Omani city bullish on China shops

The new Chinese shopping center in Salalah, Oman, offers more than 250 businesses, including a children's play area, a water fountain and a food court, but the country’s second-largest city hopes the center is just the first piece in a much-larger economic picture.

The soft opening of the 170,000-square-foot China Commercial Town (CCT) has already taken place, while the official launch is planned for March.

As Oman leaders ponder how to leverage this growth into future expansion, Chinese parties are also hinting that the CCT could spark more enterprises in the country. The Oman Daily Observer said CCT’s managing director, Yajia Gao, suggested that an entertainment park might be in the works, followed by an evaluation of it and the shopping center's success.

“Other extensions would depend on the performance of these two major investment projects,” Gao said.

The same area of Salalah is also the proposed site for a Kuwaiti project that includes a corporate training center, industrial parks, residential areas and additional office space. It would be developed by the Jawaharat al Fanar Group of Kuwait.

Ammar al Mahroon al Mahroon, director-general of the Engineering Department of Jawaharat, Salalah, called the plan a unique project that “has integrated facilities for its investors.”

“In a nutshell, this is an opportunity for the investors to grab the opportunity, as we have a ‘one-stop shop’ in its truest sense, with all possible amenities in one campus,” al Mahroon said.

For more on what CCT means for Salalah, the Gulf News Journal spoke with research analyst Rahul Koli at Aranca, a global research and analytics company. Koli has approximately four years of equity research experience across the GCC and Europe.

Koli said Chinese shopping and commercial spaces are also planned for the Omani cites of Barka, Suwaiq, Al Buraimi and Raysut.

“These commercial centers would offer various Chinese consumer, electrical and electronics products,” Koli said. “These projects would also create new job opportunities for Omani citizens.”

Like other GCC nations, Oman is looking to diversify its economy in anticipation of a future loss of revenue from oil. One way it might do this is to increase bilateral business relations with China, which invested more than $2 billion in Oman last year; trade between the countries exceeded $17.2 billion.

Koli also noted that its port access along traditional trade routes makes Oman a strategic location for the Chinese.

“For Oman, a better relationship with China fits into its overall economic development agenda, which is aimed at developing its non-oil economy,” Koli said. “Furthermore, Oman’s ties with Iran for energy and other trade have affected its relationship with the rest of GCC, and it faces geopolitical risks. In this backdrop, China could evolve as a key partner for Oman in the future.”