Interview: Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed Al Thani

How is the ministry streamlining regulations and enhancing the overall legal framework to create a more conducive investment environment?

SHEIKH AHMED BIN JASSIM BIN MOHAMED AL THANI: Qatar’s competitiveness is based on two main factors: the expected level of output per working age individual and the overall quality of a specific nation as a place to do business. Therefore, in order to improve competitiveness in line with these factors, a dual approach is required. Furthermore, the overall stability and progress of individual nations is improved through three main drivers, namely the country’s social infrastructure and political institutions; fiscal and monetary policy; and the microeconomic environment.

The Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has a fundamental role to play in helping to ensure and sustain the advancement of Qatar’s economy, and we are adopting a multifaceted strategy to achieve this aim. First, we are working to create opportunities for the local private sector and working to remove barriers to entrepreneurship. At the same time, we are fostering an efficient and competitive business environment that is conducive to increased foreign investment, with the attendant expertise that this will bring. We are confident that this approach will quickly improve Qatar’s global ranking for doing business, thereby attracting more international firms.

Several initiatives are currently being undertake in order to simplify the registration process, making it easier for local and international firms alike to operate in Qatar. Our digital operations have been greatly improved to allow a range of administrative processes to be completed online, minimising bureaucratic delays wherever possible.

Our determination to strengthen Qatar’s economy is reflected in a number of key reforms. The MEC has drafted proposals that would amend legislation and ease the environment for doing business. For example, one proposal would remove the current minimum capital requirements for registering a firm.

Where is the MEC promoting foreign investment in the economy, given preparations for 2022?

SHEIKH AHMED: Generally, foreign investors can either opt to partner with Qatari citizens according to the regular legal system, or they can invest in accordance with the provisions of the investment of foreign capital law. If they choose the first option, it is permissible to invest in any sector of the economy, providing that their Qatari partner owns at least 51% of the business and their firm is incorporated. As for the second option, there are certain sectors of the economy where we are specifically seeking foreign investment and expertise, and in these instances there is no requirement for investors to have a Qatari partner. Such sectors include education, health services, manufacturing and tourism.

To what extent are foreign ownership limits being re-evaluated to encourage investment?

SHEIKH AHMED: At present there are three main ways that foreign companies can register and do business in Qatar. First, through the Qatar Financial Centre, which is increasingly working to register non-regulated companies while continuing to facilitate business opportunities for financial institutions and other regulated organisations.

Second, the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) operates as a free zone for the commercialisation of research and development activities. Some of the world’s most innovative and prestigious companies already operate from QSTP, including Rolls Royce and Microsoft, and we continue to actively explore partnerships with other elite companies.

Third, firms can operate in Qatar under the remit of the Foreign Capital Investment Law No. 13 of 2000, allowing for local partnerships, or full ownership for some sectors. This law is administered through the MEC. These channels are designed to diversify options for foreign firms seeking to invest in Qatar and they offer access to specific sectors.