IN THE ZONE

Qatar 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fahad Rashid Al-Kaabi, CEO of Manateq, on developing specialized economic zones, facilitating ease of business, and enabling SMEs to thrive.

Fahad Rashid Al-Kaabi
BIOGRAPHY
Fahad Rashid Al-Kaabi joined Manateq from QPM, where he was also CEO. Prior to that position he was Manager of the Conservation and Energy Efficiency Department of Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (KAHRAMAA). He holds degrees in Industrial Engineering and Business Management, both from the University of Miami, US. He later obtained a Master’s Degree in Project Management from the University of Houston, US.

Manateq is projected to complete its three economic zones starting from 2017. What specific benefits will there be for companies operating from these economic zones, and will these benefits also apply to foreign companies?

The implementation of our project's master plan is very much on-track and the economic zone concept is a tried and tested one that facilitates overall economic activity and growth. Among the benefits offered by Manateq's economic zones is our promise to provide a region-leading ease of doing business process. This entails services, such as facilitating employment visas for expatriate workers, a competitively priced power, water, and gas supply, and a distinctly world-class zone infrastructure and services. Additionally, Manateq will provide a single window for all administrative queries, as well as all the necessary support facilities and services that help promote profitability and growth for its investors. The proximity of Manateq's economic zones to world-class port and airport facilities will enable a seamless flow of goods to and from other parts of the region and beyond. This is further complemented by a no duty policy in the GCC, low import duties, and an exemption for machinery and raw material importation. Manateq was created mainly to spur on the development and growth of SMEs and the private sector in Qatar, as well as to formulate lucrative business propositions for foreign investors to expand their regional and international businesses.


Manateq has taken the economic zone model a step further by making them into specialized zones. What does this entail and how will it affect the activities of investors that will operate from the zones?

We have specifically designed these zones as specialized economic zones. With their varying sizes and locations, we have designated them into clusters whereby each zone's infrastructure and services cater to specific industries and business sectors. For instance, Ras Bufontas is a 4.01 square kilometer advanced technology and logistics cluster that adjoins the new Doha International Airport. As such, it targets business sectors such as logistics, information and communications, healthcare, energy and environment, high-tech building, and global warehousing companies. On the other hand, Um Alhoul is a 33.52 square kilometer light-manufacturing zone that adjoins the new port project. To take full advantage of its key features, this area will cater to businesses involved in petrochemicals, building materials, maritime, metals, logistics, and food processing. Lastly, there is a specialized industry and logistics zone, which is a 38.43 square kilometer zone, just south of the current Doha Industrial Area. This zone is focused on businesses involved in building materials, machinery and fabrications, and specialized spillover industries.


The growth of SMEs has been identified as a driving force behind economic diversification. What factors are currently hindering SMEs in their development, and how can Manateq help to overcome them?

Economic zones have had both a policy and an infrastructure rationale in the development and growth of SMEs and the private sector. The creation of economic zones has sound justification as they can certainly encourage entrepreneurial creativity and innovation. As in any other country, provision of the necessary infrastructure, policies, financing, and opportunities are keys to spurring on the development and growth of SMEs. Manateq's role is in addressing the infrastructure, policies, and opportunity requirements. Given Qatar's seemingly underdeveloped SME and private sector, which constitutes a mere 15% of the country's economy, Manateq was created to spur the development of SMEs and the private sector in Qatar. Therefore, as we aim to encourage entrepreneurship among Qatari nationals and local residents, we strive to provide the most attractive and convenient opportunities for Qatar based entrepreneurs so that they no longer need to look anywhere else but home. We believe that operating one's own business, and dealing with your own country's investment policies, as well as local government and financial authorities, are always better alternatives than being a foreign investor in another country.