARD for more than a decade. How can this possibly be? 

Well, I had a few thoughts on the matter back in 2007, and again back in 2008 and while I am by no means an expert economist, I think I can say that exactly what I predicted / observed continues to come to pass. 

There is no single factor in why Omanisation has thus far been an unprecedented failure, but one of the biggest reasons, in my opinion is something called Cobra Effect. Cobra Effect, also known as a perverse incentive, and less accurately the law of unintended consequences, is what happens when the ACTUAL effect of something is the OPPOSITE of what was intended. I'll quote a few examples below, to make sure we all have this in context before I press on. 

The British government was concerned about the number of venomous cobra snakes in Delhi.[3] The government therefore offered a bounty for every dead cobra. Initially this was a successful strategy as large numbers of snakes were killed for the reward. Eventually, however, enterprising persons began to breed cobras for the income. When the government became aware of this, the reward program was scrapped, causing the cobra breeders to set the now-worthless snakes free. As a result, the wild cobra population further increased. 
In Hanoi, under French colonial rule, a program paying people a bounty for each rat tail handed in was intended to exterminate rats. Instead, it led to the farming of rats.
Providing company executives with bonuses for reporting higher earnings encouraged executives at the Federal National Mortgage Association and other large corporations to artificially inflate earnings statements and make decisions targeting short-term gains at the expense of long-term profitability. 
This brings me to the latest news that pretty much the entire country has been discussing the last week... I am going to totally oversimplify and generalise the new rule here but in essence here it is: Expats may no longer quit their jobs for a better one in the Sultanate. You don't like your job? Employer is an A-hole? Greener pastures are available down the street? Too Bad, Motherfucker! You stay where you are, or you go home for two years. 

So we are back to where an Omani Employee can pack up and pursue better opportunities with another company, and an Expat staffer is effectively imprisoned in his existing job. This does not exactly incentivise me to hire or invest much training in an Omani. 

Admittedly, the information from the government and the media has been totally contradictory and misleading. Are there any adults running the show at the ministries? Piss-ups and Breweries come immediately to mind... Sigh. 

Muscat Mutterings has a series of posts on this matter, which you can read HereHere, Here, and Here. Twitter, facebook, etc... are afire with comments both for and against. Indeed, the comments on social media make me hate Expats, Housemaid-dependent families, and Omanis in equal measure. Everybody, I hate you. 

While the specifics on the implementation of this particular law are beyond the scope of this post, I want to talk generally about Omanisation in the last decade and a half. Ready? I am finally getting to the whole point of this post!!!!! 

Despite being well-intentioned, almost* everything we are doing in the name of Omanisation and controlling the expat Labor market for the benefit of Oman's long term growth and sustainability.... is having the EXACT OPPOSITE EFFECT. From the manpower related Omanisation initiatives, to the sponsorship system, to the unequal wages, to the unequal benefits, to the total lack of meritocracy in the ministries, to the fact that the guy offering me fries is a SALARIED, but semi-imprisoned employee, to the fact that it is absolutely impossible to fire an underperforming Omani from a job without spending many months and many Rials in the labour court, before likely losing. 

This is because most of the rules and regulations as they stand, make it less attractive to hire or employ an Omani, and negatively incentivise Omani's to apply themselves, to do stuff like show up for work, get dirty, and bust ass while they are there. Because there is no incentive for them to be outstanding employees, and no disincentive for being a crap employee. 

Why, Exactly, do we have a million imported and cheery Philippinos proffering fries and ice cream sundaes at every fast food joint in the Sultanate, when in most other countries that job is performed by pimple speckled teenagers and people with felony convictions or meth habits? 

Because by and large, everybody expects to be an Astronaut. Or a Manager, or a successful business manager presiding over hoards of hardworking Indians. I have news for you guys, no country, anywhere in the world, even one as nice as Oman, has the kind of intellectual capital and outstanding DNA that allows for EVERYBODY to be a successful manager. Some of us are going to have to collect the trash, pump the gas, develop meth habits, become telemarketers, or work at Subway. 

I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of companies I know of where they "employ" and actively recruit a huge staff of "Sleeping Omani's". What is a Sleeping Omani? It's an Omani whom you pay to stay home. Their only role is to receive a minimum wage salary each month in exchange for propping up your Omanisation Quotas. 

How astonishingly sad is that? It breaks my heart, truly. 

It's not like we don't know how to work and do Manual labour. Oldies can still recall in the 50's and 60's Omani's going to Kuwait, Saudi, and later the UAE as street sweepers, houseboys, and menial labourers. So I don't want to hear any uppity shit from Expats about how "The Omani's Just don't have the ability to work... Sigh..." Because that's bullshit. 

If we are among the lucky, we have been trained, like good little pavlovian dogs, that there is no real benefit in working hard, since merit rarely pays. We have been indoctrinated to believe that everything about our country and culture is the best, so that zombie-like, we reject any opinion that differs. We have been brainwashed into believing that we all deserve to be astronauts because we are on some level better, or more worthy of those coveted good jobs. We drink the Kool-aid and believe ourselves to be above manual labor, to be above taking orders from lesser beings. Our sense of entitlement is outsize to our ability, and our position in our companies infallible. We cannot be fired. 

If you are among the unlucky, you have been raised by parents and grandparents completely unprepared for the world they were setting you out into. We are shuffled through chaotic schools, badgered by teachers with no real passion for teaching. We graduate with education and skills worth less than the paper our diploma is printed on. We are denied opportunities at every turn thanks to Wasta, corruption, bureaucracy, oppressive religious dogma, lack of mass transport infrastructure, and the sheer terror that any company feels when hiring an Omani. Should we find a job, and do well at it, We are denied opportunities to learn and improve ourselves by our expatriate co-workers who are far more concerned with their job security than sharing information with us. We can work our asses off, yet always be promoted at the same rate as the guy at the next desk supervising the inside of his eyelids. 

If we are like most people, we perhaps fall somewhere in the middle. 

The situation as it stands isn't anybody's fault, rather it's EVERYBODY'S fault. It's your fault, Consumer, for not being willing to pay fair market prices for goods. It's your fault, Business, for not investing in training and caring well for the local employees you have. It's your fault, Parents, for raising dumb, lazy and entitled fuckwits instead of responsible and contributing members of society. It's your fault, Expats, for covering your asses, entrenching yourselves in whatever position you are in, refusing to help your Omani colleagues realise their full potential. It's your fault, schools and colleges for turning out "graduates" who lack even the most basic job skills. But above all, it's your fault, Omani Government, for kowtowing to wasta-laden big businesses, for yielding to spoiled, entitled citizenry expecting to do little in exchange for much, and for buckling in the face of a few unruly Arab Spring inspired teenagers with molotov cocktails. 

You, Omani Government, should have told every single soul in the country, entitled Expat and entitled Omani alike, to grow a pair of balls, and Man The Fuck Up.

You should have done it years ago. You are now looking down the barrel of a gun that you made, loaded and pointed at your own metaphorical face. Is there is anyone in charge at the Ministries or Diwan or Majlis Ashura who is capable of doing the soul searching necessary, and making the hard and unpopular choices that the country needs? I don't know, but I hope so. 

*As a former PRO, I can tell you that the Omanisation of PRO's was a genius move, and has worked out quite well for everybody concerned. 


17 comments:

Dalz R said...

Now the solution would be is to hire pimpled faced Omanis to serve you a side of fries with your burger


Double up?

Suburban said...

Precisely! Super size that shit Habibti.

I intend to do a post tomorrow about possible solutions for the Omanisation issue.

However regarding French fries: We have no shortage (indeed, a seemingly endless supply) of bored and underemployed adolescents, both with, and without pimples. Even the slowest of us can probably manage to work the fry-o-lator or push a broom around the dining room. The more motivated kids have the oppertunity to get some management and inventory experience. Instead of a monthly salary, we pay them by the hour, and if they don't show the requisite effort they can be fired, or have their hours (and therefore their disposable income) cut. not just in fast food, but in all sectors of employment which would be considered entry-level elsewhere. eventually, these kids will no longer be pimply teenagers, but graduates entering the workforce with actual work experience behind them.

More tomorrow.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Agreed, but the new law (besides being unclear)is only for the terms of your contract (once that is finished you are free to seek employment elsewhere---apparently) does allow one to force a letter of-no-objection through the Ministry of Manpower (doesn't say that however so you have to know) if the terms of your contract are not upheld, i.e. if your employer is abusive, forces you to work more than you are paid, does not pay you, is late paying you more than twice, ect.....

I think people should have to keep the terms of their contracts unless of course their employers are lying to them or cheating them of those terms...

But all your points I agree with. Omanis can do these jobs.

COnstruction, part-time.... I mean part-time would solve all the Omani nurses complaints.... and they are on full salalary..., but whatev gov. doesn't care....

I am not allowed to hire Omanis part-time even if I know they are qualified because then I am not allowed to fire them. So I have to hire expats.... Which really plain sucks, because I am all for OManisation, so long as it doesn't mean hiring sleeping Omanis........ sigh.

Sythe said...

Excellent observations Suburban!!! I love how you've summed it all up and applied equal hatred to us all!

Quite rightly too!

Missed your blogging!

"Anonymous Lurker"

;)

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

If the contract is finished and your only choice is to stay with an employer, you can try to make a case at the Ministry of Manpower even for a higher salary, by proving the cost of living has gone up and the original salary in your contract is not enough. You'll either get a raise or a letter.

There should be an exception for that though... I think once a contract is expired, all's fair.

Anonymous said...

Im an 'expat' managing a company here in Oman, and my Omanization target is not being achieved, but I have worked closely with the Ministry of Manpower trying to recruit locals. On numerous occasions I have set up recruitment days within the Ministry, all to no avail, maybe 2 or 3 people turn up for the interview, there is no vetting of the candidates at all so people turning up with absolutely no experience, additionally I have run advertisements in the press again no response, a lot of companies are willing and actively trying to recruit locals, but very little or no support from the Ministries at all. Majority of positions available with me are manual jobs, unfortunately I have found that the majority of locals only wanting office jobs or preferably Ministry jobs. We will continue in our drive to recruit more locals lets hope we find success at some point.

Gatvol in Oman said...

Man I have sooo missed your blogs..
Well said...

pranav said...

Well i believe, everything can be laid to rest if the Government moves from sponsorship system to contract based jobs (with bonds for leaving the job before the contract expires as is the case in many places and now even in qatar)

the sponsorship system is the root of all evil. It hampers a free job market for all. If a person wants to leave his job - he should just pay up wat the contract says and change his job - thus the company doesnt have to worry about the money it spent on him - a 3 months advance notice should even help the company look for a replacement. But NOCs and sponsors - that is a totally different story. I mean the whole middle east gets bad PR coz of that

The expats have contributed alot to this country. New generation of expats who have lived their entire lives in Oman feel a more bigger connect to Oman than to their homelands. This thing is always overseen. And they wish to further contribute to it. They dont have a legal right....but they have every ethical right and moral right - they are of this land as much as every omani is - not having birthright citizenship shouldnt deny these expats what in an ideal world, should be an open opportunity

An educated local population has come as a blessing in disguise. Growth of educational institutes and schools has not gone hand in hand with job growth for the students. Omani universities dont teach courses that could help Omanis take in better jobs and specialized jobs - a chunk of which are done by expats. Other than the fact that their is no senstivity to dignity of labour - omanis do have to realise they need to start doing the jobs they consider below themselves.

The oil is drying out. And the faster locals in the whole middle east take up these jobs - the better they will be prepared. For who knows if the expats will stay on when the economies dry out.

or the other possibility is Diversification of the economy will only create more jobs which expats will fill up because Omanis just are not specialised enough. Once again a vicious loop - they have to diversify - but the jobs they make goto expats.

Specialised education without handouts of having easy exams and what all has to become the norm

Anonymous said...

It's simple, all countries have white and blue collar workers, somebody has to do the shit jobs, and generally that's the guys who ain't so bright. However problem here is that the education system is so unbalanced here to favor wasta, and ability to pay your way through that the really bright kids can't get there and so give up. Family tribe and religious contacts mean everything, you need to sort that out first and then accept the so somebody will have to serve someone else and we can't all be managers!

Anonymous said...

Yeah. We hired as many Omanis as we could when we started the contract, but still needed to employ some expats due to the skill set required.
Over the first two years we then trained more Omanis and gradually filtered out 80% of the expats. It took three sackings (corruption, incompetence and poor performance) and multiple court appearances / disputes with ministry before people started to wake up - you either perform or you are out. But the Omanis STILL try it on every day - arrive late, leave early, don't let you know when they are having a day off, misusing company assets, taking kickbacks and bribes. The immaturity is astounding.
The GCC states trying to follow in the footsteps of Dubai will all fail in the long run.
What is the future for Oman? How can Oman plan for the future when the leadership succession plan is a secret????

Anonymous said...

Suburban….

I am standing and applauding in front of my screen.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmwah!!!!

Muscat Jet Driver

Anonymous said...

I have read with interest all the comments on Omanisation. Before. I go on I need to explain that I am an absolute supporter of Omanisation. It needs to be remembered that the current working conditions in many companies in Oman discourage workers of any nationality to work for them not just Omanis. Too many workplaces are designed for low paid expat workers and are not suitable for a Local workforce who have different needs.Once companies realize that they have to make these changes it is Possible to have a Positive local workforce.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed reading this suburban, kudos to that, and here I was thinking I was the only Omani who wasn't blind, glad to know there are more out there. The masses are blind & dumb & prefer being that way, they don't want to open their eyes & see that there is someone playing us all, the Omani's are being fooled & the people aren't even aware of their basic rights & have been given a play toy called 'omanisation' to keep their little ignorant minds busy & feel superior to their mentally developed expat neighbour. Spend less time cruising in your car that you spend so much money & time on & more time in your books. Learn from your Arab neighbours who have had just a little more than 30 years to turn from a desert to what economists call a first world country aka developed country. We have no freedom of speech & expression so I don't know why we should feel superior, Try & think of it as living in a mini roman empire with all of its status rules & none of its military might & forward economic & time development, rather backward as many would agree. Now let's just wait for time to pass & these posts & comments get old so we can get back to seeing our ministers kids drive around in their ferraris & lamborghinis & get back to paying our loans that we have grown so accustomed to in order to be able to. Now if you'll excuse me I have to to go cruise around lovers Road & smoke shisha coz that's as good as my weekend gets :p

Anonymous said...

But what about UAE, Bahrain or Kuwait
You should try to describe or compare those countries with Oman
I mean they're a small country
But there business is really good and there city looks like you in the future
Oman has to push themselves soon or we're going to end up as mixture of Yemen II

Suburban said...

OPNO- Thank you for your comments! And I couldn't agree more regarding Part-time employment options.

Sythe- Thanks Mate!

Gatvol- Thank you! I miss your blogs too!

Muscat Jet Driver- Where the hell have you been, my friend? Thank you for your high praise. Kisses back at you. I miss you, man.

Various Anonymous commenters- Thanks for your comments, praise, and for keeping it civil. I'll touch on a number of the points you have made in my upcoming posts.

:-)

Ashraf Al Mazrooe said...

You Nailed it mate! As an Omani I would like to thank you for bring this to our attention... I'm sure we are aware of all this... However we don't have competency to mend all the damages caused since 90's... I believe that we now try to survive as we go as we live and believe in the lies... Unfortunatly the majority of my country fellows are not aware of upcoming hardship!

The main problem with my country is Nationalism ( We do not understand the meaning of it ) hence we will never know how to serve and never progress...

I hope we grow balls and take criticism as a point of improvement!

Felicity Fairweather said...

Well, a brave and honest post. and some great responses. a small point that's positive - Starbucks has hired Omani and expat staff for a long time in the City. There were a few attendance problems with some of the Omani young people, but by and large, over time, they learned coffee etc. and many "graduated" and too jobs in hospitality - for example at the Intercon hotel. So, I guess there is a good example. Our Omani guys who served us coffee so many, many days were the greates, warm, friendly and they remembered out drinks precisely. The thought might be, perhaps corporate recruiters that are so successful, such as Starbucks, might add a few thoughts to the discussion about how to recruit, empower and retain employees until they "grow up", at least the young folks who are the future of Oman. Cheers, Dweebster. (Ex PDO geologist, 10 years in Oman)