Sheikh Saif Bin Hashem Al-Miskari: “Lots of opportunities for business.” [Archives:1997/51/Business & Economy]

December 22 1997

Sheikh Saif Bin Hashem Al-Miskari is a prominant businessman in Oman. He is also an important public figure, having occupied several official and diplomatic positions including the post of deputy secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). During his recent visit to Yemen, Sheikh Al-Miskari talked to Bin Sallam of Yemen Times who filed the following interview.
Q: What is the purpose of your visit to Yemen? A: I came upon an invitation by my friend Mr. Ghalib Ali Jameel, Deputy Foreign Minister, to get first-hand knowledge of Yemen. I am quite surprised by the rapid development that has taken place in this country. I really hope that ties between Yemen and Oman will grow further. I am also here to investigate business possibilities.
Q: You were, until recently, the Deputy Secretary-General of the GCC. What was your experience? A: I was appointed as the GCC’s deputy secretary-general for political affairs in 1987. Much international and Arab efforts were made at the time to try to put an end to the Iran-Iraq war. The GCC’s involvement in this issue immensely enriched my experience.  Then came the tension between Iraq and Kuwait in the summer of 1990, leading to the shocking Iraqi invasion of its southern neighbor. The whole region is still suffering from the painful repercussions of that dreadful experience. It was the first time in modern history that Arab armies face each other in battle.  I left my post at the GCC in 1993.
Q: How has the GCC benefited its member countries? A: Such regional blocs are good in enhancing overall solidarity and understanding. The world is now moving towards bigger blocs and alliances. One of the biggest successes of the GCC was keeping its six member countries from becoming directly involved in the military conflict between Iraq and Iran.  It has also been instrumental during the last 17 years of its existence in achieving a lot of coordination in political and security matters among the Gulf countries. The GCC should now have a more active economic cooperation, especially given the globalization of trade and other rapid world developments.
Q: Yemen applied to join the GCC, but was rejected. What is the Omani position regarding this issue? And what do you think of it? A: As far as I know, Yemen has not submitted an official application to join the GCC. It was only a proposal. With its big population and strategic position, Yemen is a very important country in the region. It can provide a strategic and economic depth to other Gulf countries.  However, there are some circumstances that may impede Yemen’s immediate entry into the GCC. These include economic and political differences. Yemen shares many social aspects with other Arab countries in the region.  An immediate impediment is the charter of the GCC, which limits membership to the present six member countries only.  Yemen can still enter into bilateral agreements with individual members of the GCC. This could actually be more beneficial for Yemen, and it could a gradual mechanism for integrating it with the GCC. From an economic point of view, Yemen must be given priority, especially in private-sector investments.  Other differences are to Yemen’s advantage such as political pluralism and free press, which may not be so developed in other countries.  
Q: This brings us to the issue of Arab investments in Yemen. How do you see this aspect developing? A: The problem is that many of the people in the Gulf do not know enough about Yemen, especially its economic potential. The main reason for this is lack of communication. Due to the rising level of the country’s peace and stability, investing in Yemen is now more rewarding. I hope that there will be more economic cooperation, and most important of all, opening proper communication channels.
Q: How do you see the future of Omani-Yemeni relations? A: There is still a missing link in the ties between out two countries business. I believe that the high level of close political understanding are not matched by economic ties.  I believe that an exchange of visits by trade delegations and private-sector representatives is a must in order to form the basis for future cooperation. Both Yemen and Oman need each other.  The private sectors in both countries must start to get together for the mutual benefit of both peoples. There are a lot of opportunities for business cooperation.