Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) serves as a beacon of investments and an enabler of economic growth in Qatar, noted a top official of QFC.

With its unique characteristics, its seeks to enhance Qatar’s position as an attractive and rewarding destination for companies looking to expand their operations in the Middle East.

QFC’s role in not limited to contributing to the diversification of the Qatari economy through the hundreds of companies operating under it; it also contributes toward achieving Qatar National Vision 2030 and transforming the Qatari economy into a knowledge-based economy.

QFC is the home of approximately 670 companies that operate across different sectors including financial services, media, technology, sports, consultancies, and many others. These companies range from corporate banks, and holding companies, to professional service companies and special purpose companies. The total assets under the management of the businesses registered on the QFC platform have exceeded $20bn. Companies registered on QFCs platform come from around the world including Qatar, the US, the UK, India, France, Switzerland, China and many others.

QFC aims to inject even more investments and foreign capital into the Qatari economy, according to H E Sheikha Alanoud bint Hamad Al Thani, Managing Director of Business Development at QFC.

Sheikha Alanoud said, in exclusive statements to QNA: “We recently announced a new strategy which includes a renewed focus on specific service industries including digital, media, sports, and financial services.

Additionally, our new strategy also focuses on further developing partnerships as part of a New Emerging Belt Initiative (NEBI), an economic corridor that focuses on building strategic alliances with markets such as Kuwait, Oman, Turkey, Pakistan and India.”

She added that these new emerging markets have been identified because they possess a large potential for future growth, especially considering that their combined GDP is estimated to be approximately $2.1 trillion, with total global FDI from these markets exceeding $150bn.

QFC has already taken significant steps to activate their new strategy. The Center signed numerous partnerships with key stakeholders in each of its new focus clusters.

The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), one of the world’s leading and fastest growing onshore business and financial centres, hosted a panel discussion entitled ‘Qatar-UK Fintech roundtable’ in partnership with Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and Refinitiv, in London recently.

Strong participation of senior executives was secured from key fintech organisations and high-level decision makers such as QFC, QDB and QCB, among others, discussing how the two countries can work together to fully leverage fintech to its maximum potential in Qatar.

During the discussion, Henk J Hoogendoorn, Managing Director of Financial Sector Office at QFC, noted that the growth of Qatar’s fintech market presents abundant opportunities for key partnerships between the UK and Qatar to fully develop these areas.

The QFC recently unveiled its multi-pronged strategy, focusing on new clusters such as media, digital, sports and financial services as part of furthering its contribution to Qatar’s economic diversification efforts.

Furthermore, the QFC is home to several fintech firms, including Goals101 Data Solutions, India’s leading fintech and Big Data Technology platform.

Ibrahim Mohammed Hassan, Executive Director of Investments at QDB, shared details on Qatar’s Fintech Strategy in a presentation which further highlighted the measures taken by QDB to promote the development and adoption of fintech.

Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al Khalifa, Chief Executive Officer at QDB, said: “The Qatar-UK Fintech roundtable is part of our efforts to contribute to building a vibrant fintech and digital banking ecosystem in Qatar, marking another step in a new era of growth for Qatari companies which will enormously help in achieving Qatar National Vision 2030. Always staying at the forefront, QDB is taking tremendous efforts to offer the much needed push to Qatar’s financial landscape, aptly backed by technology.”

Hoogendoorn added: “The Qatar-UK roundtable provided a valuable forum to explore the role that established players in the financial services industry must assume in the future growth of fintech. Both Qatar and the UK are of course vital markets for this fast-growing industry and it therefore makes sense that the two countries cooperate and provide the necessary leadership to leverage fintech to achieve its full potential.”

Ahmed Hafez, Head of Refinitiv Qatar, stressed that there are tremendous opportunities for Islamic fintech and Islamic banking institutions taking up Islamic fintech to reach out and improve the attractiveness of their products. The Islamic banking and finance industry currently reaches approximately 100m customers worldwide while the potential market is six times that. This gap can also be tapped through fintech. Qatar, through QFC, is well positioned to make use of these opportunities developing the country into a regional fintech hub.

He added that fintech can enable Islamic finance to attract more customers, increase efficiency, reduce costs and offer a wider range of products, helping the sector become more competitive against conventional finance as discussed during the roundtable.

Islamic finance has taken great strides this century, with Sharia-compliant financial assets forecast to total $3.8 trillion by 2022 up from $2.2 trillion in 2016, with around 1,400 Islamic financial institutions now operating across 80 countries, according to a Refinitiv report.

Abdul Haseeb Basit, Co-Founder and Principal at Elipses, said: “The bilateral relationship between the UK and Qatar is important for the Islamic finance and wider financial services sector. We are delighted to support Qatar through showcasing the Qatar FinTech Strategy and building the links to allow fintech firms, including Islamic fintech firms to access both markets.”

The most recent Qatar Financial Centre’s (QFC) Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey of Qatari non-hydrocarbon private sector businesses highlighted a further rise in the volume of new business at the beginning of 2019’s second quarter.

Meanwhile, overall sentiment regarding future output was the third-strongest since the survey began in April 2017, with more than three-quarters of respondents expecting growth at their business units over the next 12 months. As a consequence, while the level of the headline PMI figure ebbed slightly from March’s reading, sustained growth in such new work orders supported firms’ robust expectations for future total business activity.

The headline PMI for Qatar eased slightly to 48.9 in April, from 50.1 in March. Although the most recent reading continues to register above its average over the final quarter of 2018 (48.6), it is just below the trend observed over the first quarter of 2019 (49.7). The month-on-month dip in the PMI mainly reflects the slower growth rate of new orders and declines in the output as well as employment indicators.

Sheikha Alanoud bint Hamad Al Thani (pictured), Managing Director, Business Development at QFC Authority, said: “The headline PMI edged lower in April but remains indicative of overall growth in the Qatari economy, and at a faster rate than the mediocre performance seen at the end of 2018.

“Although the PMI does not directly monitor the energy sector, it correlates strongly with total quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) since the survey began in April 2017, and accurately signalled the weak growth in GDP during Q4 of just 0.3 percent on an annual basis.

“The PMI subsequently improved to 49.7 over the first quarter, which is pointing to a faster annual increase in GDP at the start of 2019. This points to further sustained expansion of the non-oil economy over the coming year.”

Small monthly changes to PMI readings are more accurately explained by short-term market volatility than substantial adjustments to growth trends. When inferring possible changes to economic projections, readers should consider the relatively short duration for which both PMI and official GDP data are available for comparison, which is currently seven quarters up to the final quarter of 2018. Over this period the PMI has a correlation of 0.88 with the annual rate of change in quarterly GDP.

The official growth rate of GDP slowed to 0.3 percent year-on-year in real terms in Q4 2018, a trend signaled in advance by the PMI.

The average PMI reading for Q1 2019 of 49.7 is broadly consistent with total GDP rising by 0.9 percent in real terms on an annual basis, representing a pick-up in growth at the start of the year. Moreover, the April PMI is consistent with annual GDP growth being maintained at the start of Q2.

With new orders rising at a more balanced pace than in March, firms were able to resume backlog clearance with almost one-third of respondents reporting lower backlogs. Simultaneously, the volume of inputs ordered grew, mainly reflecting the manufacturing sector, while input inventories remained broadly stable.

Overall cost pressures faced by Qatari non-energy private sector firms eased in April. The rate of input price inflation slowed from March’s 12-month high. This mainly reflected lower staff costs during the month, while raw material prices rose at a slightly weaker rate than in March.

Although input costs continued to rise, firms cut their own prices for goods and services for the fifteenth month running in April. The rate of discounting was in line with those seen throughout the first quarter of 2019.

Economic growth in western Europe’s largest exporter of oil and gas slowed more than forecast in the first quarter, sending a warning to policy makers preparing for a third interest rate increase in June.

Mainland gross domestic product, which excludes oil and shipping, expanded 0.3% in the quarter, Statistics Norway said in a statement on Monday. That was down from a revised 1.1% in previous quarter. A Bloomberg survey of 12 economists predicted a quarterly expansion of 0.4%, and the central bank had forecast 0.6%.

Key insight:

Economic growth in the first quarter was dragged down by a 1.2 percent decline in investments and a pick up in imports.

Overall GDP growth, which includes oil and gas production and shipping, shrank 0.1% in the quarter.

Norges Bank embarked on a tightening cycle in September, raising rates for the first time in seven years. It also boosted rates in March and last week flagged that another tightening will “most likely” come in June.

Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund said that it sees Norway mainland economy expanding by 2.5% this year and 2.1% in 2020.

The krone weakened 0.2% to 9.81 per euro at 08:11 a.m. in Oslo.

What Economists Say

“The figures are partly affected by negative supply-side effects in power production and fisheries. Hence, even if a bit lower than expected in the MPR from March (+0.6 %), Norges Bank will probably consider the weakness as temporarily (as stated after last week’s rate meeting). Regional survey on 11 June will be crucial,” said Frank Jullum, an economist at Danske Bank.

“Despite growth being weaker than Norges Bank’s 0.6% estimate, it should not impact the near-term interest rate trajectory,” SEB strategist Erica Blomgren said in a note.

“All told, the economy is holding up well, pointing to another rate hike by Norges Bank; recall that Norges Bank has signaled more explicitly that the next hike will come in June,” Handelsbanken economist Marius Gonsholt Hov said in a note.

“Norges Bank signaled that is was prepared for 1Q growth below its March forecast at the meeting in May,” Nordea senior economist Erik Bruce said in a note.

Qatar Chamber (QC), the country’s largest and oldest private industry representative body, has issued a total of 36, 453 certificates of origin (CO) including 1,453 COs issued online and 35,000 documented certificates for companies exporting and re-exporting national products in 2018, QC Chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim Al Thani said yesterday while addressing the Chamber’s annual general meeting.

During the event, Sheikh Khalifa reiterated that digital issuing of COs through the Chamber’s website, which seeks to stimulate trade and increase non-oil exports from Qatar, was one of QC’s achievements as it seeks to further develop its services.

In its report released recently, the QC also stated that Qatar’s non-oil exports had increased by 35.1 percent to QR24.4bn in 2018 from QR18.05bn in 2017.

Sheikh Khalifa went on to say that Qatar has overcome the ongoing blockade and continued its economic growth thereby becoming one of the most important and attractive investment destinations.

He added: “QC organisied 170 activities including conferences, seminars, and meetings. It participated in a large number of activities and events related to private sector. It joined the World ATA Carnet Council (WATAC) and the International Certificate of Origin Accreditation Chain at the International Chamber of Commerce”.

He also said the Chamber hosted 100 foreign trade delegations and organised seven business visits for Qatari businessmen to various countries last year, and highlighted the exhibitions hosted by QC including the ‘Made in Qatar’ expo in Oman which ended with several agreements and contracts between Qatari manufacturers and their Omani counterparts.

Speaking about the agreements made by the QC, Sheikh Khalifa said the Chamber signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the chambers of commerce of Nepal and Bulgaria, and entered into an agreement with the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade and Investment and Technology (COMCE) and the Palestinian Trade Centre.

The Chamber also organised 12 training courses and a number of arbitration courses which were organised by the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration.

Sheikh Khalifa added that the Chamber will continue its cooperation with all ministries and authorities in Qatar to overcome all obstacles facing the private sector here, and expressed his hope that the Chamber would achieve more this year while urging businessmen to actively participate in QC’s activities.

Talking to The Peninsula on the sidelines of the event, Qatar Industrial Manufacturing Company’s (QIMC) Chief Executive Officer Abdulrahman Abdulla Al Ansari said that the private sector in the country is now changing its strategy with new markets.

He said: “Now we’re targeting certain markets and certain products. We know what we have for non-oil export and the business committee at QC is reviewing our stategy. Based on that we choose which countries to target next. We’re now talking about some countries in Africa. We’re going to Oman, and we already went to Kuwait and Pakistan for talks. Some of these countries we’re importing and for others we want to export”.

QIMC has recently opened its manufacturing plant for Unilever’s Lipton and Red Label products in Qatar.

Asked if there are any similar partnerships with international companies in the pipeline, Al Ansari replied in the affirmative but declined to further specify which companies. “Yes, there are so many things in negotiation. We surprised people with Lipton and Red Label. There is something in the pipeline, and we’re discussing with not only Unilever, but with other big international companies and we’ll announce it soon,” he added.

During the meeting, which was held in the presence of board members and a number of businessmen and members, the report of the Board of Directors (BOD) and  the audit report of 2018 was approved. The BOD also ratified the budget of 2019 and appointed a new auditor for this year.

Noted rating agency S&P Global has affirmed Qatar’s sovereign ratings with a stable outlook, and said that government’s assets will likely remain a core rating strength of the economy.

The rating agency, in its report released yesterday, projected that Qatar’s GDP is expected to grow by 2.8 percent and the current account surplus will be averaging 4.5 percent of GDP in 2019-2022, assuming lower hydrocarbon prices from 2021.

Among the other key rating factors the agency noted that increasing nonresident deposits demonstrate strengthening investor confidence in the financial sector, but this largely short-term external funding worsens Qatar’s external liquidity position.

The report also said that investments related to the government’s sizable infrastructure programme will continue to support economic activity, outweighing negative sentiment related to the ongoing blockade by the Arab quartet, and domestic political and social stability will continue.

“The stable outlook primarily reflects our view that Qatar will continue to effectively mitigate the economic and financial fallout of the siege imposed on the country in June 2017 by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and that Qatar will continue to pursue prudent macroeconomic policies that support large recurrent fiscal and external surpluses over 2019-2022,” added the S&P report.

“A negative rating action could follow, however, if the siege ultimately has a more severe impact on Qatar than we currently anticipate, leading, for example, to significant capital outflows or an unexpected deterioration in fiscal outcomes, which might reduce Qatar’s fiscal cushion to absorb additional shocks.”

The agency highlighted that Qatari authorities have sufficient resources to continue managing the consequences of the blockade, and Qatar will continue to generate surpluses in its budgetary and external accounts over our 2019-2022 rating horizon.

“We do not expect Qatari banks will need additional government support after liquidity injections of about $40bn from the Qatar Central Bank (QCB) and other public-sector entities, mainly Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).

The agency also noted that despite temporary siege-related setbacks, Qatar’s external balance sheet remains strong, with liquid external assets continuing to offset the country’s stock of external debt by a sizable margin. It forecasts that Qatar’s net creditor position will increase by 5 percent of GDP per year on average through 2022.

“We view Qatar’s external position, however, as somewhat constrained by the large recurring data discrepancies between its balance of payments and reported international investment position, stemming from the government’s lack of disclosure on external assets”, said the S&P Global report on Qatar’s economic outlook.

Commenting on the overall institutional and economic profile, the report said that government policies will continue to support economic growth. And in the base case scenario, the siege could continue for an extended period, but it did not expect any regional geopolitical risks to escalate significantly.

“We expect economic growth will remain relatively steady at 2 percent-2.5 percent in 2019-2022. The government plans to increase gas exports by about 40 percent to 110 million tonnes annually (approximately 987 millions of barrels of oil equivalent) by 2023-2024. Until then, our growth assumptions factor in broadly stable gas production, cautious business activity and confidence, and reduced private-sector consumption,” the report said.

The report also said that government’s infrastructure programme remains supportive of economic growth, as does investment related to expansion of the North Field gas project. At an estimated 45 percent of GDP, about one-third of which is public-sector funded, Qatar’s investment spending is among the highest of all the sovereigns we rate.

In contrast, more recent indicators suggest that economic activity in Qatar was moderate in 2018, when we estimate growth at 1.5 percent. This compares with our expectation of 2.8 percent growth in the last review. The slower pace was mainly due to a contraction of the hydrocarbons sector by about 2 percent over the same period.

The rating agency also highlighted that the impact of the blockade on Qatar’s external performance has been limited as most of its export earnings from gas come from Asian customers. The UAE still accounts for 4 percent of Qatar’s exports, including gas through the Dolphin pipeline, which it did not expect will be affected by the blockade.

“We estimate the current account surplus at about 8.8 percent of GDP in 2018 versus 3.8 percent in 2017, supported by higher hydrocarbon prices, to which most of Qatar’s gas contracts are linked. Over the medium term, we expect the current account balance to remain in a surplus of around 4.5 percent, in view of our oil price assumptions (at $60 per barrel for 2019 and 2020),” added the report.

“In our view, a marked reversal of outflows of nonresident funding (deposits and interbank placements) demonstrates investors’ confidence in Qatar’s financial sector. Nonresident deposits have risen gradually since late 2017, when they fell to their lowest.”

Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) yesterday announced the launch of its affordable Takaful product for low-income workers called “Family Sheild – WPS”, underwritten by Daman Islamic Insurance company (Beema). This comes as part of the Bank’s efforts in offering products and services tailored to the needs of Qatar’s entire population.

This low cost Takaful product can also be purchased by companies who want to give additional protection to their employees and is available in QIB industrial area branch located in Barwa Commercial Avenue.

Qatar is home to numerous people from around the world, with a large percentage of the expat population pertaining to the workers segment, supporting the large infrastructure projects that are in progress as part of Qatar National Vision 2030 and the preparations of the Fifa 2022 World Cup.

The Family Shield WPS Takaful plan is designed for these workers providing financial security for their families in case of any unforeseen eventualities. The  plan can be purchased by contributing QR10 per month or QR120 per annum and  provides a cover of QR50,000 for death and QR100,000 in case of death due to accident.

“Offering a Sharia’-Compliant Takaful program to the low-income expatriate workers is another testament of QIB’s commitment on finding innovative solutions for all its customers and playing its role in the society. This unique takaful product is useful and simple as it can be easily purchased instanty over the counter without any medical tests. QIB is well aware of the worker’s concern for their family’s well being in case of unseen events and wanted to provide them with an affordable and useful Takaful solution,” said D. Anand, General Manager of Personal Banking Group at QIB.

Takaful is a co-operative system of insurance, where members contribute a certain sum of money to a common pool. It is defined as an Islamic insurance concept under which policyholders cooperate among themselves for their common good. Every policyholder pays their contribution to help those who need assistance.

The number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Qatar venturing into foreign markets has been growing, with the Qatar Development Bank (QDB) now on a more aggressive campaign in encouraging manufacturers here to expand into regional and international markets.

Talking to The Peninsula on the sidelines of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue’s Business Forum which recently concluded in Doha, QDB Acting Executive Director of Export Development & Promotion, Hamad Salem Mejegheer, said over 300 non-hydrocarbons companies have exported their products in 2018 under the various programmes of QDB, and have generated about $2.1bn in revenue.

He added: “We are focusing on the non-hydrocarbons exporters. And many of them really did a great job in exporting products that were made in Qatar last year. I think there is a good potential for the Qatari products, as the quality of the Qatari products is much higher compared to the other countries’ products because of the time and money that we invest in the exporting company and its product. There are more companies which are now exporting. Last year, we have also moved 12 companies from the non-exporters category to the exporters’ category”.

Mejegheer said the exported products were mainly construction materials, plastic, food and beverage, wood, furniture, and jewelries among others.

He added: “The products were exported to countries we have free trade agreements with. However, we’re now trying to focus on new markets. We’re opening new markets for our exporters in countries like Iraq, as well as in African countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda”.

According to Mejegheer, QDB provides full support to Qatari SMEs by promoting Qatari products in international exhibitions and corporate matchmaking events. QDB also conducts exports assessments for companies and provides them with consultants to develop and equip entrepreneurs with the necessary skills needed in expanding into foreign markets.

He also said: “We’re now issuing many projects with the International Trade Centre. Exporting is related to the awareness of the investor that his/her products can compete outside. And we’re now increasing awareness among the local manufacturers that their products can really compete outside the country. And because Qatar is a small market for them, they can have a bigger market which is the world. They can go all over the world with their products and they can compete. And we can provide them with all the data they need in any country they are targeting to reach”.

To date, the QDB has already invested around QR8bn in its bid to support SMEs in the country, said Khalid Abdulla Al Mana, Executive Director of Business Finance at QDB.

Abdulrahman Al Suwaidi, Executive Director for Strategic & Business Development at QDB, also said the development bank has also invested QR6.3bn in direct lending, QR1bn in private guarantees, QR200m in investment, and QR100m in export finance.

Fahad Zainal, Chief Corporate Services Officer at Qatar Free Zones Authority, said: “There is a will from the government to support SMEs. And we have successful stories as well like for instance the Baladna. Lately we have been to Malaysia.

“And they wanted to replicate how Baladna was able to do it here within two years, in terms of technology and where we have reached in terms of production of milk and being self-sufficient versus Malaysia’s which has been there for long time and they are only being able to cover three percent of their consumption.

“So we are exporting and we are going outside because we have successful track records here in Qatar and we’re now also helping other countries through knowledge transfer.”

The Chairman of Greece-Qatar Business Council, Panagiotis Mihalos said that the level of bilateral ties and the attractive investment climate in Qatar and Greece pave the way towards more cooperation between the private sector businesses of the two economies.

Mihalos, during an interview with Qatar News Agency (QNA), added that cooperation between the two countries’ private sector is set to improve thanks to the effort made by officials in that regard, highlighting that trade volume did not exceed $80m in 2018.

He said the Qatar-Greece Business Forum was held in Doha last week, organised by the Greece-Qatar Business Council in cooperation with Qatar Chamber and the attendance of the two countries Ministers of Foreign Affairs was the latest in the efforts of bolstering business ties. He added that around 40 Greek companies held talks with a 100 Qatari companies, exploring the prospects for cooperation in commerce and investments.

He also expected that the cooperation between the private sector in Qatar and Greece will be further enhanced in light of the political support and will to bring the business community closer. He stressed that the Greek-Qatari Business Council will make every effort to increase levels of trade and investment between the two countries.

Mihalos pointed to the efforts exerted by the Greek-Qatari Business Council to promote economic cooperation between the two countries and push forward economic diplomacy in parallel with political diplomacy, in order to deepen bilateral relations. He pointed out that the proposal to start the joint ministerial committee for economic cooperation between the two countries, maintaining the momentum generated by the exchange of official visits.

He also said that most of Qatari citizens he meets usually plan to visit Greece, especially with the direct flights that Qatar Airways have to Athens, Thessaloniki, and Mykonos.

The chairman of the council also discussed the efforts they are making in facilitating the process of having Greek companies participate in the State of Qatar’s developmental projects. He noted that the council has organized visits for three Greek business delegations during the past 11 months alone. He said that a number of Greek construction companies began carrying out large infrastructure projects in the country. He added that companies in other sectors, such as food products, information technology, tourism, pharmaceuticals, and others could invest also.

He said that the success the State of Qatar had in turning the impacts of the blockade into economic gains is an experience worth examining and celebrating, adding that the State of Qatar is slowly becoming a business and trade hub for the region and Asia, in light of the success of Qatar Financial Center and Qatar Free Zones Authority.

Mihalos said Greece created a promising investment environment and has become more prepared to receive foreign investments after it has let go of many bureaucratic procedures and recovering from a severe economic crisis. Mihalos said the economic crisis affected only the government sector.

He added that the Greek economy is opening up promising prospects for investment as it returns to strong growth figures which offer opportunities that Qatari businessmen can seize, especially as the country emerges from an economic crisis that enhances the banks’ need for liquidity which is reflected in low prices and easy investment.

He said the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector in Greece represents an encouraging opportunity for Qatari investors as the country’s banking system suffers from lack of liquidity and its inability to provide the necessary funds to stimulate this sector, which is an opportunity for new investors. He added that it is an opportunity that will not be there in five years.

Mihalos said Qatar and Greece share many strengths, where Qatar strives to diversify its economy with safe and prosperous investments in various sectors around the world and allows foreign investors to 100 percent own companies, which is a good indicator of serious management to create a thriving and open economy.

He said that at the same time, Greece offers opportunities in various fields, including logistics, ports, energy, food production, agriculture, information technology and others. The country has also improved its economic infrastructure and has begun to emerge as a logistics center. In addition to the many opportunities in the energy sector as it is working on developing its natural gas capacity, in terms of increasing storage capacity and laying new pipelines across the country towards Italy and Central and Eastern Europe.

Doha: Trade volume between Qatar and member states of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) was $81 billion, or 70 percent of the state’s international trade, Minister of Commerce and Industry H E Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari said today.

Speaking at the opening of the ACD Business Forum, which began today, the minister said that this level of trade reflects Qatar’s strategic policies and principles of openness and economic diversification, in line with its National Vision 2030.

He also said that his country’s is prepared to act as a hub for communication between ACD member countries, in order to continue dialogue and coordination to face the challenges of mutual trade and economic cooperation, adding that this will support joint action and economic integration among Asian countries.

The ACD Business Forum is being held following an initiative made by Qatar. It focuses on the role of SMEs as an engine for sustainable economic prosperity. It takes place in the presence of ministers, senior officials and businessmen from a number of member countries.

The forum will discuss a number of topics related to enhancing the role of SMEs in sustainable development. It will also review Qatar’s advanced legislative structure as a gateway to regional markets, the role of creativity and innovation in business success, and business meetings to discuss vital economic sectors Such as construction, logistics, food and agriculture, electronics, information technology, tourism, hotel management, healthcare, banking and finance.

The Minister said that this forum represents an important platform to discuss ways of enhancing partnership and economic cooperation among the countries of Asia. He pointed out that the cooperation dialogue has witnessed a great development since its establishment in 2002. It is today one of the largest political and economic forums in the world, with the size of the Asian market exceeding 4.4 billion people, or 60 percent of the world’s population. He also pointed out that the ACD member countries account for more than 35 percent of the world trade volume and the foreign trade value of these countries exceeded $12 trillion.

He pointed out that these indicators, in addition to the potential Asian countries have, show that the Asian continent can build one of the most important economic forces in the world. However geopolitical, economic and trade changes have affected Asian countries.

The Minister affirmed that Qatar’s presidency of the ACD this year reflects its keenness to work hand in hand with the General Secretariat of the Dialogue to strengthen the ties between Asian countries and develop bilateral and multilateral cooperation between them. He pointed out that Qatar paid great attention to the private sector and investment, believing in the important role of these sectors in enhancing the competitiveness and diversification of the national economy. In this context, he referred to the acceleration of the State’s implementation of measures aimed at supporting the private sector and opening up the economy by strengthening cooperation with all strategic partners of Qatar around the world, especially in Asia. He added that one way will be to pave the way for local and international companies to invest in major developmental projects based on Qatar National Vision 2030 and linked to hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022.

The Minister also pointed out that Qatar provides attractive incentives for foreign direct investment and directs it towards the vital sectors identified by the Second National Development Strategy 2018-2022, the most important aspects of which are food security, health, education and tourism. He added that Qatar has updated the legislative frameworks governing the investment sector, including the provision of real estate ownership to non-Qatari individuals, non-Qatari commercial companies and real estate investment trusts, as well as the freehold ownership of non-Qatari real estate in several strategic economic and tourism zones in the country, allowing foreigners to own shops in malls.

He also pointed to the amendments to the law of free zones, which allows investors in these areas to cover the local markets and benefit from investment funds and enter into joint ventures with local companies backed by the state.

He pointed out that the State initiated the facilitation of the system of granting commercial and industrial licenses and the development of services and infrastructure provided to investors, which would enable private companies of ACD members to invest in Qatar and benefit from the industrial and logistical areas for their food products and pharmaceutical projects. The minister added that companies which serves ACD members can establish its factories in Qatar’s free zones and export them to those markets, benefiting from Qatar Airways cargo fleet which includes 230 planes to 160 destinations around the world, or from Hamad port, which is the biggest in the region with a capacity reaching 7.5 million module containers annually. This port plays a pivotal role in linking Qatar to the world’s most prominent economies through direct commercial lines that have supported the country’s status as a transit point for more than 40 ports in three continents around the world.

Regarding cooperation in the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), he said that the ACD Business Forum slogan reflects Qatar’s belief in the importance of role of SMEs in providing job opportunities for young people, promoting creativity and innovation.

Qatar Chamber’s First Vice-Chairman Mohamed bin Ahmed bin Towar Al Kuwari stressed Qatar’s commitment to supporting joint Asian work, as well as its full commitment to expanding cooperation with Asian countries in all fields.

Al Kuwari added during his speech at the forum that Qatar Chamber is working hard to strengthen its relations with its counterparts in the Asian Dialogue countries, with the aim of creating the appropriate environment and climate conducive to strengthening the relations of cooperation between business sectors in Qatar and their counterparts in these countries. He added that the Chamber encourages Qatari businessmen to invest in these countries and to establish trade and investment partnerships that increase trade exchange between Qatar and the ACD countries, in the hope of realizing the desired regional economic integration.

He also said that the chamber was committed to supporting small and medium-sized project, especially since they are a strong catalyst for economic growth. He also pointed out that the Chamber has been very supportive of young entrepreneurs and their efforts in launching their startups, especially with the necessary funding, either through Qatar Development Bank, which is a pioneer in this field, or through local commercial banks.

Al Kuwari said that the Business Forum of the ACD was an important platform for business sectors in Asian countries that want to enhance their partnership, increase opportunities for cooperation and establish business alliances that can enhance economic ties among Asian countries. He also said that the forum allows for the exchange of ideas and experiences of the participants.