The OPEC Fund for International Development has signed a strategic partnership with Oman to drive development in line with the country’s ambitions to become a major regional logistics hub.

The first joint project, the Alsharqiya Expressway Tunnels Project, is already underway to improve connectivity between the north and eastern regions of the country, the OPEC Fund said in a statement.

The $130 million project is co-financed by an OPEC Fund public sector loan and the Omani government.

The fund said that the project aligns with the Sultanate’s plans to strengthen the transportation sector to reinforce its credentials as a regional logistics hub.

“The Alsharqiya Expressway Tunnels Project is one of a series of investments with this goal in mind, and the OPEC Fund stands ready to provide further support,” the statement added.

As part of the project, two ‘twin-tube’ tunnels have been constructed with a combined length of four kilometres. The tunnels safely bypass a critical floodplain, a major town and an area prone to landslides. The ultimate objective is to provide better access to jobs, markets and public services.

OPEC Fund Director-General Dr Abdulhamid Alkhalifa said: “We are delighted to launch a major development partnership with Oman. It is befitting to mark the beginning of our cooperation with such a landmark project that includes the first-ever tunnels in the country and provides safer travel for over one million people.”

Established in 1976 by the then 13 member countries of OPEC; including the UAE, the Fund is the development finance institution established as a channel of aid to developing countries.

“We look forward to building our partnership and working on many more development projects together,” noted Alkhalifa.

The project aligns with a number of sustainable development goals including SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure, and SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth. In addition, agriculture and tourism, two key sources of income-generation in the region, will be strengthened, he added.