‘Give priority to industries which rely on agricultural and fisheries products’

Recognising the transformational benefits accruing to the national economy from a dynamic industrial sector, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos issued Royal Directives for the conceptualisation of a new economic sector centring around manufacturing and industry. It was a momentous move, embraced at the outset of Oman’s modern renaissance — a decision that helped lay the foundations for the growth of a thriving sector.
Four decades on, the manufacturing and industrial sector has grown exponentially and currently accounts for a heartening 18.8 per cent share of the Omani non-hydrocarbon GDP (2018 figures).
At His Majesty the Sultan’s instructions, the Year of Industry was instituted in 1991 embodying the nation’s vision to be an industrialising economy that leverages its natural resources, adds value to its hydrocarbon wealth, and creates specialised jobs for its human capital.
“Our aim is to display the role of this sector as an important productive one which significantly contributes to our national economy,” said His Majesty the Sultan in the Royal address on the 20th National Day in November 1990.
“We also intend to draw the attention of the government and the private sector to the necessity of a planned industrial development. It must give priority to industries which rely on agricultural and fisheries products, as well as those industries — both light and medium which depend on local raw materials, meet the basic needs of the country, and provide employment for our Omani people. Encouragement shall continue to be given to our traditional industries to reach their full potential,” His Majesty declared.
Indeed, ‘Year of Industry’ sparked the growth of a much wider national movement. It paved the way for the creation of the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) — rebranded in 2019 as ‘Madayn’. The first of a series of industrial estates was set up at Rusayl on the outskirts of the capital city, Muscat.
Underscoring his fervent desire to see a flourishing industrial sector taking root in the Sultanate, His Majesty himself made a landmark visit to Rusayl in 1991 — an historic event that is being commemorated annually as a wellspring of inspiration for the sustainable development of this key economic sector.
As many as nine industrial cities administered by Madayn are currently in operation across the Sultanate. Covering a total of over 100 million sq metres, they are home to more than 2,200 factories set up with investments in excess of $17 billion. More than 60,000 people, including 20,000 Omanis, are employed by projects operating in these industrial parks.
A further two industrial cities are proposed to be added to this growing network in the near future. At Thamrait in Dhofar Governorate, Madayn plans to set up a predominantly minerals-based industrial city. Shinas Industrial City, on the other hand, will be positioned as a hub for food-related investments, said an official, citing its proximity to the rich agricultural farmland of the Batinah Governorate, as well as Sohar Port and Free Zone nearby.
Side by side with the growth of a strong manufacturing sector focused primarily on light and medium-scale projects, heavy industrial development fuelled by natural gas as fuel and feedstock has also taken off in recent decades in the Sultanate.
Sohar Port and Free Zone have attracted over $20 billion in mega projects encompassing petrochemicals, steel and aluminium while also opening up the potential for equally substantive downstream investments. Salalah Free Zone, in the south of the country, has also pulled in many billions of dollars in primarily petrochemicals-based investments.
Duqm — championed by His Majesty as a new economic growth pole based predominantly on industrial and petrochemical projects — will serve as the epicentre of the nation’s diversified economy. Already around $15 billion has been pledged in the development of a world-scale refinery and petrochemicals complex, which has the potential to unleash significant new investment and growth opportunities.
Of late, the drive to accelerate the diversification of the Omani economy — enshrined in Tanfeedh and other related initiatives — has entrenched the role of manufacturing as one of five key thrust areas that are integral to this goal. Along with tourism, fisheries, mining and logistics, manufacturing is poised to make an important contribution to employment generation, innovation and SME development, and GDP growth.