One-stop: New government entity to explore potential for new SEZs, free zones in the future
The newly established Public Authority of Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ) will serve as a unified brand and one-stop marketing agency for all four of the Sultanate’s free zone developments currently spread over an area of 2,045 sq kilometres.
According to a key official, OPAZ will not only oversee the regulation of Oman’s existing quartet of SEZs and free zones, established at Duqm, Suhar, Salalah and Al Mazyuna, but also explore the potential for the growth of future zones as well.
Jalal al Lawati, Director, said the new government entity has the mandate to, among other things, propose and implement policies and strategic plans to drive the growth of SEZ and free zones in the Sultanate.
A key part of this remit is to regulate the investment environment governing all four zones and the usufruct rights available to investors, he noted.
“Our team at OPAZ would like to catalyse investment inflows into Oman and work with the different free zones to see these investments happening in the Sultanate,” Al Lawati stated during a presentation held as part of the ‘Oman-Singapore Investment Forum’, a webinar organised recently by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion. Singapore Ambassador Theng Dar Tang and Oman’s Consul General in Singapore, Anwar Muqaibal, were among a number of dignitaries and officials who took part in the online proceedings.
Among OPAZ’s first endeavours is the introduction of a unified One Stop Shop to process applications for investment in any of the four zones in the Sultanate. This portal has been empowered to process and approve the full spectrum of licences and permits required for industrial projects, commercial registrations, environmental approvals, and so on, said Al Lawati.
“With streamlined incentives across all SEZs in the Sultanate, investors can take advantage of the free and open eco-system to attract, grow and foster their businesses and investments,” Al Lawati noted.
Significantly, OPAZ will look to promote all four zones distributed across the Sultanate as a collective destination for investment, while emphasising at the same time the distinctive value propositions of the individual zones.
By investing in any of the Sultanate’s free zone developments, investors will be able to leverage Oman’s advantageous geographical location — situated midway between Asia and Europe (and the Americas beyond) — to target a potentially 2.5 billion-strong market of consumers in south Asia, Middle East and East Africa, he said.
Indeed, in positioning Oman as an attractive logistics hub in the Middle East, OPAZ will be looking at the successful example of Singapore, whose success as an economic powerhouse has its roots in its distinctive geographical location as well, he stated.
Duqm SEZ, the biggest of OPAZ’s assets, represents a unique model in which an entire city has been incorporated into a free zone development, said Al Lawati. This allows for all manner of investors — industrial, commercial, tourism, and so on — to be eligible for all of the incentives earmarked for free zone investors.
Salalah Free Zone, anchored by a transhipment and logistics hub, has already pulled in $8.7 billion worth of industrial and economic investments. Freezone Sohar, adjoining Sohar Port, has succeeded in capitalising on its proximity to markets in the Middle East, India and East Africa to garner sizable investments in a number of fields, notably, plastics and chemicals, metals, industrial minerals, logistics, automotive, food processing, pharmaceuticals and textiles.
Finally, Al Mazyuna Free Zone, a land-based development straddling the border between Oman and Yemen in Dhofar Governorate, primarily seeks to facilitate trade flows between the two countries, he added.