The Sultanate of Oman is experiencing a great moment in its development with a sustained GDP growth over the last 20 years. The country has emerged as an attractive destination for foreign direct investment due to its stable system, political stability under the guidance of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and the stable macroeconomic environment. Could you tell us in your opinion what is the recipe for success in Oman?
One of the main reasons comes from history, Oman has always been a natural trading country with old trade routes and a rich maritime history. The people are used to open minded trade. This trade brings cultures together and has developed a liberal mind. Oman is wide open to international activities.
Oman is focusing on the infrastructure for transport and communications. Regarding the ports, why is Duqm so important for this sector of development?
About 10 years ago, the decision was taken by his Majesty and his cabinet to develop the ‘heart’ of the country, the middle. The north and south are pretty well developed but the middle has very little. But, everything is there in the Wusta Region, especially important minerals like silica, dolomite and calcite are all there as well as oil and gas. So, if you want to develop the country completely, then you need to also develop this region which is very rich in natural resources, including fishing. So, this kind of development is looking to the ‘post-oil’ era. There will come a time when the use of oil will change, therefore you need other things to fuel the economy and keep people working. So, Duqm is a post-oil development plan.
What is the competitive advantage for Duqm?
Well, first, let’s be clear that Duqm was not planned to compete with Salalah or Sohar because Duqm itself doesn’t have the same population behind it like Sohar. There are about 10,000 people there. Duqm is not meant to be an end destination but a starting point. If you look at the trading lines on a map, they all pass by Duqm so Duqm will be an excellent trans-shipment hub. The activities there will relate to the industries there and not the people there.
Duqm will compete with Jebel Ali in the UAE?
Of course, the container ship owners always go together to save time and money. So, if these big ships can come to Duqm saves a huge amount of time, 3 days in and 3 days out for example which is a lot of time. But to reach Riyadh, the roads are not ready so Dubai and Abu Dhabi are still attractive also as a feeder destination. As soon as you have the rail system and proper transportation, then these containers can get to the interior much easier.
The idea to develop in this region is to bring people to it. First, you have to build opportunities and then people will come, not the other way around.
What message would you like people from different parts of the world to read about Oman and Duqm?
When I first came here, I very quickly fell in love with the place and the people. That was very nice for me but also for my work, my passion, I saw this place and the huge vision to build from almost nothing to something big and very important – not just my business, the port of course, but the whole vision – the roads, railway. I would say that the vision of this country is the most impressive thing, thinking ahead to the post-oil era and the plan to develop other sectors and economies.