by Nortal HQ, March 29, 2018
“We’re genuinely deciding the future of an entire country. Who gets to do that?” said the Tallinn native, who arrived in Muscat last October packing 10 years of experience in business analysis and a sense of adventure. His project involves introducing value added tax (VAT) and excise taxes to a nation that has never had either.
“My mission is to understand how our client, the local tax authority, should manage these taxes and what kind of system they’ll need to do it,” he said.
The solution Kesküla and his colleagues are building will ensure maximum accrual of VAT and effective collection of the tax with minimum administrative burden and costs, while creating a fair business environment and user-friendly services for all taxpayers. The implementation of value added tax in Oman is part of an initiative by the Gulf Cooperation Council states to implement VAT in all member states. Nortal has been selected by Oman as a partner to provide the necessary technical solutions and establish the infrastructure for the implementation of effective tax collection in Oman.
Nortalist: My mission is to understand how Oman should manage VAT and what kind of system they need #SeamlessSociety
One of the aspects of the project that has surprised Kesküla most is how similar the work is to what he was used to back home in Estonia, despite the wrinkle of having a client with absolutely no background in the matter at hand. “As they haven’t done this before, it’s difficult for them to be as precise as a typical client would be. Luckily, our team has high-level experts on board to guide them.”
One of those experts is Marek Helm, who has a strong background in building one of the most efficient tax organizations in the world.
What took Kesküla more getting used to was the roads. Warned about Oman’s car-centric culture, he managed to earn his license just prior to moving here.
“Oman was actually my first solo driving experience,” he said. Now he can tell you all about cruising through the capital in his rented Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru Legacy or whatever rental he’s picked this month.
“It’s completely doable and a total thrill,” Kesküla said. The fuel is cheap and the road infrastructure is ultra-safe, but the key difference is the speed. In Tallinn, the basic upper limit is 50 kph (31 mph). “Here the limits start at 50 and go up to 120 kph (75 mph) – and that’s when you’re still in the city.”
For Kesküla, who had never traveled outside Europe before, starting this job and adjusting to living and working in Oman has been far easier than he imagined. His media-spun preconceptions about the Arab world turned out to be far off the mark.
“Oman is a beautiful country and Muscat a beautiful city,” he said. Oman is a religious country full of traditions, he noted, but it’s fairly liberal compared with its neighbors. It’s also quite modern and everything works, so a Westerner can fit right in here.
For Kesküla though, what makes life here exciting is how it much diverges from what he’s used to – not only is the climate and geography radically different but so is the architecture. Kesküla says he’s still in exploratory mode, touring new parts of Muscat and heading off with colleagues for weekend trips to nearby cities and nature spots.
The novelty doesn’t stop during the work week either, since it’s then that the local cultural nuances come to light. “My stories about the cultural divide are mostly about the little, everyday things,” he said. At meetings, for example, there’s usually a person there to take everyone’s coffee and tea order about 15 minutes into the meeting.
Attitudes are also something that may take getting used to, according to Kesküla. “The people here are super relaxed and don’t get rattled. Generally that’s a good thing, but means that things might not happen as you’d expect.”
Kesküla is always ready to share his thoughts on bridging cultural gaps as well as working on large projects, but to hear them, you’ll have to catch him first. He says he’s about to swap his Hyundai Sonata for an SUV.
Cultural differences between Estonia and Arabia are a topic that Kesküla will be presenting at the April 3rd Analysis Disruption Morning, part of a regular series of Nortal-hosted events for the business analysis community in Tallinn.
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