SALEH AL KHULAIFI

Qatar 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

The Single Window portal is a single point of contact for investors to improve the ease of doing business and enhance government transparency.

Saleh Al Khulaifi
BIOGRAPHY

Saleh Al Khulaifi has a doctorate of business administration from the University of Warwick, a master's of science in technology entrepreneurship from the University College of London, and bachelor's of science business administration from Carnegie Mellon University. He was previously executive director business localization services with Qatar Development Bank and manager of business development. He sits on several boards, including Qatar German Medical Devices and ELAN. He is also currently assistant undersecretary for commerce at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

How will The Single Window project facilitate the establishment of companies in Qatar?
The objective of Single Window is to have a one-stop shop for starting your business in Qatar. There used to be up to 100 different paper applications that an investor had to fill in, depending on their intended business, before they could launch new companies. Now, we will receive just one application with no duplication. The investor will apply at a single destination and will not have to follow up with the various ministries. In addition, applicants can track the process online without having to go down to the ministry. The process will be transparent in terms of cost and knowing beforehand the information and documents that are required for the application. In summary, the five main objectives of Single Window are to: create a single point of contact; have direct and smooth transactions; improve governmental efficiency and transparency; improve the ease of doing business; and attract more FDI to Qatar. We are working toward achieving the last goal through the Invest in Qatar platform, and we have attracted almost 100 new companies over 2019.

What phase of development is Single Window at right now?
We launched phase one in September 2019, which includes all the processes for launching or starting a business here. This means that investors will be able to start their companies either at our counters, which are available already, or through the online investor portal we are working on. The most important innovation in the whole process is the approvals portal. Instead of having to go to a ministry in person, the applicant's paperwork will be directed to the concerned ministry electronically, and they will review the application and accept, reject, or request changes, and so on. The two most critical elements of the Single Window system are using a digital signature that applicants add to the documents by inputting their ID and the approvals portal. We have linked the approvals portal with 19 departments, including health, education, and aviation. Investors can go to one portal to make a single application covering all their needs.

How much time will the Single Window save for companies?
For example, establishing a nursery used to take 35 days and require 13 visits, nine applications, and six payments. Now, there are just three interactions. Once the application is completed, it is returned to the applicant, and the entire process takes 14 days. Establishing a nursery is considered one of the most complicated applications and strictest licenses in Qatar due to safety requirements. For other sectors, the simplified process takes less than one hour now.

Is Single Window more for locals or foreign investors coming to Qatar?
The Single Window system is available for all investors to use and benefit from. Because local investors already know the business processes here, Single Window is particularly helpful for a foreign investor who wants to establish a business in Qatar. They have a straightforward process to follow and will know exactly how many days it will take and how much it will cost.

What are the next phases and practical steps for Single Window?
At the moment, we are focusing on facilitating new business launch; however, establishing a company is only one part—keeping it going is another. We are working on addressing our existing issues, such as implementing the upcoming VAT tax system. We also need to make the tax inspection and fees system clearer and more transparent for businesses. The main challenge now is enhancing communication with the private sector, because at the moment, people are still going to the relevant ministries. Our first task therefore is to encourage people to go online. We have signed 10 service level agreements with the main ministries, and we need to work closely together to ensure these collaborations achieve the desired results.