Oman 3 – full report

Oman. A dramatically beautiful, captivating blend of traditional Arab values and innovative modern perspectives.
A stable society that cherishes its Islamic culture while opening itself to the world.
A force for peace and cooperation in the region.
A thriving trade and business hub that has signed a free-trade agreement with the United States.
Today’s Oman is all this and more.

With a visionary leader and a welcoming population, Oman is carving out a niche for itself in the global economy. This forward-thinking Sultanate is building on its resources, strategic location and natural beauty to develop a wide range of economic sectors, from petrochemicals and shipping to manufacturing and tourism. All offer exceptional opportunities for international investment and partnerships.
Ahlan wa sahlan! Welcome to Oman.

An historic trade hub strategically located in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula, Oman has long been known for its rich cultural heritage, rugged mountains, fertile farmland and elegant capital city, Muscat. Oman is a key player in the regional economy and a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC.
Since 1970, Oman has been steadily transformed into a thriving, stable, modern economy under the forward-thinking leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. While the country has benefited from its oil resources, the Sultan has always focused on promoting sustainable growth that is not dependent on hydrocarbons.

The core of the Sultan’s Vision 2020 plan for his country is to ensure long-term prosperity and new job opportunities for Omanis. Oman has definitely opened its doors to foreign companies and partners as it pursues these ambitious goals. In fact, the Omani Capital Markets Authority aims to double the size of the local capital market over the next five years and welcomes foreign investors to participate.

Oman has developed world-class infrastructure to support its business and trade activities. The main international gateway to Oman is Muscat International Airport, which will be able to accommodate 12 million passengers per year when the current expansion program is completed in 2014. Salalah Airport in southern Oman welcomes around 1 million passengers per year and is a major tourism entry point, while several local airports are growing fast.

Oman also has state-of-the-art ports that have attracted some of the world’s leading shipping lines. The Port of Salalah – ranked the region’s second-biggest port — enjoys an ideal location on the main East-West shipping lane serving the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, East Africa and destinations throughout the Indian Ocean and beyond. Ranked a leading global transshipment hub, the port handled 3.2 million TEUs in 2011 and celebrated its 30 millionth TEU container earlier this year.

Salalah Free Zone adds to the port’s appeal for international companies. Oman’s Ministry of Transport and Communications recently awarded a US$143 million contract to a Dutch company for the construction of a new general-cargo and liquid-bulk terminal at the Port of Salalah that will make the port even more competitive.

Oman’s other ports include the industrial Port of Suhar in northern Oman, which is set for significant growth under the Vision 2020 plan, and Port Mina’ Qabus in Muscat, which is being developed as a gateway for cruise ships. Oman Shipping Company, a long-term local partner of oil and gas enterprises, illustrates the potential of the country’s rapidly developing shipping industry.

Nothing demonstrates Oman’s drive toward economic diversification more than Duqm Economic Zone, the biggest project the country’s leaders have tackled so far. Already home to a Who’s Who of prominent local and international companies in a wide range of sectors, Duqm Economic Zone is set to generate substantial growth in central Oman as it takes shape over the next two decades.

Overseen by the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD), the new zone includes Duqm City, a sustainable community that will eventually have a population of 67,000. Duqm Special Economic Zone is designed to be a model of integrated economic development. It will have eight development sub-zones in a land area covering more than 1,777 square kilometers.

The new zone is expected to attract around US$15 billion in investments over the coming decade and generate around 15,000 to 20,000 new jobs. A refinery and petrochemicals complex will be among the first projects to get off the ground.

Duqm Economic Zone will also feature state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, a multipurpose commercial port, a dry dock for ship repairs, and a new international airport. Duqm City will be an ideal choice for both locals and foreigners to live and work in thanks to the world-class health, education, entertainment and cultural facilities being developed there.

The government of Oman is making sure Duqm Economic Zone has all the necessary infrastructure and utilities, including new roads and a new railway. In addition to launching a building boom that will create major opportunities for local and foreign construction firms and other businesses, Duqm Economic Zone is expected to attract significant international investment. The new zone illustrates the Omani government’s commitment to building the right foundations today for the country’s sustainable growth tomorrow.

Oman – blessed with fertile farmland and ample water resources — is taking advantage of its long history as a center for agriculture, livestock-raising and fishing. Oman already produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, grains, poultry, meat and fish for local consumption and export throughout the Gulf region as well as to Europe, Japan and other markets.

Modern irrigation systems, extensive greenhouses, animal-feed manufacturing facilities, many veterinary clinics and other support systems for the agriculture sector have been established all over the Sultanate.

Sustainability is the government’s guiding principle for the agriculture sector. Recent programs include advantageous loans for farmers, a project to plant one million date-palm trees, efforts to support the participation of women in agricultural projects like livestock-raising and honey production, and much more.

Oman’s fisheries sector also has outstanding growth prospects. With its extensive coastline, Oman has long been one of the region’s main sources for high-quality fish. To spur on the development of the fisheries industry, the Omani government has set up a new fisheries quality-control center as well as training operations and new fishing-port facilities. Oman aims to reach food self-sufficiency and to step up its role as a source of high-quality agricultural products for the region and beyond.

Perhaps no country in the world has improved its healthcare so much in such a short time as Oman has over the past four decades. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos announced when he assumed the leadership of the country in 1970 that improving Oman’s healthcare and education systems would be his top priorities, and he has lived up to his promises.

With only two hospitals and 13 doctors in 1970, Oman had over 60 hospitals and almost 6,000 doctors by 2010. Over the same period, the country’s life expectancy rose from 49 years to more than 73 years. Oman now has a system of health centres and clinics that provide high-quality primary care; referral hospitals throughout the country offering secondary care; and several major hospitals specializing in tertiary care. The Ministry of Health has also launched a comprehensive e-health initiative.

As all key indicators show, Oman’s investment in healthcare services, training, technologies and equipment continues to pay off in the overall good health of the Omani population. Making sure world-class health services are available in every part of the Sultanate remains a priority for Oman’s leaders. State-owned Nizwa Hospital, for example, has been serving patients in the Nizwa area and surrounding region since 1974.

The Ministry of Health recently launched an ambitious master plan to build even more healthcare facilities and infrastructure. International investors are welcome to participate in these high-potential projects and to partner with Oman’s healthcare providers.

As the success of Sultan Qaboos University and Nizwa University shows, Oman is very serious about ensuring the best possible educational facilities for Omani and international students. The flagship Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, the country’s only public university, is now Oman’s biggest educational institution and continues to expand its programs and facilities. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in several fields and serves over 15,000 students from Oman and abroad.

Nizwa University also offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in many subjects and serves around 6,200 students. All Oman’s educational institutions are aligned with global standards and are committed to research and development.

Oman is also home to several specialized higher-education institutions and to a growing number of private international schools and colleges, many of them based on European, American or Australian systems and using English as the language of instruction. Oman’s education sector offers all kinds of opportunities for more international investment and partnerships.

Companies operating in Oman can now count on top-quality business support and the latest ICT infrastructure. Two local success stories are HMR Consultants, founded in Muscat in 1994 and now ranked the region’s leading source for environmental-engineering consulting, and Almadina Investment, known for its holistic financial services. Investors in Oman can rely on companies like these for the help they need to make their businesses thrive.

Oman has also been steadily improving its ICT infrastructure through the ambitious eOman initiative, which focuses on making high-quality ICT services – including e-government — available throughout the Sultanate. Microsoft recently announced that Oman’s ICT infrastructure can support cloud computing, and that providing cloud-computing services to local small and medium-sized enterprises is a definite growth area. In fact, ICT is one of the sectors singled out by the US government as having particularly strong investment potential for American companies in Oman.

Investors transferring technology, developing management expertise, and providing training for Omanis are particularly welcome. To make it even easier to enter the Omani market, the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry have jointly established a one-stop shop for investors.

If one country could be said to sum up all the appeal of traditional Arabia, Oman is that country. Desert, beaches, rugged mountains, architectural wonders, the endless turquoise sea and some of the most welcoming people on the planet: Oman has it all.

An undiscovered secret for many years, Oman has finally carved out a niche for itself on the global tourism map. Travelers in the know have learned that Oman offers an authentic Arabian experience instead of one created just for tourists.

Muscat, the official “Arabian Capital of Tourism” for 2012, is the ideal introduction to Oman. Muscat has carefully preserved traditional architecture, state-of-the-art business services, an opera house and other prestigious cultural venues, not to mention spectacular natural beauty. On top of that, Muscat is now the home of some of the world’s most luxurious resorts, including Ritz-Carlton’s five-star Al Bustan Palace and the locally owned Waves International Hotel, which combines authentic Omani style and upscale amenities.

Muscat also stands out for what it DOESN’T have: skyscrapers. Just one look at Muscat’s whitewashed buildings set against mountains and overlooking the sea shows you why this capital city is unlike any other in the region.

Salalah – known for centuries as the perfume capital of Arabia — is another jewel in Oman’s tourism crown. Green and fertile, Salalah looks more like East Africa than the Middle East and even has its own leopards and hyenas.

Frankincense trees lining mountain wadis, pure waters ideal for scuba-diving, pristine beaches, lush green hillsides, ancient coconut groves, and a city that has been an important port since 100 BC – this is Salalah, the historic home of Oman’s sultans. Easily reached from Muscat via several daily flights on Oman Air, Salalah now has several five-star hotels and resorts to choose from.

For travelers looking for beauty, authenticity and a warm welcome from the locals, Oman is definitely the place to go.

Thanks to the enlightened leadership of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, Oman has pulled off the impossible: it has transformed itself into a world-class trade hub and business base without sacrificing its traditional values, stability and natural beauty. Let Oman’s welcoming people introduce you to their amazing and unique country.

Oman: guaranteed to surpass your expectations.

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