CRUCIAL SUPPORT

Oman 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

The authorities are banking on Duqm's strategic location and Oman's robust ties with neighboring countries to develop another world-class port.

Dr. Ismail Ahmed Ibrahim Al Balushi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Ismail Ahmed Ibrahim Al Balushi has a PhD in Islamic banking and a master’s in commercial law. He has more than 24 years of experience in a wide variety of fields, from economics and capital markets to law and project management.

What is the importance of road infrastructure?

Roads are a crucial part of the infrastructure required in Duqm. These require high standards to ensure they meet future needs of heavy trucks and equipment moving from the port to the factories in Duqm and elsewhere. The corridor infrastructure will have electricity, communications, and gas infrastructure in a common place for companies to use. In addition to infrastructure development, SEZAD's role involves supervision and licensing, for which we have completed all the legislation, including licensing, environmental and construction permits, and registrations. Any investor applying for a registration will know what they need to submit. SEZAD's third role is monitoring and compliance. We have to ensure that registered companies do business according to our rules and regulations. TATWEER, which we fully own, has taken over the management part of the project and reports back to SEZAD on the situation of projects, obstacles, and other types of project management.

How important is air transportation for Duqm?

Air transportation is an important step for us. When SEZAD was established, the only one way to access the area was via road, though now it is accessible via road, sea, and air. Now that the airport is completed, there is a daily flight, except on Fridays, from Muscat to Duqm through Oman Air. The passenger terminal has an annual capacity of 500,000 passengers.

What efforts is SEZAD making to attract investment in fisheries?

Within our master plan we have created a fishing industry, which includes a fishery harbor already under construction. According to the original plan, the harbor will be ready and linked to the industrial area. A consultant has been assigned to formulate a master plan. This is all important, not only for local fishermen, but also for the vessels catching in international waters that then use our harbor. The company has a plan to have a fishery in Duqm so that international fishers can also make use of what they catch in international waters. In this area, we already have three factories in operation that buy fish from local fishermen.

How important is the port's geographic position?

Duqm is in a strategic position, with open access to the Arabian Sea and close proximity to the Indian Ocean. The port was designed because of its strategic location, which is one of the selling points we use to promote the area. Oman also has excellent relationships with its neighbors and has established the border accordingly. Being secure is important for business.

How important are Chinese and Indian investment to SEZAD?

All investors are similar. We have been everywhere, including the US, Brazil, Europe, GCC, China, and Singapore. India is close to Oman, and China has huge investment resources, not to mention Oman is now part of China's One Belt, One Road initiative. We have a successful heavy industry with an Indian investor who will start operating by early 2019, which will attract even more Indian investors to Duqm. China has become one of the developers within SEZAD, so we help it market its projects in China. We focus on these two markets, but still consider other countries and encourage investment from all over. Our area is huge, covering some 2,000km, so it is good to have competition between countries. The Chinese projects also enhance the appetite of other countries to come and do the same.

What are SEZAD's objectives for the next five years?

We have 2,000km of land and have created a master plan for 40% of the total area. Our objective is to accommodate international and local investors. Our five-year action plan from 2018-2023 is segregated into two different parts. One is the development of the region and the other is marketing; the infrastructure is already there. The remaining 10% has been contracted out and will be completed by 2020.