Interview: Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Salim Al Futaisi
How will the Oman and GCC railway networks change the way business and trade is carried out, both in Oman and across the region?
AHMED BIN MOHAMED BIN SALIM AL FUTAISI: The future Oman and regional railway will be integrated and interoperable to serve the people of the sultanate and GCC countries in their industry, trade and numerous other socio-economic activities. The main positive effect of the GCC rail network on business and trade will be in the redistribution of freight and passengers transported nationally and across the GCC. A portion of this traffic will be carried by the railway, instead of completely by road, sea and air, which will relieve congestion across the system. Transport of heavy freight will not remain wholly with trucks and ships, but will be carried more efficiently and sustainably by rail across medium-to-long distances. Passengers will have the choice of travelling by road or rail, depending on factors such as cost, time and convenience. The new railway networks will create jobs for engineering consultants, through their services for design, supervision and project management; for legal, financial and institutional consultants; for contractors in constructing and maintaining the railway infrastructure; for manufacturers and suppliers of locomotives, communications and signalling systems, rails, sleepers and ballast; and for investors in railway operation, technical colleges and training institutes.
To what extent is the successful completion and integration of Oman’s airport network tied to economic development and job creation for Omanis?
AL FUTAISI: The integration of the airport network is integral to the sultanate’s economic development and will provide an enormous opportunity for job creation. The thinking behind the airport network and location was connectivity – to expose and promote the entire country, as opposed to limiting the growth opportunities to the main cities of Muscat, Salalah and Sohar. The completion of these airports will allow better movement of people, goods and services to inland Oman and vice versa. With the ease and flexibility of this movement, there will be more latitude for manufacturing facilities and organisations to be set up inland, where resources will be financially optimised and specialised help, where required, easier to relocate.
One of the principal objectives of this huge airport development initiative is to promote tourism. The marketing of Oman, the setting up of the entire tour and travel industry – which is currently in its infancy – will take off once the airports come on board. Upgraded transport infrastructure for the entire country, including roads and better logistics to support this influx, will also require more labour and the upgraded airport network will put the whole country on the map.
In what areas do you see the greatest opportunities for potential investment, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)?
AL FUTAISI: Investment opportunities are abundant across the sultanate’s transport and communications industries. Contractors can participate in the construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of roads, bridges, railways, airports and ports. Engineering consultants have opportunities in the study, planning, design, supervision and project management of all the infrastructure undertakings. Potential investments for the private sector include operating the railway project and the truck weighing stations, which are under design, in establishing technical colleges and institutions to graduate and train staff for the railway, and in building industries and workshops that are related to the rail network.
The ministry is encouraging SMEs and the domestic private sector to participate in the transport sector. A department has been established in the Ministry of Transport and Communication called the Land Transport Department in the Directorate General of Roads and Land Transport. This body will make the necessary laws and regulations, and will facilitate the participation of SMEs and the private sector in the movement of passengers and freight, both locally and regionally.
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