Lani Rose R Dizon/ The Peninsula

The Women in Investment Management (WIM), a global initiative under the Chartered Financial Analyst Society (CFA) Doha, seeks to promote gender diversity in the financial sector by including the men, particularly decision makers such as company leaders and HR officials, in the discussion.

According to the latest edition of Women in Financial Services 2020 report by Oliver Wyman, the industry is finally making progress on gender diversity in the global workforce. But that progress, 20 percent representation of women on executive committees and 23 percent on boards, is not enough. There is still a long way to go to create a financial services industry in which women have equal access to opportunity and positive outcomes, the report added.

European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde, who is also the first female chief in the ECB’s history, in an interview with the French economics weekly Challenges on Friday, reiterated that there are still too few women in management worldwide, particularly in the economic and financial spheres, including central banks. She added that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, and went on to highlight that 19 of the eurozone central banks are all run by men; while only two women, including her, were on the ECB’s 25-member governing council.

“It’s quite difficult for women to advance to leadership roles. And that’s one of the reasons why we are trying to include the HR managers in the discussion. Personally, I don’t believe in quota system. I believe in merits, on deserving something and having equal rights. And it has been proven that implementing a quota system may promote people who really don’t add value. I think equality in everything is the solution. The right woman, the right person, is what really matters,” Andrada Bilaus, who works as a Wealth Adviser at HSBC, said during an interview with The Peninsula recently.

Yasmine Ismail, who works as a Senior Credit Analyst at Barwa Bank Group, added that many women also hesitate to take advantage of the available opportunities in the industry. “They do not even try. They think they would not get accepted, or they do not fit the position because they cannot compete with other men in the field. Others hesitate because of the high work-life demands. But through CFA, we empower women and encourage them. They have better opportunities, and they can do better. They only need to be confident,” said Yasmine.

She added that some organisations also have their own biases. “Some organisations think that women don’t fit in a certain position because of social or cultural barriers. For example, ‘we want someone who will meet with men at any place at any time and who will travel with them for business events’. And the issue of networking was one of the problems we discovered among women during our gatherings. Men usually network more than women. And we’re trying to help women solve their problems with networking by holding such events for them. Because networking actually helps a lot in finding jobs and greater opportunities,” Yasmine added.

True enough, the group has already helped a number of women gain confidence in overcoming their own challenges in the field. Dhabya Al Kaabi, the first Qatari woman CFA charter holder, said: “When I joined the Qatar Investment Authority, they encouraged us to take the certification. A lot of Qatari men have had it before, and now we see more Qatari women also taking up the CFA certification. I have been with WIM for one year now, and the networking events have really helped me. Actually, I used to have problems about presentations. I feel shy when talking to a new group of people. But through WIM initiatives, I developed my confidence and presentation skills.

“We also meet women who have already reached high positions sharing with us how they achieved their goals and overcame the challenges along the way. And I noticed that women who have reached high positions actually like what they do. They give their best, and when they give their best they can achieve whatever they set their sights on. This inspires me to improve myself and grow professionally,” she added.

Soumya Sasidharan, who is in charge of financial reporting at Hill International, was inspired by her father who worked as a banker to take up a career in finance. She added: “Maintaining work life balance is a bit difficult in the financial sector especially because you have a lot of deadlines to meet. I make sure that I utilise my time at work efficiently and effectively so that the work gets done on time. My current and previous employers also give me the flexibility where I can also work from home. I want to progress further in the finance sector as well as specialise in financial reporting. And meeting women business leaders have been an inspiration for us. We learn how to deal with challenges from their stories”.

The CFA certification is considered to be the most prestigious professional certification in investment management. To date, there are only about 150,000 CFA holders worldwide. Mohamed Fahim, Board Member at CFA Society Doha and WIM sponsor, said: “One of the initiatives at WIM is to boost women participation in the marketplace. Studies have proven that if you have gender diversity in the workplace, you get a probability of 21 percent increase in company performance. We want to do whatever it takes, be it social or educational events, to connect women together and see what the ladies need in the market”.

Fahim added that the group continues to invite prominent women leaders in Qatar who share their insights and stories to continually inspire women to grow further in their careers.

The global rating agency Moody’s has affirmed QIIB ‘s rating at ‘A2’ with a stable outlook, QIIB announced yesterday. Moody’s affirmation of the QIIBrating confirms the strength of the bank’s financial position and its ability to meet different market challenges, QIIB said. In its affirmation of the bank’s rating, Moody’s indicated that it was based on a number of factors, the most important of which is that QIIB is one of the leading Islamic banking institutions in the State of Qatar, especially in the retail sector.

The credit rating agency stated that the bank has significant credit strengths based on its resilient funding profile backed by a strong concession based on a large share of the local retail market and that there is a very high probability of receiving government support in case of need.

On Moody’s affirmation of QIIB rating, Sheikh Dr. Khalid bin Thani bin Abdullah Al Thani, the QIIB Chairman, and Managing Director, stated, “This rating, at a remarkable degree, is part of Moody’s assertion of the strength of the Qatari economy and confidence in its ability to face various challenges – both domestic and foreign.”

“Certainly, we are happy with our ability to continue our outstanding performance and achieve good results that were clearly reflected in the various indicators that we disclosed in the last period, and we found resonating on Moody’s rating, which was based on real strengths enjoyed by QIIB for a long time”, Sheikh Dr. Khalid said.

QIIB is moving forward in promoting its financial positions and strengthening its cooperation with different business sectors locally through financing various projects that provide added value to the national economy as well internationally through partnerships with low risks and good return.

“The local banking sector, with its high solvency and prudent policies, according to which it is managed, is capable of achieving more progress, more gains to overcome any unexpected and sudden challenges, as it has proven that it has the flexibility and efficiency that qualifies it to continue to lead locally and internationally,” Sheikh Dr. Khalid added.

Dr. Abdulbasit Ahmad Al Shaibei, the QIIB CEO, said that “QIIB has always relied on its strategy, focusing on the local market as we confidence that the opportunities and benefits provided by the Qatari economy are the best in the region, as well as our desire to be part of our country’s success story. This strategy paid off at all levels, so today we are proud for two reasons; first, its affirmed our strong financial position and the second is that we are part of the success of our wider national economy ”

“Our rating by the respected global credit rating agencies at high levels qualifies us to be able to adapt the challenges of the markets, and to find ways to correspond with the various global outlooks that qualify the Qatari economy to achieve the desired balance during the coming period, despite the ongoing volatility in the global markets.”

The CEO noted that “QIIB maintains a remarkable operational efficiency, focusing on the local market in its business strategy, as well implements interim and strategic plans in accordance with the best standards, deals realistically with all challenges”

“The bank also deals realistically with all the challenges and is able to turn these challenges into opportunities to rethink all the options that allow it to succeed in enhancing the performance and maintaining positive financial indicators that serve customers and benefit shareholders”, the CEO said.

Dr. Al Shaibei pointed out that the Qatari economy, which succeeded over the blockade and left it behind, the government’s policies have turned into rich opportunities, positively reflected on the various economic sectors, particularly the banking sector.

“This economy is able to provide solutions in various fields, foremost of which is that banks, in turn, are required to raise their performance to match that of Qatar’s dynamic and prosperous economy.”

QIIB was established in 1990 as the second Islamic bank in the State of Qatar and is currently the third-largest Islamic bank listed on the Qatar Exchange (QE) in terms of assets and market value. Effectively, the bank initiated its operations in 1991.

QIIB provides integrated banking services to clients through a network of branches spanning across the country. Moreover, the bank was able to establish an advanced digital infrastructure and e- channels services that have elevated its banking services to a whole new level. Also, QIIB has extensive regional and international partnerships.

Doha: Qatar Steel has become the first company in the Middle East and one of the four companies in the world to achieve “1 Rosette” rating for its good performance compared with other 22 certified companies complying only basic requirements of “PASS” rating, to be approved by the authority of UK CARES under sustainable construction steel certification scheme, for the production of continuous cast steel billets and hot rolled steel bar for the reinforcement of concrete.

Applauding the entire team of Qatar Steel, Mohammed bin Nasser Al Hajri (pictured), MD & CEO of Qatar Steel, said: “Commitment to quality is embedded in our routine business operations. It demonstrates both leadership and commitment and reflects Qatar Steel’s highest quality of operational excellence”. Al Hajri also thanked the team members for their dedication in consistently achieving the company’s level of quality and raising Qatar Steel’s reputation internationally.

Launched in 2009, CARES Certification Scheme for Sustainable Constructional Steel ensures confidence in the constructional steel performance across all the aspects of sustainability, economic, social and environmental. This certification is one step towards improving upon the sustainability performance of reinforcement bars with a systematic approach to management systems.

Reinforcing steel is a significant part of any major construction project. The supply chain for reinforcing steel, its production, distribution, processing and delivery to a construction site, is a complex process. At each stage in the supply chain, steel is transferred from one company to another. This global purchasing and local use requires effective management of the supply chain if construction projects are to be delivered on time and within budget.

The UK CARES approach to product certification is unique and provides a positive link to take actions to mitigate the climate change impacts. Such impacts are connected with the level of greenhouse gas emissions and are commonly referred to as the business carbon footprint. Qatar Steel has effectively implemented the Sustainable Constructional Steel (SCS) scheme principles in response to this demand by following the management of sustainability aspects and responsible sourcing.

By Satish Kanady I The Peninsula

Doha: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has appreciated Qatar’s timely response to the COVID-19 pandemic by announcing a massive stimulus package to infuse confidence in local economy.

The Fund, in its official blog, noted that Qatar is one of the countries in the region that has already introduced targeted measures to combat the social and economic impact of COVID-19.

The IMF said that the impact of COVID-19 and the oil price plunge in the Middle East and the Caucasus and Central Asia has been substantial and could intensify. With three-quarters of the countries reporting at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 and some facing a major outbreak, the coronavirus pandemic has become the largest near-term challenge to the region.

Beyond the devastating toll on human health, the pandemic is causing significant economic turmoil in the region through simultaneous shocks—a drop in domestic and external demand, a reduction in trade, disruption of production, a fall in consumer confidence, and tightening of financial conditions. The region’s oil exporters face the additional shock of plummeting oil prices.

Travel restrictions following the public health crisis have reduced the global demand for oil, and the absence of a new production agreement among Opec+ members has led to a glut in oil supply. As a result, oil prices have fallen by over 50 percent since the start of the public health crisis. The intertwined shocks are expected to deal a severe blow to economic activity in the region, at least in the first half of this year, with potentially lasting consequences.

Commenting on the Channels of economic impact, the Fund production and manufacturing are being disrupted and investment plans put on hold. These adverse shocks are compounded by a plunge in business and consumer confidence, as we have observed in economies around the world.

In addition to the economic disruptions from COVID-19, the region’s oil exporters are affected by lower commodity prices. Lower export receipts will weaken external positions and reduce revenue, putting pressures on government budgets and spilling over to the rest of the economy. Oil importers, on the other hand, will likely be affected by second-round effects, including lower remittance inflows and weaker demand for goods and services from the rest of the region.

Sharp spikes in global risk aversion and the flight of capital to safe assets have led to a decline in portfolio flows to the region by near $2bn since mid-February, with sizable outflows observed in recent weeks. Equity prices have fallen, and bond spreads have risen. Such a tightening in financial conditions could prove to be a major challenge, given the region’s estimated $35bn in maturing external sovereign debt in 2020. Against this challenging backdrop, the region is likely to see a big drop in growth this year.

The immediate policy priority for the region is to protect the population from the coronavirus. Efforts should focus on mitigation and containment measures to protect public health. Governments should spare no expense to ensure that health systems and social safety nets are adequately prepared to meet the needs of their populations.

Beyond that overarching imperative, economic policy responses should be directed at preventing the pandemic—a temporary health crisis—from developing into a protracted economic recession with lasting welfare losses to the society through increased unemployment and bankruptcies.

Temporary fiscal support should consist of measures that provide well-targeted support to affected households and businesses. This support should aim to help workers and firms weather the significant, but hopefully temporary, stop in economic activity that the health measures being implemented to control the spread of the coronavirus will entail.

This support will have to take account of the fiscal space that is available, and where policy space is limited be accommodated by reprioritizing revenue and spending objectives within existing fiscal envelopes.

Where liquidity shortages are a major concern, central banks should stand ready to provide ample liquidity to banks, particularly those lending to small and medium-sized enterprises, while regulators could support prudent restructuring of distressed loans without compromising loan classification and provisioning rules.

“Many countries are already introducing targeted measures. For example, several countries—Kazakhstan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, to name a few—have announced large financial packages to support the private sector.

These packages include targeted measures to defer taxes and government fees, defer loan payments, and increase concessional financing for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Doha: The Ordinary General Assembly Meeting of Masraf AI Rayan has approved the entire 12-point agenda of the meeting, including the Board’s recommendation to distribute a dividend of 22.5 percent and election of a new Board for the period 2020-2022.

The shareholders gave the nod to the report submitted by the Board of Directors on the activities of Masraf AI Rayan, its financial position for the fiscal year ended on 31st December 2019, and the future plans of the Bank for the year 2020.

The Ordinary General Assembly gave approval of the Board of Director’s recommendations concerning the appointment of the Shari’a Supervisory Board of Masraf Al Rayan for the coming 3 years 2020- 2022 and delegated the power to the Board of Directors to add a new Member / Members or to fill any vacancy in the Shari’ a Supervisory Board and to specify their remunerations and any other issues related to the Shari’a Supervisory Board during the period mentioned.

The Assembly discussed and approved absolving the Chairman and Members of the Board of Directors from all responsibilities for the fiscal year ended on 31st December 2019, specifiying their remuneration for the year ended on 31st December 2019. The General Assembly also approved the new guide of rules for the compensation and the remuneration of the Board of Directors.

The Ordinary General Assembly approved to appoint “Deloitte & Touche” to audit Masraf AI Rayan and its Subsidiaries (excluding AI Rayan-UK) for fiscal year ending on 31st December 2020.

The Assembly elected 7 members to be Board Members occupying 7 seats of the Board of Directors for the next 3 years term (from 2020 to 2022), which includes 4 seats for Non-Independent Members and 3 seats for Independent Members.

Doha: The General Tax Authority (GTA) has announced extending the period for tax returns by two months. The new deadline date to file returns will be 30 June, 2020.

This decision comes in line with the directives of the Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to provide the necessary services to citizens and residents, foremost of which is to provide safety and protection from COVID-19 and to ensure the continuation of their healthy life.

GTA Management said, “At GTA, we work closely with the government offices to monitor the current situation. We recognise the challenging times we are encountering, especially in matters of finance. As part of our social responsibility, we are committed to showcasing our assurances to all our investors and partners to tackle the financial consequences.

We value our relationship with our taxpayers and our partners alike, and we are confident that our united efforts with the State of Qatar will help all of us not only to prevent further outbreaks but will exhilarate our economy ahead of time.”

GTA supports Qatar’s COVID-19 resilience and hence extending all the tax filing deadlines to 30 June provides support to businesses during these challenging times.

With continued improvements in energy-saving technologies, adoption of renewable sources of energy, and a stronger policy response to climate change, the energy-exporting countries in the region may need to be ready for a post-oil future sooner rather than later, alerted IMF. The urgency of continued reforms is greater in the GCC countries with more vulnerable financial positions, the Fund noted in its latest policy document on the region.

The report “Future of oil and fiscal sustainability in the GCC region” said the countries with larger financial savings like Qatar, Kuwait and UAE are rather less vulnerable to possible future fiscal challenges vs that of peer economies.

The ongoing reform efforts in the region will provide momentum over the next five years, but they need to be accelerated. The IMF document noted that faster economic diversification will not resolve the fiscal challenge on its own. Countries will need to increase their non-oil fiscal revenue.

The fiscal revenue GCC governments generate from the hydrocarbon industry (about 80 cents from a dollar of hydrocarbon GDP) is much higher than what is generated from nonhydrocarbon industries (about 10 cents from a dollar vs. 14½ cents globally). Thus, even full replacement of the hydrocarbon industry with non-oil activity would still create a significant revenue shortfall.

While this has begun to change with the recent introduction of VAT and excises in some countries, there is significant potential to build on this progress. As the region transitions toward a nonhydrocarbon economy, moving from wide-ranging fees toward fewer broad-based taxes, for example, could provide much-needed revenue diversification while also reducing distortions and facilitating SME development.

Governments will likely need to downsize further. Wider reforms, spending restraint and optimization toward areas with highest economic impact will be critical.

Additional non-oil revenue could help alleviate future fiscal pressures, but this alone will not be sufficient. Replacing the declining oil revenue in the long term would require eventually raising the effective tax rate on non-oil GDP to a prohibitively high level of 50 percent in the long term (assuming continued non-oil GDP growth of 3 percent)—on par with the top five most heavily taxed economies in the world. This may not be feasible and could be too disruptive to growth.

The IMF document noted that progress has already been achieved in some areas, such as reduction of energy and water subsidies in several countries. But there remains significant scope for rationalizing other categories of spending, including reforming the region’s large civil service and reducing public wage bills which are high by international standards. Besides strengthening public finances, these reforms would also reduce labor market distortions and facilitate private sector development.

IMF recommend that the countries should re-evaluate their approach to saving. In the past, a significant portion of oil proceeds were used for public investment which created nonfinancial wealth and supported rapid economic development. But the impact on nonhydrocarbon growth has been typically short-lived and, as the economies have developed, growth multipliers from these investments have begun to decline. Therefore, from the optimal portfolio allocation and wealth preservation perspectives, financial saving will be more important going forward. Meanwhile, emphasis could be made on sustained structural reforms to generate lasting non-oil growth momentum.

Commodities with the exception of metals struggled to get excited about the phase 1 US China trade deal. Questions regarding China’s ability to buy the stipulated quantities of agriculture products added some downside pressure to grains. The energy sector was weighed down by ample supply as geopolitical risks continued to fade.

19 January 2020: While global stocks, led by the US technology sector, continued their ascent, the first two weeks of trading have been more challenging for several commodities. While metals, both industrial and precious, have recorded early January gains both energy and agriculture have struggled. Following a strong December, the Bloomberg Commodity Index which tracks the performance of 22 major commodities has now recorded two straight weeks of losses and is currently down by 1.6 percent so far this January.

During the past two weeks, the market has reacted to major events such as the temporary flare up in Middle East tensions and the signing of the US-China trade deal. The US killing of a top Iranian general created a short-term worry and Brent crude oil spiked above $70/b before returning to the mid-60’s as tensions eased. Gold meanwhile surged past $1600/oz before quickly returning to the current level around $1550/oz. Both a reminder that a real disruption and with that a real threat to peace is needed for gains in both to be sustained.

This past week however, it was the signing of the phase 1 trade deal between the US and China that attracted most of the attention. The very lukewarm response across commodities, that stands to benefit from the expected and dramatic pick up in Chinese buying, spoke volumes about the unease in the market about whether this deal is workable or not. In order for the Chinese to buy more US produced oil, gas, soybeans and other commodities, other suppliers will have to suffer.

This comment in the China Daily highlighted the risk and also the reason why the market has responded with a lot of caution. In an article entitled “US faces pressure to increase exports” they wrote: “Most (Chinese) import companies are private, and many are foreign-funded. The Chinese government cannot give orders to these companies. In addition, consumers will not buy products out of political considerations. The US is clear about all of these facts.”. In addition, Reuters reported Vice Premier Liu He saying that China’s other suppliers of agricultural commodities will not be impacted since the buying will be based on market principles.

These comments only leave one route for US producers. They have to be price competitive, something that poses a challenge. An example being soybeans with rising production in Brazil – China buys 80 percent of Brazil’s soybean export – and a BRL near a record low making Brazilian beans more competitive. The front month soybeans futures contract in Chicago reached an 18-month high on December 31 but has since fallen back with selling accelerating following the signing of the deal.

DOHA: Qatar National Bank is putting Southeast Asia as the focus of its expansion, the chief executive officer of the Middle East’s biggest lender said.

“Our focus really was the Middle East and then we expanded to Southeast Asia where we’re now focusing,” Abdulla Mubarak Al Khalifa said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “If we find the right opportunity for acquisition, we will consider it,” he said, adding there are no deals currently under review.

Lower oil prices are forcing Gulf lenders to consolidate and look for business outside their home markets. QNB has been expanding with the purchase of National Bank of Greece SA’s Turkish unit and Societe Generale SA’s Egypt subsidiary.

Expanding abroad is part of how the bank will continue growing despite the small scale of Qatar’s local market, Al-Khalifa said. “We know that Qatar, at one point in time, will not be itself sufficient to satisfy our expansion growth, or the growth potential that we have.”

Gas-rich Qatar is home to about 2.8 million people and QNB has roughly half the market share. The lender reported record profit in 2019, helped by higher interest income.

Al-Khalifa was promoted to QNB’s top job in December after 13 months as acting CEO and more than two decades working for the lender. The shares have gained 1.7 peercent this year after posting a 5.6 percent advance in 2019.

Al-Khalifa also said: The reduction in real estate value in Qatar is a “very healthy” correction; the bank has changed the way it finances real estate investments to consider a period of 12-15 years instead of 6-8 years. The CEO sees the bank continuing to build credit growth in the private sector, particularly services, trading and contracting; also expects the bank to help finance new liquefied natural gas facilities. He is encouraging consolidation among competitors and would like them to be bigger.

The economic growth in the Middle East and Central Asia region is expected at 2.8 percent in 2020 (0.1 percentage point lower than in the October WEO), firming up to 3.2 percent in 2021, an updated World Economic Outlook projection released by the IMF, ahead of the opening of World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, has noted.

The downgrade for 2020 mostly reflects a downward revision to Saudi Arabia’s projection on expected weaker oil output growth following the Opec+ decision in December to extend supply cuts. Prospects for several economies remain subdued owing to rising geopolitical tensions (Iran), social unrest (including in Iraq and Lebanon), and civil strife (Libya, Syria, Yemen).

In sub-Saharan Africa, growth is expected to strengthen to 3.5 percent in 2020–21 (from 3.3 percent in 2019). The projection is 0.1 percentage point lower than in the October WEO for 2020 and 0.2 percentage point weaker for 2021. This reflects downward revisions for South Africa (where structural constraints and deteriorating public finances are holding back business confidence and private investment) and for Ethiopia (where public sector consolidation, needed to contain debt vulnerabilities, is expected to weigh on growth).

Global growth, estimated at 2.9 percent in 2019, is projected to increase to 3.3 percent in 2020 and inch up further to 3.4 percent in 2021. Compared to the October WEO forecast, the estimate for 2019 and the projection for 2020 represent 0.1 percentage point reductions for each year while that for 2021 is 0.2 percentage point lower. A more subdued growth forecast for India accounts for the lion’s share of the downward revisions. The global growth trajectory reflects a sharp decline followed by a return closer to historical norms for a group of underperforming and stressed emerging market and developing economies (including Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia, and Turkey).

The growth profile also relies on relatively healthy emerging market economies maintaining their robust performance even as advanced economies and China continue to slow gradually toward their potential growth rates. The effects of substantial monetary easing across advanced and emerging market economies in 2019 are expected to continue working their way through the global economy in 2020. The global growth estimate for 2019 and projection for 2020 would have been 0.5 percentage point lower in each year without this monetary stimulus.

The global recovery is projected to be accompanied by a pickup in trade growth (albeit more modest than forecast in October), reflecting a recovery in domestic demand and investment in particular, as well as the fading of some temporary drags in the auto and tech sectors. These outcomes depend to an important extent on avoiding further escalation in the US-China trade tensions (and, more broadly, on preventing a further worsening of US-China economic relations, including around tech supply chains), averting a no-deal Brexit, and the economic ramifications of social unrest and geopolitical tensions remaining contained.