Oman says seeking private cash for $1.3bn waterfront project

Oman is planning a 500 million rial ($1.3 billion) waterfront development around Port Sultan Qaboos in the capital Muscat that will be paid for by investment from the private sector, Oman News Agency reported on Monday.

The project is the first announced following the publication of the sultanate's five-year plan on Sunday, which highlighted an increased role for outside investment to help maintain development projects at a time of lower oil prices and squeezed state finances.

Financing will be arranged through pension funds and private sector investment, with no government cash involved, state news agency ONA quoted Minister of Transport and Communications Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Futaisi as saying.

The project, due to be completed over four phases up to 2027, will be 51 percent state-owned through the Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) and the remaining 49 percent will be held by investors, it added.

Oman, one of the smaller members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, plans to cut its budget deficit to 3.3 billion rials this year from an actual 4.5 billion rials last year.

The shortfall, like in other GCC members such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, is primarily due to lower oil revenue and Oman is looking to amend economic policy to cover the gap, including cuts in spending and subsidies, as well as more borrowing.

The sultanate is targeting more infrastructure projects through public private partnerships (PPPs), with 52 percent of total investment to come from the private sector, according to the 2016-2020 economic plan, against 42 percent in the last incarnation.

The waterfront development will span 451,000 square metres, and will include hotels, as well as residential apartments and houses around the marina, ONA said.

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