Transport sector can weather crisis: Minister

Muscat: Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed al Futaisi, Minister of Transport, has said that the government of the Sultanate, under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, is sustaining the development of infrastructure that contributes to economic and social growth.

Replying to questions at a virtual press conference on Monday, Dr Al Futaisi said that aviation is one of the most affected sectors due to COVID-19 and the Public Authority of Civil Aviation (PACA) has submitted a plan to the Supreme Committee with specific dates to open-air traffic.

Dr Al Futaisi said that the Ministry of Transport and the Public Authority for Civil Aviation will work in cooperation with the Oman Aviation Group and departments to devise an efficient plan to resume flights. The goal, the minister said, is not only to restart and sustain the aviation sector but also to reschedule aviation routes.

Shedding light on the national transport strategy 2020, Futaisi said his ministry modified its projects in the light of coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of international oil prices. The minister said there won’t be new projects and the focus now was on completing some of the existing projects.

The ministry plans to increase efforts in empowering the private sector by privatising some of the existing businesses in government-owned transport companies. The most important example of this is Thamrait- Salalah (trucks only) road, Al Maabela-Bidbid bypass, airport city, development of Burj Al Sahwa station, a digital platform for the port community, logistics solutions for exporting rocks from Manji and Al Shwemaya, granting a second license for airport Taxi services, development of a transport platform (Naql), Asyad Express and all the plots under the supervision of the Ministry of Transport.

Al Futaisi pointed out that various transport sectors are ready to push economic diversification, raise Omanisation rates, create new jobs for citizen’s and revitalize trade and investment. This will ensure the financial sustainability of the national economy.

“This year’s plan aims to make Oman a global logistics hub. It also aims to enhance the integration of the logistics sector to provide a single-window service”.

The ministry will work closely with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry; Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and the private sector to motivate traders to use the sector to improve imports and exports.

The national strategy includes the development of free zones. The number of investment projects in free zones in the Sultanate stood at 120 with an investment of RO 3.7 billion in 2019.

Dr Al Futaisi said, “The plan this year will focus on building future leaders as well as recruiting and empowering Omanis in the sector. In addition, the plan will focus on strengthening the role of SMEs, promoting entrepreneurship in the logistics sector and supporting it to serve transport, aviation, and logistics sectors”.

The past years focused on two phases of growth and development. Now the focus will be to improve the efficiency of the logistics sector by facilitating faster clearance for goods through seaports and airports in line with the global standards.

“These efforts have positioned Oman in the top ranks in the region.  The time taken to clear the goods reached 21 minutes in seaports and 24 minutes in airports. The inspection rate decreased to 2.5 percent, while advancing clearance to 22 per cent. This was achieved through electronic systems like Bayan”.

The minister added that new initiatives have been launched to facilitate trade. Goods are cleared 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “This logistical progress reflects the level of cooperation between various government bodies starting with the ministry and the General Directorate of Customs as well as the various ministries concerned with permits and inspections”, he said.

In the visual presentation on the transport sector, it was revealed the ministry constructed 4,300 km of roads in 2019 at a cost of RO 3.8 billion. The Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah accounted for 17.7 percent of the new roads, followed by Dhofar at 17.1 percent and North Al Batinah at 12.1 percent.