While a lot of attention is focused on Qatar and Saudi Arabia, due to the extensive infrastructure development underway in these countries, and the subsequent bonanza of contract opportunities, it is equally fair to say a lot is happening elsewhere in the region. Take Oman, for example, where CW will host its inaugural awards at the end of March, to both celebrate and highlight the construction industry in the Sultanate.
Like Saudi Arabia, Oman has a youthful population: of its 2.9m residents (of which 900,000 are expatriates) 55% are under 20, while 83% are under 35. This is going to place a huge strain on existing power and water infrastructure in particular, as well as spur a boom for housing, education and healthcare.
Significantly, 2010 marked the 40th anniversary of the accession of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said and the establishment of the Sultanate. Over that period, Oman has established itself as a leading economy. Its first development strategy focused on essential infrastructure and human resources; the latest iteration of that strategy, Oman’s Vision 2020, seeks to diversify the economy with the help of the private sector.
Muscat, with a population of 1m, may be the administrative and business heart of Oman, but its future lies in the development of the Batinah coastline area, between Muscat and Sohar, which accounts for half of the Sultanate’s population. Salalah in the Dhofar region, close to the border with Yemen, is the second biggest city. Another key area is Duqm on the southern coast.
Oman is pinning the future diversification of its economy on the development of Salalah, Sohar and Duqm. It is hoping to attract large industries to these areas, and thereby at the same time net all the smaller companies that service and sustain these industrial giants.
It is an ambitious plan that has seen Oman embark on a concerted development of its ports, airports and free zones. Total volume at Sohar Port is expected to reach 500,000 twenty-foot equivalent units by end 2013, an astonishing figure. Meanwhile, the 500ha first phase of the associated free zone is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, at a total cost of $77m.
Salalah Free Zone has been a resounding success, attracting $2bn worth of capital investment over a four-year period. An estimated $130m will be spent on infrastructure over the next five years.
These are but a handful of the many mega projects underway in Oman. What Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate all have in common is that they have clearly defined goals and plans, underpinned by social and economic development for the benefit and upliftment of their respective populations. While the Arab Spring may have cast an investment pall over the region, with investors left even more skittish in the wake of the ongoing debt crisis in the European Union, it is clear that the region is following its own path to sustained growth and future prosperity. Oman is a leading light in this progressive surge.
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