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Qatar - NEWS BRIEFINGS
Qatar | 08.06.2007
Qatar's inflation rate has hit a new record high of 15% in the first quarter of 2007, with increases in rent, fuel and energy prices being the main cause.

Qatar

Emerging QatarThe Report Qatar is the most comprehensive economic, political and business review of Qatar ever compiled. It explains in-depth the domestic and foreign political scene, macroeconomic policy and sectoral developments and includes unique statistical forecasting.

The 200 page research is over 100 000 words in length, supported by charts, graphs and key economic data to highlight trends allowing readers a unique insight into the country.

Written by team of international analysts based on the ground for six months, and the result of over 300 public and private sector interviews, The Report Qatar is simply the most extensive independent, unbiased and accurate intelligence available.

ISBN: 1-902339-38-X
ISSN (Online): 1744-4500

TABLE OF CONTENTS

COUNTRY PROFILE

POLITICS

Now 11 years into his reign, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has transformed Qatar into a model for the region, with a commitment to media freedom, women’s rights and the gradual expansion of democracy. The Emir is moving ahead with plans to hold elections for the Shura Council in early 2007. With massive gas reserves and a seat on the UN Security Council, Qatar is taking on a more prominent role in regional and global affairs. Also in this section, an interview with Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor bin Jassim Al Thani, Secretary-General, Planning Council, as well as Amr Moussa, Secretary General for the League of Arab States.

THE ECONOMY

Throughout 2005 and during early 2006, hydrocarbons fuelled massive economic growth, outpacing most other countries in the world. With the world’s largest non-associated gas field and around 15.2bn barrels of oil, surges in energy commodities are keeping the country’s coffers plump and per capita GDP figures among the world’s highest. Yet diversification away from hydrocarbons is the ultimate goal for Qatar, spawning multi-year projects to improve development in sectors ranging from medicine to financial services. Also featured are interviews with Yousef Hussain Kamal, Minister of Finance, Stuart Pearce, CEO, Qatar Financial Centre and Khaled Hassan Rashed, Board Member, Amwal. Luc Marchand, Associate Director, Standard & Poor’s Sovereign Ratings offers a viewpoint article on wealth management.

BANKING

Floating on a windfall from rising global oil prices, the banking sector has enjoyed larger deposits and more demand for credit and other financial products. The country’s plentiful reserves of hydrocarbons as well as a slew of projects will contribute to the rapidly expanding consumer sector, while banks must concentrate on finding the most lucrative longer-term markets to support. In this section, Steve Brice, Regional Head of Research, Standard Chartered Bank offers a viewpoint on currency reform and OBG interviews Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, Governor, the Central Bank of Qatar.

ISLAMIC FINANCIAL SERVICES

Islamic banking is one of the fastest growing areas of finance in Qatar, with assets and deposits rising quickly, a host of new banks opening their doors and, and an increase in the range of products available. Along with an in depth overview, OBG interviews Salah Mohammed Jaidah, CEO, Qatar Islamic Bank.

CAPITAL MARKETS

Despite a market correction which decimated other bourses across the Middle East region in early 2006, the Doha Securities Market saw a remarkable expansion of capitalisation through the second half of that year, which built on the enormous optimism in the local economy, given record-breaking GDP growth, and the growing development of the country’s vast natural gas reserves. In this chapter, OBG interviews Saif al-Mansoori, General Manager, DSM, while Ali Shareef al-Emadi, Acting CEO, Qatar National Bank, writes on the future of investors following the market correction of early 2006.

INSURANCE

The fate of the country’s insurance companies is tied to the performance of the indirect beneficiaries of the nation’s natural gas wealth, which has led the insurance sector to turn to small and medium sized private sector companies in a bid for further expansion and growth. General and group personal policies in the financial and construction sectors have become the most profitable businesses thanks to both high premium retention and low claims.

TRANSPORT

Rapid growth in the country’s economy has put a strain on the entire transport infrastructure, especially as massive new industrial projects get underway and people and goods flood into the country. In order to meet the demands, major developments are underway to bring the road, marine and aviation sectors up to standard. Also in this section, OBG interviews Zayed Mansour al-Khayarin, Managing director of Ashghal, and Akbar al-Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways.

ENERGY

Representing more than 60% of GDP, the energy sector is critical to the Qatari economy, and despite plans for diversification, it looks set to stay that way for the foreseeable future. But the country is in no danger of running out of gas, as its 900 trillion cu feet of reserves should allow it to maintain current production levels well into the next century. GTL and pipeline projects are key to future growth. Also included, an interview with Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Energy and Industry, as well as a viewpoint article from Malcolm Wicks, UK Minister of Energy, on the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

TOURISM

As part of its bid to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons, the Qatari government has big plans for the tourism sector. It intends to spend $15bn building up resorts, new hotels and cultural institutions, as well as the $5.5bn New Doha International Airport (NDIA) to meet projected future growth in demand. Though the country is likely not to become a mass-market destination, it may well find a profitable niche in the sector. As part of its coverage, OBG interviews Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, Chairman of Al Faisal Holding.

SPORTS

Upping the ante on promotion, the sports industry is hosting major events such as the 2006 Asian Games. These have ushered in major infrastructure upgrades and an influx of foreign dollars, as well as the attention of foreign multinationals looking to set up shop in the Gulf. Also in this section, an OBG interview with Abdulla Khaled al-Qahtani, Director-General of Doha Asian Games Organising Committee.

CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE

Amid the current economic boom, residential, commercial, and industrial property is in high demand and being built as quickly as possible. Despite the inherent opportunities in such expansion, the existing infrastructure has caused frustrating shortages and delays as the construction industry struggles to keep up. Also featured in this section, OBG talks with Nasser Hassan al-Ansari, CEO Qatari Diar, on the company’s construction projects.

TELECOMS & IT

The telecoms sector has long been dominated by Qtel, the state monopoly which has long held the reins of the fixed and mobile markets along with many if the IT services that are connected to the sector. However, with talk of a second operator, the company is bracing itself for future competition. Meanwhile, market liberalization is likely to affect a whole range of other services in the increasingly convergent Qatari ITC market. Also in this chapter, OBG interviews Nasser Marafih, CEO, Qtel, and Hessa Sultan al-Jaber, Secretary-General, ictQATAR.

INDUSTRY

With the world’s largest non-associated gas fields, Qatar has worked hard to develop its industry, primarily based on petrochemicals, chemicals, fertilisers and metallurgy activities. The small Gulf country is well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming the world’s top petrochemicals producer within the next five years, even as it looks to diversify into steel, concrete and aluminium production. This section also includes interviews with Khalifa al-Sowaidi, Managing Director, Qatar Fertiliser Company, and Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassem bin Mohammed Al Thani, Chairman, QCCI.

RETAIL

As gas prices surge and tens of thousands of expatriates come to Qatar for work each year, the consumer market is bursting with potential. Efforts are underway to attract the most prestigious brands to prevent high-end consumers from flying to Dubai and even Europe to purchase their wares. The sector is still developing, however, and supply still leads demand.

MEDIA & ADVERTISING

The development of local media has been slow at times. But this is set to change with the launch of al-Jazeera International, an English-language cable news channel based in Doha that seeks to compete with more established news networks. Along with its existing Arabic-language service, the channel will bring in massive ad revenue and more publicity for the country. This section includes an OBG interview with Wadah Khanfar, Director General, al-Jazeera.

HEALTH & EDUCATION

In order to deal with the strain placed on the healthcare system in recent years, the new regime is addressing the problem through decentralisation. In 2005, the Emir created the new National Health Authority to regulate the industry and, in principle, begin to prepare the public sector for privatisation. Meanwhile, the nation’s ruling elite has also recognized that the most effective investment in the future of the country’s economy is the education of its citizens today, and in so doing it has won a sterling reputation around the world for forward-looking concepts. Also, OBG interviews Dr Sheikha Ghalia Al Thani, Chairperson, National Health Authority, and Sanford Weill, Chairman of the Board, Weill Cornell Medical College, offers his viewpoint on sharing expertise.

HISTORY

The Gulf states, as we know them today, began to emerge during the second half of the 20th century, following hundreds of years of dispute over the various tribal territories of the region. Qatar occupies a strategic position that was of vital importance to both Ottoman and British trade routes, leading to an inevitable clash between the two powers, which Britain won.

THE BUSINESS GUIDE: ACCOUNTANCY

OBG’s accountancy partner in Qatar, PricewaterhouseCoopers, offers an extensive overview of Qatari taxation laws and some amendments that have been put in place in recent years, as well as a viewpoint article from Chris De’Ath, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, on leadership style and culture.

THE BUSINESS GUIDE: LAW

OBG’s legal partner in Qatar, Simmons & Simmons, provides an overview of new legislation which has been put through in recent years designed to bring the country’s commercial environment into line with international best practice and thereby attract more international business. Also in this section, Simmons & Simmons provides a review of regulations that impact foreign business on the peninsula, as well as a viewpoint article from David Salt, Consultant at Simmons & Simmons, on a new legal framework for business.

THE GUIDE

Local colour takes a look at one of the nations top horse breeding facilities. Originally the home of international equestrian champion Marwan, al-Shaqab Stud is undergoing massive changes that will take it beyond the realm of Arabian horse breeding, and into the areas of vocational education and tourism. Headed by Qatar Foundation, and as part of the educational reforms currently underway in the country, the facility will become a centre for learning, with the largest veterinary hospital in the region, facilities to show- case the thoroughbreds, and a museum for visitors. Also in this section, hotel listings and top restaurant reviews.

LISTINGS

OBG offers a comprehensive directory of government offices, chambers of commerce, foreign missions including embassies and law offices, consultancy and accountancy firms, airlines and car rentals.

FACTS FOR THE VISITOR

Here one can find some useful tips for business travellers, covering etiquette, currency, visas, language, communications, dress, business hours, electricity, transport and health.

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