DUQM OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Oman 2019 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Ismail Ahmed Ibrahim Al Balushi, Deputy CEO of Duqm Special Economic Zone Authority, on infrastructure development, fisheries, and the firm's five year plan.

What is the importance of road infrastructure for development in Duqm?

The road is a part of the infrastructure required for projects to come to Duqm. We almost finished of that in terms of roads, ports, and airports, and will soon complete the rest. The roads require high standards to ensure they meet future needs of heavy trucks and equipment that will move from the port to the factories in Duqm and then on to other area. 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, and we have completed all the legislation including licensing, environment, construction permits, and registrations so that if any investor applies for a registration he will know what he needs 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, a company we own 100% of, 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 represents an important step for us. When SEZAD was established there was only one way to the area via the road, but now you can reach it by road, sea, and air. The airport's completed. There is now a daily flight, except for Friday, from Muscat to Duqm through Oman Air. transport around 25,000 tons per year. The passenger terminal have an annual capacity of 500,000 passengers.

What efforts is SEZAD making to attract investment for fisheries in the area?

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

How important is the port's geographic position?

Duqm is in a strategic position with open access to the Arabian Sea and close to the Indian Ocean. The port was designed because of this strategic location, which is one of the attractions and selling points we use to promote the area. Also, Oman has a good relationship with all of its neighboring countries and has established the border accordingly. Being secure is important for business.

How important is Chinese and Indian investment to SEZAD?

All investors are similar. We have been everywhere, whether the US, Brazil, Europe, the GCC, China or Singapore. India is close to Oman, and China has huge investment resources, not to mention that 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 beginning of next year, a fact that will attract even more Indian people to Duqm. China has become one of the developers within SEZAD and so we help them whenever they market their projects in China. We are focusing on these two markets, but still consider other countries and encourage investment from everywhere. Our area is huge, covering some 2,000km, so it is good to have competition between countries, since there is more than enough land to go around. And the Chinese projects enhance the appetite of other countries to come and do the same.

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

At SEZAD, we have 2,000km of land and have created a master plan of which reflecting 40% around 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 complete by 2020.