SEF London – Puntland recently elected Dr Abdiweli Ali Gaas to become the fourth president of Puntland since its inception in 1998. Puntland is located in the North East of Somalia and is considered far more stable than other parts of Somalia. Puntland’s capital is Garowe but its commercial capital is Bosaso and its accompanying port. In recent years; Puntland’s security forces have succeeded in vigorously combating piracy. Puntland possesses a relatively mature political structure which has been developed for the past 16 years and a robust, rapidly growing economy. Observers of Somalia’s political structure have praised Puntland as it was a key stakeholder and supporter of Somalia’s transition to federalism through the landmark Garowe Principles signed in early 2012.
President Abdiweli Gaas, an alumni from Harvard boasts an impressive CV and is a former Professor of Economics in the US. He also has the distinction of being a previous Prime Minister in the TFG government of Somalia (June 2011 – October 2012) and is credited with laying the foundations for Somalia’s transition to federalism, a new constitution and Somalia’s re-engagement with the international community which began under his tenure. Dr Abdiweli Gaas comes to power at a critical juncture in Puntland and Somalia’s political history as a ratification of Somalia’s constitution and a consensus on federalism is currently being negotiated between both sides. Observers have argued that President Abdiweli Gaas presents an assured and highly skilled partner for the Federal Government of Somalia to work with. Following his inauguration President Abdiweli Gaas wasted no time in appointing a highly qualified and technocratic government and in his maiden speech; he touched on how Puntland is “open for business.”
During his inauguration speech; President Abdiweli Gaas touched on his long term vision for Puntland and considering his economist background it was no surprise to see that he focused on Puntland’s economic potential. He touched on how the principal aim is for Puntland to be self-sufficient through its natural resources, which observers have long claimed Puntland possesses in abundance. Indeed, Puntland was the first region in Somalia to begin oil exploration and through its collaboration with Range Resources, oil production is expected to begin later this year. Puntland’s successive governments have recorded statistics to ensure a greater overview of the regions’ economy and this includes the collection of Puntland’s GDP, GNP, Consumer Price Indicies statistics aswell as up to date Census figures. These critical statistics and economic indicators are then outlined in the 5 year Puntland National Development Plan (PNDP). These economic statistics are compiled by Puntland State University (PSU) in conjunction with the UNDP and as Professor of Economics; Mohamed Samatar of PSU stated; “it has eased economic policy making and made it more efficient for successive governments”.
In addition, President Abdiweli Gaas in great depth outlined the importance of enticing Foreign Direct Investment and protecting the interests of foreign firms through the constitution and enshrined through legislative means. He also touched on the necessity of developing Puntland’s infrastructure and in particular ports as Puntland has a long coast. Bosaso port is seen as the economic engine of Puntland and amongst economists it is considered more competitive and less bureaucratic than both Mogadishu and Berbera ports, yet, it requires FDI to keep pace with both ports. This investment sought for Puntland’s infrastructure has proved fruitful in recent years, a prominent example being Kuwait’s planned $10 million expansion of Bosaso International Airport.
Dr Abdiweli Gaas proclaimed Puntland “open for business” and there’s no doubt that this is the case as investors have recently shown an interest in investing in Puntland’s burgeoning economy.