AIIB affirms commitment to Omani infrastructure projects

MUSCAT, JULY 11 – The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a Chinese-led multi-lateral development bank, says it is weighing increased funding support for the Duqm Port project, given its strategic importance to Oman’s economic diversification strategy. According to a key official of the Beijing-based financial institution, Oman is among the notable recipients of financial support from AIIB among countries in the Middle East.
Pang Yee Ean, Director General of AIIB’s Investment Operations Department, said the Bank has extended funding support for the development of a commercial terminal and operational zone at Duqm Port, as well as invested in broadband infrastructure in the Sultanate.
The China Global Television Network (CGTN) quoted Pang as stating that, “The Duqm port project is progressing very fast and we are looking at investing more perhaps within the next year.” The official also noted in the interview that the Duqm Port is significant because it seeks to help Oman diversify beyond its hydrocarbon-based economy.
‘It is a strategic move for Oman to move into an industrial and mineral-based economy with the inter-land support from this Duqm port,’ he said.
Duqm Port anchors a mammoth industrial and commercial hub that will serve as a new growth pole to drive the next phase of Oman’s socioeconomic development.
The remarks came against the backdrop of a high-level ministerial meeting hosted by Beijing as part of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF). Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, represented Oman at the forum on Tuesday.
Significantly, the Chinese-based lender has so far committed around $540 million in funding support for Omani infrastructure projects over the past two years. It includes $265 million towards maritime infrastructure development at Duqm Port, and a $36 million commitment towards the development of a Mineral Line Railway Project being overseen by the ASYAD’s Group Oman Rail subsidiary.
Late last year, AIIB announced a further commitment of $239.2 million in funding for the development of Oman’s national fibre optical broadband network — an ambitious initiative that has important implications for the growth of the Information and Communications Technology sector, while also enhancing the nation’s appeal as a destination for manufacturing, business and strategic logistics services.
The amount, made available in the form of senior debt, has been pledged to the Oman Broadband Company (OBC), which is rolling out a national broadband network in support of the country’s National Broadband Strategy.
In the Arab region, the Sultanate ranks among the biggest beneficiaries of AIIB lending. As of May 2018, AIIB’s total loans approved since inception amounted to $4.4 billion US dollars, of which the three projects – two in Oman and one in Egypt – collectively accounted for $627 million, according to Pang. The Sultanate is among 10 Arab countries that are part of the 87-member-strong Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Other member states from the region are the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan.

Conrad Prabhu