BREAKING GROUND

Oman 2018 | INDUSTRY & MINING | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ali Shah, Chairman of Oman Wanfang, on strengthening China-Oman commercial ties, attracting more investment to Duqm, and building a harbor to serve the entire region's needs.

Ali Shah

How will the Duqm Industrial Park project pave the way for the future development of cities like Duqm and the rest of Oman?

Oman Wanfang is a Chinese company working on the One Belt, One Road initiative. The Duqm Industrial Park is one of 20 industrial parks for the Chinese government outside of China and enjoys the full support of the Chinese government. It is the second of its kind in the region after one in Egypt. Since last May, we signed a usufruct with the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (SEZAD), and in the past year have been working on a land design plan. SEZAD just gave us the infrastructure to the boundary of our land; everything inside will be developed ourselves. At Wanfang, we are the operator and developer for the industrial park. As per the master plan, we made it with several industries, dividing it into heavy industry, light and medium industry, and mixed use. We also have a small piece of land for tourism, including a hotel. In regards to heavy industry, we plan to have an oil refinery and a gas-to-methanol plant. We also have a cement plant, steel processing factory, tire factory, and glass factory. For light industry, we are focusing on the building material market, which is considered the biggest in the region with almost 400sqm. Even though Duqm is currently under construction, we are not only focused on this city, but on the entire region since it is a harbor for building materials for every neighboring country as well. Duqm's geographical placement makes it a good distribution location. There are also some upcoming projects in solar energy, oil field drilling tools, and pipe manufacturing. In total, there are around 35 projects, 10 of which we signed in April 2017. We just started the ground breaking for the project, which means we already got approval for our master plan and are starting the land leveling and road construction part of the project. The first project should be delivered in a year, but other heavy industry projects might take two to three more.

What impact will this project have on locals in terms of employment opportunities?

We have already sent 39 students to China for training purposes, so we have a specific interest besides just hiring them. Given that Oman is trying to diversify and further develop as an industrial country in the GCC, we want to invest and give something back to Oman. This is why we are training students in China. It is more of a proper education than an actual training; students are learning about industrial investment for two years in our institute, completely free of charge. Once they finish, they will join our team, and are automatically employed in Duqm.

What steps can be taken to attract more investment in Oman?

Oman is a big country and has many industrial zones, but everyone knows Duqm is the biggest free trade zone in the region. The Omani government truly cares about the development of Duqm and announced that HE Yahya bin Said Al-Jabri would be Chairman, giving it more importance over other projects. It also has many attractive policies for investment, especially regarding taxes, import/export regulations, currency exchange, and Omanization.

Will this project attract future Chinese investment to Oman?

We have a commitment with Oman and will bring in many companies. Maybe in the future more will venture to this part of the world because we have many Chinese companies trying to go out and pick up more market share to be closer to their clients. Chinese companies are interested in Oman's tourism potential, for example, so that will definitely attract more companies.

Where do you see the project moving forward in the coming five years?

Hopefully, within five years, most of the land that we own is built on, and the main projects are up and running.