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At a time when India Inc is trying to capture markets in Africa and West Asia, Oman, which has an oil-dependent economy, is trying to position itself as the gateway. Speaking to Business Standard at the sidelines of an industry meet organised by SICCI, Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) Chief Executive Officer Hilal Hamad Al-Ahasani said investments worth around $1.5 billion from India are in the pipleline and are expected to take off in 2018. PEIE is responsible for clearing investment proposals. Trade between the two nations crossed the $4-billion mark between April 2016 and March 2017.
Additionally, a sum of $7.5 billion has been invested in more than 2,900 Indo-Omani business establishments.A K Tareen, who is the investment promotion representative of PEIE, said that the next wave of growth is going to come from Africa, with India and China being the key suppliers. Oman can be a gateway and a hub for West Asia and Africa as it offers better connectivity. Considering that the country has a rich cultural heritage and connections with Africa, especially North Africa, made-in-Oman products are accepted faster. Besides, the cost of doing business is also competitive thanks to the tax benefits, cheap land, and low interest rates, among other factors. Oman, which is one of the key countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is trying to reduce its dependence on oil as part of its derisking strategy and wants to attract more foreign investments. Experts say its strategic geographical position on the edge of the Gulf with close trade links to India and China would support this strategy. Manufacturing, logistics, tourism, finance, information technology, and services are the key focus areas, said Al-Ahasani, adding that India is an important source for foreign direct investments. The companies that are exploring Oman include Sanmar, Prestige, and the Embassy Group, along with several mining companies, said a PEIE official. Last week, an agreement to develop an integrated tourism complex (ITC) in Oman's Special Economic Zone in Duqm (SEZD) was signed by the Duqm Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZAD) and Little India. The estimated investment in this project is around $748 million. In Sohar, the estimated total Indian investment is around $2 billion in projects from Larsen and Toubro, Jindal Shadeed Iron & Steel, Indsil Ferrochrome, Metkore Alloys & Industries, among others. Indian entities comprise the largest foreign investors there.