40 YEARS -
By Maurice Gent -
maurice.gent@ omanobserver.om -
When the amounts of money being spent on creating a modernised transport system for Oman are announced, the figures are so large that it is difficult for the ordinary residents — be they Omanis or expatriates — to comprehend.
Vast allocations for education and for improving the nation's health facilities are understandable, but why is it necessary to spend amounts of money, which are difficult for the ordinary person to understand on modernising Oman's transport system?
This issue came into the news this week because it was announced to the Majlis Ash'shura that the Batinah Coastal Road would cost in all about RO 1.7 billion. That is a figure very diffcult for most of us to comprehend.
It is however a fact of competitive commercial life that the Sultanate will only achieve commercial prosperity if its transport system is better or at least as good, when compared with other states in the region.
Oman has a superb strategic location with its long coastline outside the waters of the inner Gulf, but it can only make the best use of its important advantage if the commercial ports, which are set to grow, Sohar, Salalah and Duqm are strategically connected to a regional network stretching right across the Gulf and beyond.
The Batinah Coastal Road is thus vital not only for the development of the Sohar Wilayat. It is a question of having links, which contribute to both a nationwide and Gulf wide chain of communication, linking both ports and major cities in a way, which ensures that Oman is a hub for regional trade, not just the link in a chain.
Money spent on transport development, so long as it is spent after careful and intelligent planning, is money well spent. A transport system designed to take us to 2020 and beyond is a priority and one which should be recognised by the whole nation now.
For this is an important moment in the evolution of Oman’s transport system. Crucial decisions must be taken on the structure of the planned network. Considerable time has rightly been taken on weighing the merits of electric or diesel system. It is neither a simple or easy decision to take.
What we can be sure of is that final decision on matters of principle will be well thought out. Oman must be able to say rightly in five years time that it has a modern fit for purpose transport system, of which the nation can be proud of.