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SEWA BOT project paves way for more Public Private Partnerships

Last month Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) awarded its first Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract for the development of a seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant in Sharjah’s east coast region of Kalba. The deal follows much research and debate regarding the future role of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the emirate and SEWA hopes that the project will pave the way for other government entities to embrace PPPs.

Awarded to UAE-based Alpha Utilities, the BOT project will develop a new desalination plant in Kalba with a capacity of 2.2 MIGD (million imperial gallons per day). The new plant will support new tourism infrastructure and hospitality projects in the town area, such as the 11,204 square metre Kalba Waterfront Mall, which is being developed by Sharjah-based Omran Properties at a cost of AED 106 million (US$ 28.9m).

Bee’ah, Sharjah’s award-winning integrated environmental and waste management company, announced plans in 2015 for a BOT tender to develop a 20 megawatt solar power plant at its main Waste Management Centre in Al Saj’ah area of Sharjah. The company has identified the solar plant as strategic to the company’s Energy division’s growth into the renewable energy sector and is in the process of qualifying potential partners for the project.

Sharjah’s focus on public-private partnerships is consistent with renewed interest in PPPs in the region, due to lower oil prices. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recommended that the UAE consider PPPs as a way to help drive investment in infrastructure and sustainable development in 2015. Subsequently, the UAE Cabinet issued resolution (1/1) on the procedures for partnership between federal entities and private sector in 2017 and issued a manual to guide federal entities in developing PPPs.

Sharjah has intensified efforts to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) and new industries to help drive economic growth, allocating 41 percent of 2017’s budget to economic development activities. In addition to a wide range of new initiatives to encourage entrepreneurs and foreign investors – such as the creation of Sharjah Media City, Sharjah Publishing City and AUS Research, Technology and Innovation (RTI) Park – Sharjah Investment & Development Authority (Shurooq) last year launched a new ‘Invest in Sharjah’ brand.

Meanwhile, SEWA is currently considering a variety of future electricity and water projects that could harness PPP models.

Source: SEWA, Bee’ah, Shurooq

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