Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are seen as one critical element to successfully implementing Qatar’s public spending programme, providing an important avenue for bringing global expertise into the country. As the National Development Strategy 2011-16 (NDS) states, “The government believes that an increased private sector role, considered case by case, could improve project and investment planning, management and operations and add real public value.” According to the NDS, authorities expect the private sector to invest $107bn and $23bn in the non-hydrocarbons and hydrocarbons sectors, respectively, by 2016.

The government has gained significant PPP experience through its independent water and power project (IWPP) programme that was launched in 2001 with the Ras Laffan A IWPP. Since the Ras Laffan A project, which was developed and is operated by AES Corporation, three more IWPPs have been developed. These include a second project at Ras Laffan, followed by Mesaieed A and then a third Ras Laffan IWPP. More than 6500 MW of electricity generation capacity, or 70% of the country’s capacity, has been provided by PPP arrangements, according to a February 2012 report prepared by Markab Advisory and sponsored by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority. Several water and sewerage treatment projects were also built through PPPs. The Pearl – Qatar and Lusail residential projects are also using the PPP model for certain facilities.

EDUCATION & RESEARCH: Qatar Foundation (QF) Education City is an innovative form of a PPP that is proving to be a successful model that could help transform the education sector. Through its partnerships, QF has built a “university of universities”, bringing together eight institutions under one umbrella: Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Texas A&M University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University in Qatar, HEC Paris and University College London Qatar. Each institution specialises in specific areas of study, but all can take advantage of the synergies created by having multiple academic facilities in a single setting.

The Qatar National Research Fund is another QF initiative that seeks to support collaboration through PPPs in research areas spanning engineering, medicine, the sciences and humanities. As the only research funding agency in Qatar, these partnerships will guide the creation of the research programmes and help drive the country towards the government’s goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy.

“In line with the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the NDS, Qatar is progressively building a research culture.

In order to be more than just teaching institutions, universities and other institutions had to attract a significant number of researchers from abroad by offering them research opportunities and funding. One of the critical components to build a critical mass in terms of researchers are the regulations related to intellectual property (IP). To attract and retain high-calibre professors and researchers, Qatar based its IP regulations on the international model, which is fundamental for the development of research. The number of professors in Qatar is increasing thanks to the research undertaken in the state,” Abdul Sattar Al Taie, executive director of Qatar National Research Fund, told OBG.

FUTURE PROJECTS: The government’s infrastructure investment programme will likely offer a unique opportunity for private sector participation. Major projects include the QR130bn ($35.7bn) integrated rail network that will include an urban light rail system that serves Doha and neighbouring towns. Similarly significant investments are being made in developing the road network. Construction and other projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will likely offer yet another wave of opportunities for private sector participation.

As the Markab Advisory report points out, with a pipeline of PPP projects in place, plus a robust regulatory framework, Qatar could provide an opportunity for legal and financial professionals to work together to create the GCC’s first infrastructure financing centre.