The Opec Fund for International Development has reaffirmed $130 million in funding assistance for the Al Sharqiyah Expressway Tunnels Project – a strategic carriageway that will enhance road connectivity as well as boost the Sultanate’s transport infrastructure.
A press statement issued by the Vienna-headquartered Fund on Wednesday said the public sector loan, first approved last July, is in line with a strategic partnership with the Omani government designed to support Muscat’s ambitions to become a major regional logistics hub.
“We are delighted to launch a major development partnership with the Sultanate of Oman. It is befitting to mark the beginning of our cooperation with such a landmark project that includes the first-ever tunnels in the country and provides safer travel for over one million people. We look forward to building our partnership and working on many more development projects together,” said Opec Fund Director-General Dr Abdulhamid al Khalifa in the statement.
The 191km-long, all-weather carriageway, which connects Bidbid in Al Dakhiliyah Governorate with Al Kamal wal Wafi in South Al Sharqiyah Governorate, was opened to vehicular traffic in January this year.
The centerpiece of the project is a pair of twin-tube tunnels covering a total distance of about two kilometres. The first set, spanning a relatively shorter stretch of 650 metres, is located in the Wilayat of Samayil, while the longer set of parallel tubes (1.45 kilometres) runs through mountains near Wadi Al Aqq. The tunnels, featuring a dual carriageway with three lanes on either side, are a new addition to Oman’s modern road networks.
“The project aligns with the Sultanate of Oman’s plans to strengthen the transportation sector to reinforce its credentials as a regional logistics hub: the Al Sharqiya Expressway Tunnels Project is just one in a series of new investments with this goal in mind and the Opec Fund stands ready to provide further support,” the Fund said.
“The project aligns with a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure, and SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth. In addition, agriculture and tourism, two key sources of income-generation in the region, will be strengthened,” it further noted.
Oman, while not a member of the Opec grouping of leading oil producers, has consistently worked alongside the cartel to help build consensus among fellow producing nations in stabilising oil markets and tackling other crises impacting international oil prices.