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Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization (TAG-Org) is a global group of professional services firms and a provider of professional and education services. It opened its 86th global office in Salalah recently and is planning a new office in Duqm in 2017. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, founder and chairman of TAG-Org, is known as a strong promoter of intellectual property in the Arab region.

In an interview with Muscat Daily during his recent visit to Oman, Abu-Ghazaleh spoke about his outlook for economic growth in the GCC, the importance of digital education and promoting a culture of knowledge-creation in the region.

He praised Oman's success in e-governance and the country's efforts in building its digital infrastructure.

Q: GCC states are experiencing an economic downturn as a result of the slump in oil prices. What is your growth outlook for the region in 2017 and onwards?

From an economic as well as political point of view, I believe 2017 will be a turning point for the region. I have always said that there are no political decisions, but economic decisions. There is no political position in the world which is not prompted by economic interests.

The world has reached a point where the global leadership of the US has been seriously challenged by Russia and China. And it is now obvious that the US recognises this challenge and is engaged in dealing with Russia and China as partners. The US in the past did not benefit from being a global leader other than through the sale of arms and control of oil prices. There are major changes taking place in the global order.

On oil, I have always said that prices are not purely driven by demand and supply. Oil continues to be driven by political decisions. The demand for crude is rising through increasing consumption, but its price is a political decision. So I do not worry about the US interest in controlling oil and oil prices.

From an economic point of view, I think the US has been a loser by being the policeman of the world. And for the first time, we have the president-elect, Donald Trump, saying the US is a poor country and has economic problems. I do not think this change to a multipolar world is bad for America. On the contrary, this change will release the economic pressure on the US.

We have a different world now with the emergence of Russia and China. I believe that in 2017 these world powers will engage in negotiations as to how to manage the world for the interest of everybody. That is why I look to 2017 as the year of renaissance for our region as well.

Q: You have been a strong promoter of intellectual property rights and knowledge-creation in the Arab world. What reforms should GCC countries adopt to become knowledge-based economies?

We need to take advantage of the global knowledge revolution and continue to focus on transforming into knowledge-based economies. I consider it a personal mission to promote this transformation.

During the industrial revolution the three basic elements of production were capital, natural resources and manpower. In the knowledge revolution, the basic elements required are manpower, manpower and manpower. Manpower today is the intellectual power and knowledge-creation is the source of wealth for the future. We need to capture the momentum of the knowledge revolution and move in the direction of becoming knowledge-based societies. This is the only solution to our problems.

At present everything is motivated and moved by ICT. The ICT in a country or society is just like the nerve system in our body, where everything in the economy should be operated by ICT. We have always been knowledge-consumers, but now there is a need to become knowledge-producers. So if every individual becomes a knowledge worker then the whole society will be productive.

Q: How do you evaluate Oman's efforts in taking advantage of ICT and the global knowledge revolution?

I believe Oman is moving in the right direction. There are important steps being taken in different ways. I salute the sultanate for what it has achieved in many fields related to e-governance. For example, Oman has developed one of the best digital systems to control traffic flow. The country has achieved the best results in smart-card dealings and in many other government initiatives related to e-governance.

The world everywhere is transforming into smart societies or knowledge societies and a lot is being done in Oman in this direction. Of course we can do more. We need a roadmap based on coordinated studies. Efforts towards building an e-government system should be aligned with efforts to develop e-citizens. E-governance in Oman cannot be fully realised till every Omani becomes an e-citizen.

At TAG-Org, we develop IT skill programmes which are being implemented in Oman by many authorities and institutions to promote IT literacy for citizens. The goal to become a knowledge-based society can only be achieved when each and every individual of society is e-literate.

Q: What role does the private sector have in transformation to a knowledge-based economy?

The private sector can do a lot. In the future, wealth will be in the hands of the private sector not governments. The world has moved to the knowledge age where information is now used to create knowledge and accumulate wealth.

The wealthiest organisations in many countries are now private-sector knowledge organisations. Since technology is moving so fast, we should realise that the enabling power of the internet has changed the mode of wealth creation. Wealth creation in the future will come mainly from knowledge creation.

Future governments will have fewer resources to provide for the needs of society. Many governments in the region are suffering from budget deficits while most businesses are still prospering. The private sector needs to become a major partner in contributing to society.

At Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization we have two arms, TAG-Org and TAG Foundation. TAG-Org is the money-making arm and TAG Foundation is the non-profit and social responsibility arm of the group. Our policy has always been that as much as 50 per cent of TAG-Org's annual profits go to the TAG Foundation. We have around 30 institutions within TAG Foundation for capacity building in various fields. We are partners with many governments on various projects to provide support for society. Many other private organisations are also working in the same direction. The private sector needs to partner with and do more to contribute to governmental efforts in the region. Throughout the world businesses are now knowledge and wealth creators and governments are regulators. So the private sector and government both need each other and need to work as partners.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Gulam Ali Khan

Quelle/Source: Muscat Daily, 01.01.2017

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