Duqm, great potentials but the stakes are high

No town in the Middle East has attracted so much attention in the last five years like Duqm with its potential as a future major industrial city.
Located in the unlikely geographical location, right in the middle of Oman in Al Wusta Governorate, the town is now being transformed to a sleeping little village to a city that would have major business amenities to eclipse any town in the Sultanate. It may be too early to predict but economists are already showcasing Duqm to equal Dubai as a major business destination.
Currently, total ongoing investments are exceeding $20 billion in infrastructure, oil refinery, energy pipelines, industries and property developments. The key element of Duqm is the free zone and the future logistics hub which is in the plan. This zone is Oman’s biggest single economic project and part of the country’s efforts to diversify its economy away from oil revenues. There are older free zones in Salalah and Sohar but Duqm stands head and shoulder above the rest with the attention it receives internationally.
Authorities have already completed the groundwork for Duqm to be a “One-Stop Shop” which simply means a new business venture needs virtual no paperwork to establish a trade there. The “no hassle” business atmosphere in Duqm is already taking the notice of foreign investors, too. But the government, understanding well the future potential, has already expanded the free zone.
The expansion of an area of 2,000 square kilometres, towards its northern borders, is now the latest development in the free zone. Ras Markaz is being aggressively developed as the oil storage hub of the country.
The Ras Markaz commands a very strategic location in the Arabian Sea, which opens up to the Indian Ocean and a gateway for international shipping lines. Ras Markaz is unique to all seaports in the region. It has also a natural depth which runs between 30 and 32 metres. It has the capacity of hosting the largest crude oil tankers in the world. The storage oil terminal has the potential of being the safest and strategically located in the region since Duqm is away from the conflict zone of Strait of Hormuz.
However, having highlighted the potentials, Duqm’s stakes could be high. With the amount interest the place is generating worldwide, its potential reputation could lead to troubled zones.
Some are questioning, once Duqm has achieved its greatness and harnessed all its potentials, would it continue to support the big businesses which have already signed on? Many investors are now watching closely the development of the free zone before making commitments. That makes sense but they would not hesitate to move in once the strategy in Duqm is crystal clear. The fans of Duqm are not exaggerating when they compare it to Dubai in the next decade or so.
However, like Dubai thirty years, Duqm is rising from the sands. Like Dubai, the fishermen’s homes are now being transformed faster than the pace of normal development. The momentum is obvious and the blueprint of Duqm is already defined to be a great city that will diversify Omani economy away from oil income.
However, if international investors are excited by its potential, local investors are almost completely, with a few exceptions, oblivion to the progress it has made in the last five years. Just less than 10 per cent of the billions being poured in the free zone comes from Omani companies.
Local entrepreneurs obviously see the place as a risk and wait for international companies to make it good before they move in. By then, unheeded by them, it would be far too late to put a business foot in. The signs are firmly on the ground that Duqm will not only be comparable to Dubai but might exceed its reputation in the long run.