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Sultanate of Oman strengthens business legislation and competition frameworks: Report

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN ESCWA) has recently released a comprehensive report examining the business legislative frameworks of the Arab region.

The report provides an in-depth analysis of the five key legislative fields that influence the business environment in the 22 countries in the Arab region, specifically competition, consumer protection, anti-corruption, foreign direct investment (FDI) and corporate law.

Analysing the data specifically for the Sultanate of Oman, in 2020, the country had a score of 4.2, indicating a moderately favourable business environment. However, by 2023, the score increased to 4.74, showcasing a notable improvement in the legislative framework.

In terms of competition laws, the report highlights that Oman has made significant amendments to its competition law through Ministerial Decision 18/2021.

These amendments aim to address issues related to cartels, economic concentration and exemptions. The amendments also empower the judicial enforcement officers to investigate competition-related matters and grant third parties the right to present complaints.

Regarding anti-dominance and monopolisation laws, the report points out that Oman’s Law 67/2014 and executive regulations 18/2021 define and set criteria to identify activities that indicate an abuse of dominance.

The report emphasises that exceptions can be granted under specific conditions, such as supporting the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Additionally, the report highlights the measures in place to ensure additional protections against monopolies and abuse of dominance, including the referral of infringements to the judiciary.

The report sheds light on the improvements made in defining and explaining cartels and anti-competitive agreements in Oman. It outlines the mechanisms established to identify and address cartels, such as adopting unified behaviour or creating economic connections between businesses in the market.

However, the report suggests that further clarification and examples of different types of agreements would enhance the effectiveness of these measures.

In terms of competition enforcement practices, the report emphasises the role of the judicial enforcement officers in conducting investigations and guarantees the right of third parties to present complaints.

Notably, the report highlights the importance of preserving confidential information, data and documents during investigations to encourage cooperation from private businesses.

The report also explores Oman’s international trade agreements, particularly about conflicts between internal subsidisation policies and the provisions of trade agreements.

It concludes that no conflicts exist based on the provisions of the trade agreement between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Singapore. However, the report points out that exemptions in trade deals related to areas such as debt and government bonds continue to be a matter of concern.

Regarding the merger regulatory regime, the report outlines various changes and improvements introduced to address economic concentration practices. It emphasises the requirement for parties accomplishing an economic concentration to notify the Competition Centre, which will render a resolution within 90 days.

The report also highlights the adoption of clear criteria for assessing economic concentration, considering factors such as innovation, investment, prices and consumer impact.

Lastly, the report touches upon labour protection within Oman’s business legislative frameworks. It highlights the changes made about employee contracts during mergers and acquisitions, ensuring their protection.

The report also mentions provisions related to non-compete clauses, specifying the time, place and type of work for employees.

As Oman strengthens its business legislation and competition frameworks with these amendments, it is anticipated that fair competition will be promoted, anti-competitive practices will be effectively addressed, and the business environment will encourage economic growth and investment opportunities.

Oman Daily Observer