ZONE ON THE RISE

Oman 2015 | DUQM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Yahya Said Abdullah Al Jabri, Chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD), on the rise of the Duqm area, and the opportunities on offer for investors and businesses.

HE Yahya Said Abdullah Al Jabri
BIOGRAPHY
HE Yahya Said Abdullah Al Jabri has vast experience in global corporate and investment banking with academic qualifications from prestigious US schools including the Kellogg School of Management, Harvard Business School, and Darden Business School. He holds senior positions in Oman’s leading business & financial sectors, such as being a member of the Board of Directors at the Central Bank of Oman, a Board Member of the Civil Service Pension Fund, a Board Member of the Oman Investment Fund, Chairman of Pak Oman Investment Company, and Chairman of the Capital Market Authority. He is also currently a member of the Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance. On October 30, 2011 he was appointed as the Chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD).

Can you elaborate on the importance of the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD) for the development of the Sultanate of Oman?

The objective of the strategy is to spread economic development around the country by investing in non-petroleum industries to diversify commerce formations, whilst also utilizing the Sultanate's vast natural resources and protecting its many distinctive forms of heritage.

What kind of investment are you willing to attract to develop SEZAD even further?

SEZAD is a model of integrated economic development composed of eight zones with a land area of more than, 1,777 square kilometers. Other than the world-class port and dry dock facilities, Duqm will have free trade zones, an industrial area, a refinery, a petrochemical plant, an airport, and residential and commercial facilities. We have designated an area of 23 square kilometers for the new town, which will be the backbone of the development area, and we have made provisions to extend it to accommodate up to 67,000 residential inhabitants by 2020. Therefore, we are attracting investment and trade, and many are considering Duqm.

What initiatives are you taking to promote and enhance foreign investment in the area?

Duqm has positioned itself on the world map, and we have conducted a few roadshows outside of Oman, and Ithraa will play an important role. SEZAD welcomes international investors and we have established several business leads. There is interest in the petrochemical and mineral processing sectors, but these will materialize subsequent to the establishment of the oil refinery and the supply of natural gas to the zone. There is also interest in tourism, staff housing, and warehousing projects. Another area of interest to SEZAD and some investors is renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

How will the development of the infrastructure determine the success of SEZAD?

This is an important factor. Connectivity with the entire world is important, and that is why the multi-model transportation design to connect Duqm via its port, airport, rail, and road network will insure that goods reach their destinations in less time, assisting both businesses and investors.

How much are you investing in technology?

Our technology component focuses on the existing project in the port as well as the dry dock; however, we are expecting to see a greater use of technology in the near future.

What new job opportunities is SEZAD generating for the local community?

The project is creating well-paid job opportunities for Omani youth, especially university graduates. The Omanization strategy at SEZAD focuses on raising the skills and capabilities of the country's human resources so as to enable those occupying leading positions at the Authority. We also urge the companies operating in the Duqm Special Economic Zone to employ Omanis and train them. In the long run, we expect that the projects carried out in the zone will contribute to assimilating more of the national workforce, especially with the increasing number of companies operating in the zone. The zone also allows young entrepreneurs to establish their own projects. Duqm has created permanent jobs as well as temporary jobs through its establishment and operations.

What is your deadline for the completion of the area?

The establishment of the SEZAD comes as part of the fulfillment of the Oman Vision 2020. Among the Vision's national objectives are to diversify the national economy beyond the oil sector and create a new engine of economic growth, to bring the development of the Al Wusta Governorate in line with the rest of the country, and increase the contribution of the private sector and its share of national GDP.