Muscat: A cooperation agreement was signed by the Al Raffd Fund and Sandan Development Company to provide financial support to 20 small and medium enterprises, which are creating their businesses within the Sandan Light Industries Park. The 20 SMEs will receive soft loans with special terms and conditions, and the projects include automobile showrooms for used cars, workshops and warehouses. “The SME sector plays an important role in developing various sectors and creating jobs for Omani youth,” said Tarek Al Farsi, chief executive officer of Al Raffd Fund. He added that the Sandan project is a first-of-its-kind in the Sultanate to support development of small and medium enterprises. Both the Sandan and Al Raffd Fund have a common vision in supporting and encouraging small and medium enterprises, said Eng. Saeed bin Nasser Al Rashdi, chief executive officer of Sandan Development Company. Al Farsi noted that his fund would extend financial support to more planned businesses at Sandan premises during the second phase of development. “This confirms that we are moving in the right direction, and this requires more effort in the next phase, in close cooperation between various parties,” added Eng. Al Rashdi. “We recognise that small and medium enterprises have an important and strategic position in the national economy.” Small and medium enterprises, which play an important role in the development of the nation’s economy, helps in achieving economic diversification. Further, these projects provide thousands of jobs for Omanis. The SME sector constitutes 90 per cent of all economic activity and 60 per cent of the workforce across the world. The Al Raffd Fund aims at developing entrepreneurship among youths, strengthen diversification and create job opportunities for local youths. The fund targets those who aspire to start their own businesses, including job seekers, rural women, artisans and professionals. The Al Raffd Fund provides soft loans at an interest rate not exceeding 2 per cent, along with offering training programmes on accounting and administration. The agreement was signed by Al Farsi from the Al Raffd Fund and Al Rashdi from Sandan Development Company, and the event was attended by several entrepreneurs and journalists. Eng. Al Rashdi said that the light industries park, which is a unique project in Oman that is being built at Mabela, will be ready by the third quarter of 2018. The integrated light industries park houses purpose-built vehicle showrooms, workshops, offices, building material outlets and accommodations for workers, all on par with international standards. With three front line entry and ten exits, the project is ideally located for customers coming from Muscat or Batinah, and ensures the smooth flow of traffic. Sandan Light Industries Park opens a window of promising investments and development through the small and medium enterprise sector for dynamic young entrepreneurs to build a wide range of projects. The park has an area of 250,000 square meters and will accommodate 2,400 vehicle showrooms for used cars, workshops and building material showrooms. It will also provide 4,500 offices and 1,800 residential units. The automobile-related businesses include used car showrooms, spare parts units, garages, auto electricians and tyre vendors. and accessory units, while construction-related businesses include sanitary ware shops, ceramic tile shops, and carpentry and aluminium workshops. The industrial park will have the largest number of used car showrooms in a single location in Oman. There will be some 56 used car showrooms, which will be able to sell 1,100 cars at the same time. Further, there will be other facilities such as banks, money exchanges and restaurants. When the project is completed, the park will accommodate 10,000 people, with services ensuring a comfortable living environment with a mosque, hypermarket, hospital, shopping centers, banks, travel offices, restaurants and other amenities.