OMAN A Safe Haven

Its mountains may not be permanently snow-capped and there are more goat herder huts than ski lifts on its slopes, but for economic and political reasons Oman has earned itself the reputation as the Switzerland of the Middle East. Thanks mostly to the diplomatic efforts and vision of its long-term ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said, this old sea-trading empire has become a haven in a frequently turbulent part of the world.

Oman is also reaping the rewards of its strategically significant location on the maritime route of China’s Belt and Road initiative, President Xi Jinping’s dream of resurrecting the ancient Silk Road trade routes between Asia and Europe.

The importance of Oman to that vision is already becoming evident at Duqm, a previously unremarkable fishing village on the country’s remote southern coast. Today, its tranquillity is routinely disturbed by an army of heavy construction vehicles as they level a vast expanse of desert, part of an investment of billions of dollars to transform Duqm into an industrial centre that will help Sultan Qaboos realize his own dream – the diversification of the Omani economy away from its dependence on oil and gas.

Duqm is part of a much larger initiative that will see the berths at all of Oman’s eight ports substantially deepened as the authorities in Muscat bid to position the Sultanate as a regional logistic leader in an increasingly globalized world economy. The international investment community is buying into the Sultan’s dream, and not just at Duqm, as a foreign direct investment has been growing by as much as 30% year-on-year in some recent months.

Oman’s diversification is definitely on course.

Source: Time International (Atlantic Edition). 4/22/2019, Vol. 193 Issue 15, pS1-S1. 1/2p.

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