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Oman’s state finances have been hit hard by low oil prices, so it is scrambling to attract foreign money for new industrial zones that will create jobs for Omanis whom the government can no longer afford to employ. For China, the project is a potential success in its “Belt and Road Initiative”, a government-backed drive to win trade and investment deals along routes linking China to Europe.
Duqm, which lies on the Arabian Sea, is a potential operating base for Chinese businesses near export markets which they want to develop in the Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and East Africa.
The zone around Duqm already features a port and a dry dock, and is to include an oil refinery (built partly with Kuwaiti money) and petrochemical plants.
Oman Wanfang plans to develop over 11 square kilometres (4 square miles), making the Chinese Duqm’s largest prospective foreign tenants by far.
As recently as 2009, China accounted for less than 1 per cent of the stock of foreign direct investment in the Middle East, according to China Med, a research operation at Italy’s Torino World Affairs Institute.
But partly because of Belt and Road, that is changing fast; the ratio rose above 5 per cent in 2015.
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Plans for a further nine Chinese facilities, including a .8bn methanol plant, pipe factories, an m vehicle assembly plant and a 3m hotel, have been agreed in principle and are to be completed within five years.Chatting, talking on the phone, sending emails and getting to know new people have been very important for me and very rewarding emotionally speaking.You talk to people more that you would imagine, you confide in them more that you would expect.Oman has been trying to attract capital for Duqm from many nations.
It had been hoping in particular for investment from Iran, with which it has close diplomatic ties, but Iran’s economy is struggling.
Over the past year the Chinese have become key to Oman’s effort to transform Duqm, a fishing village 550km (345 miles) south of Muscat, into an industrial centre that will help the country diversify its economy beyond oil and gas exports.