Duqm was born with so many advantages that success was inevitable. Its location alongside one of the busiest sea trade routes, access to markets in the GCC and rest of the world, tax exemptions, free repatriation of profits and availability of skilled labour, ensured that international investor interest in it did not wane even when oil prices slipped. That is evident in the number of projects announced in past months, like the China-Oman Industrial Park, the Oman-Qatar joint venture to assemble buses, joint venture with Iran Khodro to build cars, Ras Markaz tank farm and most recently the construction of the Duqm refinery. Over the years, the Sultanate has invested in infrastructure like that in Duqm and now “as the world economy is finally gaining momentum after six years of disappointing growth,” as the IMF announced, it has the chance to lure more corporations to its shores. Hence, the special meet focusing on investment opportunities in Duqm that has been planned for May, under the patronage of HH Sayyid Asa’ad Bin Tariq Al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Personal Representative of His Majesty the Sultan, comes at the right time.
In Oman, the efforts to attract investment have rightly been a joint effort between public organisations and the private sector. The latter with its understanding of the needs and ways of businesses and marketing skills can convince investors to locate their businesses in the country, while the agencies like Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm and Ithraa and the government can ease the process of getting permits and licences. The gains the country will make with trade and manufacturing in Duqm can be seen from the example of Sohar, where the port and downstream industries have led to better resource utilisation, increase in trade and economic growth. Equally important are the social gains that come through manufacturing and trade like the creation of employment and development of new skills. The IMF has noted strong growth in manufacturing in the advanced economies and robust gains in emerging ones. Oman will particularly benefit with the recovery in prices of commodities. Construction work at the sebacic acid plant in Duqm is making progress as per schedule and is expected to become operational by the end of 2017. Its completion and export of sebacic acid through Port of Duqm to customers in Europe, Asia and America, would prove the benefits of investing there to other potential investors. Oman Drydock Company, which has already serviced over 400 vessels, is about to take up more complex vessel refurbishment and conversion work. This venture, apart from increasing incomes, is also labour intensive. Already in place is Renaissance Village, ‘world-class’ accommodation for workers, that would give investing firms the confidence of attracting and retaining workers. Yet, Duqm is not just a place for manufacturing, also planned are fish processing zones, townships, and tourist areas, and the two operating international hotel brands are just the first among several resorts that would emerge along its beaches.