Initial groundwork on a new integrated economic zone, designed to capitalize on an upsurge in investment and economic seen the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is set commence in earnest in Oman’s Al Dhahirah Governorate.
The Economic Zone at Al Dhahirah (EZAD), planned for development on a sprawling 388 sq km area of the governorate, will serve as a new economic growth engine in a strategically important part of the country. Located just 20 kilometres from the border crossing established on Oman’s border with Saudi Arabia in The Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali), EZAD will leverage its advantageous proximity to the massive Saudi market to target manufacturing, mining, oilfield, logistics, renewable energy and a host of other investments.
On Monday, the Omani Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ), which is overseeing the development of EZAD, invited suitably qualified local and international consultancy firms to compete for a contract to undertake the preliminary and detailed design, among other services, linked to the zone. But in keeping with a commitment to opening up contracting opportunities to Saudi players as well, in the case of select projects, competition for this contract will be limited to bidders from Oman and Saudi Arabia, or joint ventures between the two.
But given the green-field nature of EZAD, design and supervision work will be limited to the first phase of 6.5 sq kilometres of a total master-planned area of 20 sq kilometes. Bids are due in by October 26, 2023.
Significantly, EZAD grew out of agreements signed by Oman and Saudi Arabia in February this year, setting the ground for a new wave of economic cooperation between the two neighbours. It included a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to finance the infrastructure development of EZAD at a cost of RO 100 million.
In April, a high-level Executive Committee was set up to oversee the conceptualization and implementation of EZAD. Chaired by the Deputy Chairman of OPAZ, the panel includes a number of officials from the Omani Authority, and on the Saudi side, from the Ministry of Investment, Economic Cities and Special Economic Zones Authority and the Saudi Development Fund. Part of the committee’s remit is to oversee the establishment of a new Omani-Saudi company to manage and operate EZAD once it is developed.