The unprecedented incidents like COVID-19 pandemic and a big drop in energy prices will serve as a catalyst in accelerating the pace of industrial diversification in the pursuit of achieving long-term sustainable economic reform in the GCC region, including Qatar, noted a report by a leading advisory firm, yesterday.
With the strong drive for industrial diversification, the region is likely to see a sharp jump of 150 percent in the total land development area under SEZs capturing its full potential.
Given the strategic geographical location and other competitive advantages enjoyed by the GCC countries, the development of SEZs in the region is long overdue.
Currently, the GCC countries are having an estimated 40,000 hectares (ha) of land ready to be developed across major SEZs over the next years. Considering the total assigned areas for existing and planned SEZs in the GCC, this number can easily surpass the 100,000ha mark by 2040 – a size larger than the Kingdom of Bahrain, noted the report on ‘Rebirth of Special Economic Zones in the GCC’ by PwC, which was shared on Twitter yesterday.
Notably, Qatar is developing several industrial zones, logistics parks, and warehousing complexes, in addition to two free zones, offering investors a range of client services, unparalleled interconnectivity, access global markets, high-quality infrastructure, an easy set-up process, and much more.
The energy-rich economy is investing billions of dollars to diversify its economy to allay its dependence on energy revenues. It has successfully roped big companies including global tech and IT giants such as Microsoft and IBM among others as part of its long-term strategy to become a knowledge-based society. “…Qatar, through its National Vision 2030, is aiming for a more diversified economy by expanding industries and services and investing in world-class infrastructure,”, said the report.
Highlighting the evolution and significance of SEZs, the report said that the industrial development models in their modern format have been around since the 1950s. However, their proliferation was mainly at the turn of the century with the push for globalization post the cold war era which witnessed significant growth in their numbers across the world.
“In 1997, there were 845 zones globally in 93 markets, which ballooned to 5,400 zones in 147 markets in 2018,” noted the report. Such industrial zones have been present in the GCC region since the 1990s with mixed success. They are now, however, getting renewed mandates and, in many cases, undergoing complete revamps of their positioning and value propositions. Although Qatar’s first industrial city (Mesaieed Industrial City, or MIC) was established way back in 1974, it is now witnessing a big expansion under Mesaieed Industrial Zone (MIZ), a hub for petrochemical, chemical fertilizer, oil refining, metallurgical, workshops and primary building material. Developed in an area spanning over 12 million square meters, it is strategically located adjacent to Hamad Port and Um Alhoul Free Zone. The MIZ is in addition to two other big industrials zones—Al Khor and Al Karaana— under development. “GCC economies are undergoing fundamental transformations in order to reduce their historical reliance on revenues from fossil fuels, build their non-oil GDP and create employment opportunities for their young, educated, and growing populations,” added the report.