50 BILATERAL AGREEMENTS SIGNED

Qatar 2019 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Saleh bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, Director General of Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on the effects of the blockade, developing diplomatic ties, and non-oil exports.

How does the Qatar Chamber of Commerce promote entrepreneurship and innovation? What importance do you put on training in this regard?

The Chamber's strategy in fact attaches innovation and entrepreneurship special interest. It strives to support startups and SMEs, helping them to grow, and urging businessmen to adopt innovative methods to strengthen Qatar's position among the fastest-growing economies. To do this, the Chamber has adopted many initiatives to support entrepreneurs and streamline startup procedures and access to finance with many competent institutions in the country such as QDB. It also organizes a biennial Qatar Chamber SMEs Conference that provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn about best commercial practices by examining the experience of a guest nation in developing its SMEs. The Chamber also stimulates businessmen and entrepreneurs to invest in innovative businesses away from traditional sectors in line with the National Vision 2030, which aims to build an innovative and knowledge-based economy.

What is your assessment of the response of the Qatari business community to the ongoing blockade?

The Qatari private sector successfully proved its ability to brave the event, and to overcome its consequences from day one. Since the beginning of the siege, various sectors have opened new channels to import foodstuffs and construction materials in order to maintain the flow of goods and products in the local market. Businessmen responded swiftly to prevent any goods shortages. From the beginning of the crisis, the Qatar Chamber has organized numerous meetings that brought together businessmen and the officials of diverse entities and ministries to review related issues and remove obstacles. It also organized business visits for Qatari companies to many friendly countries such as Kuwait and Oman, in the quest for alternative sources for goods formerly imported from boycotting nations, and identify new markets for local products. In general, the performance of the private sector during the siege was impressive, arising as it did from a sense of patriotism. During the siege, industrial companies have intensified the pace of work, increased their productive capacities, expanded their destinations for foreign trade and contributed to the creation of a renaissance at the level of the agricultural production sector in the country.

From a business perspective, with which countries is Qatar currently strengthening its bilateral relations?

Qatar is strengthening its relations with all countries, particularly those to have remained supportive since the start of the siege, and provided the local market with goods and commodities. The foremost are Kuwait and Oman, as well as other Arab countries, and to which may be added Turkey and Pakistan among others.

How would you assess the role of the Qatari Government in supporting local companies conduct business abroad?

It has been a satisfactory effort overall. The government is a strong booster of the private sector in outward investments. It always stimulates business and companies to increase their investments outside. Therefore, the government signed over 50 bilateral agreements with the aim of protecting and securing these investments. Indeed, the agreements provide a safeguard for external investments. Moreover, business visits of the Chamber in cooperation with concerned ministries and bodies have played a key role in this regard. They have contributed to enhancing external investments by briefing businessmen on the investment opportunities available in these countries.

What has been the evolution of Qatar's non-oil exports? How do you expect export activity to develop over the next few years?

Despite the siege, Qatar's non-oil exports have witnessed a rapid surge over the past two years due to the facilities and incentives offered by the country to boost investments in all productive sectors. These incentives mainly aim at achieving self-sufficiency and increasing Qatar's exports. In 2018, the country's non-oil exports had an overall value of QAR24 billion distributed across over 65 markets worldwide. I strongly believe that exports will further grow over the coming few years, especially in view of the country's orientation to diversify its economy and identify new sources of income that reduce energy dependence and promote industrial diversity.

How do you think the new FDI related legislative framework will affect Qatar's economy? Which sectors will become more attractive for foreign investors?

There is no doubt that Law No 1 of 2019 regulating the investment of non-Qatari Capital will make Qatar a perfect hub for trade, with a positive impact on its economy. I believe that the law represents a part of the country's economic openness to the world. It will promote economic development and attract foreign investment across all economic and commercial activities.

What is Qatar Chamber of Commerce's outlook for 2019?

The Chamber has many objectives to realize in 2019. Alongside its role in protecting and representing the private sector, it will continue to strengthen cooperation with all local bodies and concerned ministries to deliver the private sector views on all related issues. To expand its global presence, QC will further enhance cooperation with world chambers and institutions, as well as participate in all economic and business-related international conferences and events to champion Qatari private sector abroad. We will also focus on developing services provided to our members and increasing our online functions.