2010 Investment Climate Statement - Qatar
OPENNESS TO FOREIGN INVESTMENT
Qatar has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, according to The Economist. The government is heavily involved in Qatar's economy, although it strongly encourages international investment in certain sectors such as energy. Qatar's investment liberalization policies proceed on a gradual basis, based on a desire to protect local companies from rapid competition.
The main economic stimuli in Qatar are oil, gas, and related industries, in particular the development of the North Field, the largest non-associated natural gas field in the world.
Qatar's liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry has attracted tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment. The energy industry will continue to be the most attractive sector for foreign investors, though significant opportunities exist for foreign investment in infrastructure development, medical, safety and security, education, and franchising.
Qatar gives preferential treatment to suppliers that use local content in bids for government procurement. When competing for government contracts, goods with Qatari content are discounted by 10% and goods from other GCC countries receive a 5% discount. As a rule, participation in tenders with a value of QR 1,000,000 or less is confined to local contractors, suppliers and merchants registered by the Qatar Chamber of Commerce, and tenders with a value of more than this amount do not require any local commercial registration to participate, but in practice certain exceptions exist. Tender and bid details are available at the Central Tender Committee website: http://www.ctc.gov.qa/tender-en.aspx
The Investment Law No. 13/2000 is the primary legislation governing foreign investment. Foreign investment is generally limited to 49 percent of the capital for most business activities, with a Qatari partner(s) holding at least 51 percent. However, the law allows, upon special government approval, up to 100 percent ownership by foreign investors in certain sectors, including: agriculture, industry, health, education, tourism, development and exploitation of natural resources, energy, or mining. Qatar amended the law in 2004 to allow foreign investment in the banking and insurance sectors upon approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. Moreover, foreign financial services firms are allowed 100 percent ownership at the QFC. In October 31, 2009, the Council of Ministers agreed on the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Business and Trade to allow foreign investors to hold 100-percent stakes in the information and technology sector and in companies providing consultative, technical and distribution services.
Foreign firms are required to use a local agent for matters related to sponsorship and residence of employees. Certain sectors are not open for domestic or foreign competition, including public transportation, steel, cement, and fuel distribution. In these sectors, a single semi-public company has complete or predominant control.
Qatar has begun to liberalize its telecommunications sector to permit outside private investment, starting with the issuance in December 2007 of a second mobile license to a consortium including Vodafone and the Qatar Foundation. The same consortium was awarded the country's second fixed-line license in September 2008.
When approving majority foreign ownership in a project, the law states that the project should fit into the country's development plans. It adds that preference should be given to projects that use raw materials available in the local market, manufacture products for export, produce a new product or use advanced technology, facilitate the transfer of technology and know-how in Qatar, and promote the development of national human resources. Non-Qataris may also have the right of land use over real estate for a term of 99 years renewable upon government approval in Cabinet-designated "investment areas." Foreigners can own residential property in select projects, including the Pearl (the largest real estate development project in Qatar), the West Bay Lagoon, and the Al-Khor resort project. Law No. 23/2006 provides for foreigners being issued residency permits without local sponsors if they own residential or business property in Cabinet-designated "investment areas". Law No. 23/2006 also allows international law firms to operate in Qatar.
Import licenses are issued only to individuals with Qatari nationality, or companies owned or controlled by Qataris. In practice, exceptions are sometimes made for foreign companies, such as those with government contracts.
Qatari nationals are not subject to any kind of corporate or income tax. Even though there is no income tax on salaries in Qatar, foreign investors are subject to taxation on their investment income. On January 1, 2010 a new tax law went into effect. This law imposes a 10% flat rate for all non-Qatari companies and modifies the old graduated tax system, which had a maximum rate of 35%. The complete regulatory details for this law are expected to be finalized by the end of 2010. Individual income from sources such as bank interest, stock dividends, salaries, wages and allowances are exempt from tax. Foreign charitable and other non-profit organizations and associations and societies are also exempted from taxation. Small handicraft companies, whose incomes do not exceed QR 100,000 (around $25000) and have less than three workers are also exempt from this tax. Companies currently receiving tax holidays or those with government tax exemptions will not be taxed until the contractual end of these agreements. If these agreements were entered into by the Government, ministry, agency, body, or public institution prior to enforcement of the new law and no tax rate was specified, the 35% tax rate will be imposed. The tax rate and all other tax requirements set forth in agreements related to oil operations, will continue to be defined by Law No. 3/2007 on the exploitation of natural wealth and resources. In all cases the tax rate will be at least 35%. The new tax law will be levied on revenues from business activities, contracts - which are partly or wholly implemented in Qatar - properties, including sales of stakes in the shareholding companies or privately-owned companies whose assets are mainly comprised of properties. Revenue from exploration and natural resource extraction in the state and loan interest received within the state are also taxable. Gifts, luxurious items, and entertainment expenses are not deductible.
According to Article 11-2 of the law no. 21/2009 payments made to non-residents for activities not connected with a permanent establishment in the state (Qatar) shall be subject to a final withholding tax, as follows: 5% of gross royalties and technical fees; 7% of the gross interest, commissions, brokerage fees, director's fees, attendance fees and any other payments for services carried out wholly or partly in Qatar. There are two types of penalties for failing to pay all applicable taxes: penalties associated with delays in filling; and delays in payment. Companies that fail to file their tax return will be fined QR 100 per day up to a maximum of QR 36,000. Those convicted of making false statements on their taxes, or trying to evade taxes face up to three months imprisonment and a maximum fine of QR 15,000. A further fine of 20% of the tax due will be levied on companies shown to be in violation of the tax law. Penalties may be doubled for repeat offenders. Delayed payment may result in a financial penalty equal to the amount of unpaid tax, in addition to the payment of the tax due.
As of January 7th, 2010, the implementation of the withholding tax requirement on interest payments to non residents has been suspended pending further coordination with the Qatar Central Bank.
Companies established through the Qatar Financial Center (QFC) have received a tax exemption since the start of operations in 2005. However, a 10% tax will likely be imposed as of January 1, 2010 as the current exemption expires in May 2010. Other foreign companies may be granted tax exemptions on a case-by-case basis by Amiri decree.
Judicial decisions in commercial disputes are primarily based on contractual agreements, provided these agreements are not in conflict with applicable Qatari laws. U.S. firms are strongly encouraged to consult a local attorney before concluding any commercial agreement with a local entity.
Foreigners are allowed to own up to 25 percent of shares of companies listed on the Qatar Exchange (QE) (previously Doha Securities Market DSM). Foreign investors are not allowed to participate in any initial public offering (IPO). However, occasionally citizens of other GCC countries are exempted from this restriction. . In 2008, NYSE Euronext purchased a 25% stake in the DSM for US$250 million in cash. The Qatar Investment Authority owns the remaining 75% of the DSM.
Qatari regulations for local and foreign banks are the same, with new licenses available through application to the Qatar Central Bank. There are 18 licensed banks, including three Islamic banks and the Qatar Development Bank.
Qatar has 20 exchange houses, three investment companies and two commercial finance companies. There is a separate Qatar Financial Center (QFC) that allows major international financial institutions and corporations to set up offices with 100 percent foreign ownership. There are currently 105 licensed firms at the QFC, representing a spectrum of banks, investment companies, insurance houses, and related professional services. 56% of QFC licensed firms are regulated. QFC firms are limited to providing services to wholesale clients, except for insurance companies, which can provide services to both wholesale and retail clients.
Third Party Indicators:
|TI Corruption Index||2009||22 (out of 180)|
|Heritage Economic Freedom||2010||39 (out of 183)|
|World Bank Doing Business||2010||39 (out of 183)|
CONVERSION AND TRANSFER POLICIES
Due to minimal demand for the Qatari riyal outside Qatar and the national economy's dependence on oil and gas revenues, which are priced in dollars, the government has pegged the riyal to the U.S. currency. The official peg is QR 1.00 per USD 0.27 or USD 1.00 per QR 3.64, as set by the government in June 1980 and reaffirmed by an Emiri decree issued July 9, 2001.
Officially, the GCC states are harmonizing their monetary policies and intend to begin implementation of a common currency in 2010, though questions remain over whether they will be able to meet the current timeline. Despite a number of recent private sector analyses suggesting Qatar may reassess its dollar peg policy, the government has maintained the exchange rate and apparently plans to do so for the foreseeable future. Any future revaluation or monetary policy would likely occur in concert with the other GCC states. In January 2010 the Qatar central bank stopped providing loans to the public sector in preparation for implementing the GCC unified currency plan.
Law No. 15/1990 does not allow foreign investors to enter into a joint stock company with Qatari partners. Foreign investors may own up to 49 percent, and the Qatari partners no less than 51 percent, of a limited liability partnership. Foreign partners in ventures organized as limited liability partnerships must pay the full amount of their contribution to capital in cash, or in kind, prior to the start of operations. Usually, such firms are required to set aside 10 percent of profits each year in a statutory reserve until it equals 50 percent of the venture's authorized capital. This requirement is the only legal restriction to a foreign company desiring to repatriate all of its annual profit after tax deduction.
Qatar neither delays remittance of foreign investment returns nor restricts transfer of funds associated with an investment, such as return on dividends, return of capital, interest and principal payments on private foreign debt, lease payments, royalties and management fees, amounts generated from sale or liquidation, amounts garnered from settlements and disputes, and compensation from expropriation to financial institutions outside Qatar without undue delay. However, Article 11-2 of the new tax law states that "subject to the provisions of tax agreement, payments made to non-residents with respect to activities not connected with a permanent establishment in the sate (Qatar) shall be subject to a final withholding tax, as follows: (a) 5% of gross amount of royalties and technical fees; (b) 7% of the gross amount of interest, commissions, brokerage fees, director's fees, attendance fees and any other payments for services carried out wholly or partly in Qatar".
Vodafone, Qatar's second mobile phone carrier has announced plans to allow money transfers over its phones and network.
In accordance with the QCB instructions on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism, customers must apply due diligence while establishing business relationships or carrying out transactions, either singly or via several linked transactions, for an amount exceeding 75,000 Qatari Riyals or equivalent in foreign currencies. Wire transfers exceeding QR 4,000 should be accompanied by documentation on due diligence and provide full originator information.
QCB requires banks to maintain a maximum credit ratio at 90% and no single borrower may be extended greater than 20% of a bank's total capital and reserves.
EXPROPRIATION AND COMPENSATION
Law No. 13/2000, Article 8 states: 1) Foreign investment shall neither directly nor indirectly be subject to expropriation unless such measures are for the public welfare and implemented in a non-discriminatory way, against a prompt and reasonable compensation; 2) Compensation shall be equal to the market value of the investment at the time of expropriation, and shall be paid without undue delay.
There have been no cases of expropriation or sequestration of foreign investment in Qatar since the nationalization in the mid-1970s of Shell and Dukhan Services (the latter was a combination of six international oil companies handling Qatar's onshore operations on the country's west coast). The foreign interests were compensated promptly.
Qatar is not a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). In March 2003, Qatar became a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958. If investment disputes occur, Qatar accepts binding international arbitration between the government and foreign investors. However, Qatari courts do not enforce judgments of other courts in disputes emanating from investment agreements made under the jurisdiction of other nations.
In July 2006, the government issued Law No. 27 which included a chapter of 240 articles devoted to bankruptcy. However, the implementing regulations have not yet been formulated, and it is unclear when the law will come into force. Qataris generally find it unacceptable to announce publicly the bankruptcy of a Qatari citizen or a Qatari-owned company and the Government sometimes plays the role of guarantor to keep the bankrupt business running and safeguard creditors' rights. In order to protect their interests, U.S. firms are advised to consult with a Qatari or foreign-based law firm when executing contracts with local parties.
PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS AND INCENTIVES
Performance requirements for foreign investment in Qatar, including a counter-trade offset program, do not exist. While screening investment proposals, the government may indicate preferences for locating facilities, capital investments and other matters. Disclosure of financial and employment data is required, but proprietary information is not.
While all Qatari-owned firms are exempt from corporate income taxes, Qatar's corporate income tax is a flat 10%, except for the energy sector where there is at least a 35% tax on profits. Small handicraft companies with a maximum of three workers and not exceeding 100,000 Qatari Riyals profit (USD 27,473) are exempt from taxation.. Under Law No. 13 of 2002, the Ministry of Finance and Economy may grant a tax holiday of up to 10 years for new foreign investments in key sectors. Companies established in the QFC have enjoyed a tax exemption since the start of operations in 2005, though up to a 10 per cent rate may be imposed in the future. Other foreign companies may be granted tax exemptions by Emiri Decree on a case-by-case basis.
The government offers a variety of incentives to foreign investors which may include tax exemptions, property grants, energy subsidies, and low-cost financing. The following is a list of incentives sometimes offered to foreign investors:
- Natural gas priced at 60-75 U.S. cents per MBTU (Million British Thermal Units)
- Electricity offered at less than two U.S. cents per KWH (Kilowatt Hour)
- Industrial land offered at 27 U.S. cents per square meter per year for a period of 50 years, including options
for renewing the lease
- Exemption from customs duties on imports of machinery, equipment and spare parts;
- Exemption on export duties
- Exemption from corporate taxes for up to ten years
- Exemption from income taxes
- Absence of quotas on imports
- Low cost financing through Qatar Development Bank
- Flexible immigration and employment rules to enable the import of foreign labor
The same incentives are offered to Qatari investors. Qataris are exempt from payment of corporate income tax, but they will pay penalties if they do not file a tax statement. Qatar does not maintain measures inconsistent with the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs)., though in practice they provide preferential treatment for those who use local content in investments or government procurements.
The Ministry of Energy and Industry determines the amount of foreign equity and the extent of incentives for industrial projects. Industrial projects can be established only in designated industrial zones. Necessary investment approvals may be required from the Ministry of Health, Qatar Tourism Authority, Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture, Ministry of Business and Trade, Supreme Education Council, and Ministry of Environment.
The Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) located in Doha's Education City complex, offers U.S. and other foreign investors an opportunity to start up a research and development facility that may also engage in commercial activity. Participating companies are allowed 100 percent foreign ownership, and a 20-year exemption from payment of income tax.
RIGHT TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP AND ESTABLISHMENT
The Commercial Companies Law, Law No. 5/2002, controls the establishment of all private business concerns in Qatar. The law provides for corporate mergers, corporate bonds, and the conversion of corporate partnerships into joint stock companies.
Joint ventures involving foreign partners usually take the form of limited liability partnerships. Law No. 15/1990 does not allow foreign investors to enter into a joint stock company with Qatari partners. Foreign investors may own up to 49 percent, and the Qatari partners no less than 51 percent, of a limited liability partnership. Foreign partners in ventures organized as limited liability partnerships must pay the full amount of their contribution to capital in cash, or in kind, prior to the start of operations. Usually, such firms are required to set aside 10 percent of profits each year in a statutory reserve until it equals 50 percent of the venture's authorized capital. This requirement is the only legal restriction to a foreign company desiring to remit all of its annual profit after tax deduction
Foreigners are generally not allowed to own property. However, a law enacted in 2004 allows foreigners to own residential property in select projects including the Pearl (currently the largest real estate development project in Qatar), the West Bay Lagoon, and the Al-Khor resort project. Non-Qataris may also have the right of usufruct over real estate for a term of 99 years in Cabinet-designated "investment areas." Non-Qataris can be issued residency permits without a local sponsor if they own residential or business property in the designated districts.
Several state-owned companies in Qatar, such as Qatar Postal Corporation, Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation and Qatar Airways, dominate services activities and still operate under monopoly, or ld exclusive rights in some economic sectors.
PROTECTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS
Within Qatar, owners of trademarks, copyrights and patents depend on Qatari laws and regulations for protection. Intellectual property rights in Qatar are protected by Law No. 7/2002 (Copyright and Neighboring Rights Law), Law No.30 of 2006 (Patent's Law), Law No. 9/2002 (Trademarks and Geographical Indicators Law), Law No.5/2005 (Protection of Trade Secrets), and Law No. 6/2005 (Protection of Layout Design of Integrated Circuits).
Qatar has adopted the GCC Patent Law and has the Industrial Property Office in the Ministry of Business and Trade to handle the issues related to the trademarks, commercial indications, trade names, geographical indications and industrial design. An Intellectual Property Centre was also established by Emiri decision No.53 of 2009 and is affiliated with the Ministry of Justice. This center consists of three Units:
- Copyright and Neighboring Rights
- International Cooperation
The Center oversees the implementation of the following Laws:
- Law No.7 of 2002 ( Law on Protection of Copyright and Neighboring Rights)
- Law No.30 of 2006 (Patent's Law)
- Law No.5 of 2005 ( Protection of Trade Secrets)
- Law No. 6 of 2005 (Protection of Layout Design of Integrated Circuits)
The Ministry of Health requires registration of all pharmaceutical products imported into the country and will not register unauthorized copies of products patented in other countries.
Article 11 of Law No. 30 of 2006 states: The term of protection available shall not end before the expiration of a period of twenty years counted from the filing date. Within the period from application date through the date of patent accomplishment, the invention shall enjoy the same protection granted for the patent.
The 2002 copyright law does not explicitly provide for national treatment or coverage of unpublished works and does not criminalize end-user piracy. However Qatar is party to the Berne and Paris Conventions and abides by their mandates concerning unpublished works. As for end-users, some Qatari companies have already complied with the law and others are making provisions to do so.
The Copyright Office works with law enforcement authorities to prosecute resellers of unlicensed video and software. In 2009, at least 105 raids were carried out. The value of the materials confiscated was QR 3,600,000 (USD 989,000) out of approximately 40 cases.
Qatar uses the GCC patent law with derogations as needed to comply with its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. A joint committee between the Ministry of Business and Trade and Ministry of Health has yet to be established to coordinate their efforts and ensure that only patented products or authorized copies of pharmaceutical products are registered for sale.
In 2006, an Emiri Decree on patents was issued requiring that: (1) only inventions of industrial use can be registered as a patent; (2) an industrial product or means or process of production must have something innovative about it to merit patent registration; (3) inventions in health, agriculture, plants and software development are not eligible for patent; (4) only Qatari citizens or foreigners of WTO signatory countries will be allowed to register a patent; (5) the Ministry of Business and Trade will frame and implement executive regulations to help enforce the law; and (6) the Ministry of Business and Trade will set up a patent registration office. This office has been established and named the Patents Unit and is a part of the Intellectual Property centre.
As part of the GCC Customs Union, the six Member States are working toward unifying their intellectual property regimes. In this respect, the GCC has recently approved a common trademark law. All six Member States are expected to adopt this law as national legislation in order to implement it. However, the new law raises questions about consistency with GCC Member State obligations under the TRIPS Agreement and U.S. free trade agreements with Bahrain and Oman.
Qatar is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and is a signatory to the following WIPO Treaties:
- WIPO Convention, since September 1976
- Paris Convention (Industrial Property), since July 2000
- Berne Convention (Literary and Artistic Works), since July 2000
- Nairobi Treaty (Olympic Symbol), since July 1983
- WCT (WIPO Copyright Treaty), since October 2005
- WPPT (WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty), since October 2005
- Qatar has also been a member and signatory to the TRIPS Agreement since January 1996
TRANSPARENCY OF THE REGULATORY SYSTEM
There are four regulatory bodies in Qatar, though plans are underway to create a unified regulatory authority for the country. It remains unclear when the necessary legislation and oversight board will be in place. Current regulatory entities include:
- The Qatar Financial Market Authority regulates the Doha Securities Market
- The Central Bank regulates locally registered banks
- The QFC Regulatory Authority has a separate, independent regulatory authority for QFC-registered firms
- The Ministry of Business and Trade regulates the local insurance sector
In Qatar, the government is the major buyer and end-user of a wide range of products and services. Government procurement regulations provide a ten-percent preference for Qatari products and five-percent for GCC products. The Central Tenders Committee (CTC) of the Ministry of Finance and Economy is responsible for processing the majority of public sector tenders. The CTC applies standard tendering procedures and adheres to established performance norms. It also sets the standards for rules and regulations for bidding procedures.
Information on CTC tenders may be obtained from the CTC office in Doha or on the Internet at http://www.ctc.gov.qa/tender-en.aspx In tenders valued in excess of QR 100 million (USD27 million), the CTC may invite and pre-qualify international firms to bid for a specific product or service. Technical bids submitted to the CTC are referred to the appropriate government end-user for short-listing. The CTC then opens the commercial bids and recommends the lowest priced, technically qualified bidder to the entity concerned, which will make the final award decision. Inquiries about specific award decisions should be directed to the CTC.
Some governmental entities have established internal tender committees. The Ministry of Energy and Industry, Qatar Petroleum, Urban Planning and Development Authority, and Public Works Authority process all tenders independently. Qatar Armed Forces and the Ministry of Interior are responsible for issuing tenders for classified materials and services.
Foreign firms wishing to participate in government procurement programs may be required to have a local agent and provide bid and performance bonds. International bidders should contact end-users directly for information on local agent requirements.
Other regulatory policies do not significantly affect foreign investment decisions. Some U.S. companies have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in government procurement.
EFFICIENT CAPITAL MARKETS AND PORTFOLIO INVESTMENT
In Qatar, there are no restrictions on the flow of capital. The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) adheres to conservative policies aimed at maintaining steady economic growth and a stable banking sector. Loans are allocated on market terms, and foreign companies are essentially treated the same as local companies. Qatar National Bank (QNB), 50 percent state-owned, is the largest bank in the country, with total assets equal to 40% percent of the total assets of all Qatari commercial banks.
The following represents Qatar banking sector assets (in In 000 QR), based on QCB data.
Total Assets of Banking Sector:
Dec 2008 QR 405,516,560
Nov 2009 QR 461,122,252
12.06 increase over December 2008
Total Assets of Local Commercial Banks
Nov 2009 QR 423,047,085
91.74 of total banking sector assets
Total Assets of Branches of foreign Banks
Nov 2009 QR 34,815,008
7.55 of total banking sector assets
Total Assets of Qatar National Bank
Nov 2009 QR 184,429,467
40% of total banking sector assets
Almost all import transactions are controlled by standard letters of credit processed by local banks and their correspondent banks in the exporting countries. Credit facilities are provided to local and foreign investors within the framework of standard international banking practices. Foreign investors are usually required to have a guarantee from their local sponsor/local equity partner.
However, in accordance with QCB guidelines, banks operating in Qatar give priority to Qataris and to public development projects in their financing operations. Additionally, single customers may not be extended credit facilities by a bank exceeding 20% of the bank's capital and reserves. In addition, the Qatar Central Bank does not allow cross-sharing and stable shareholder arrangements among banks and other business concerns that result in fewer shares of some corporations actually trading freely in the market. QCB requires banks to maintain a maximum credit ratio of 90%.
Although most of the shares on the Qatar Exchange (formerly known as the Doha Securities Market) are owned by Qatari citizens, Qatar's current regulations allow foreigners to invest in all Qatar Exchange listed companies. The total of foreign investments cannot exceed 25 percent of the capital of any listed company except Qatar Telecom and Salam International Investment, where foreign investment shares may be higher. Foreign ownership of shares usually hovers around 8 percent, with most owned by other GCC citizens or local expatriates. The Mutual Fund Law (Law. No 25/2002) allows expatriates to invest indirectly in the stock market. No bonds have been traded on the Qatar Exchange.
Qatar is politically stable. The crime rate is low. There are no political parties, labor unions or trade associations. There is no known organized domestic political opposition. The U.S. government believes the potential exists for acts of transnational terrorism to occur in Qatar. Potential investors and U.S. citizens are encouraged to stay in close contact with the Embassy for up-to-date threat information.
Bribery is a crime in Qatar and the law imposes penalties for public officials convicted of taking action in return for monetary or personal gain, or for other parties who take actions to influence or attempt to influence a public official through monetary or personal gain. The current Penal Code (Law No. 11/2004) governs corruption law and stipulates that individuals convicted of bribery may receive up to ten years imprisonment and a fine not greater than the amount of the bribes but not less than 5,000 Qatari riyals (USD1,374). Those convicted of embezzlement and damage to the public treasury are subject to terms of imprisonment of no less than 5 and no more than 10 years. The penalty is enhanced to a minimum term of 7 and a maximum term of 15 years if the perpetrator is a public official in charge of collecting taxes or exercising fiduciary responsibilities over public monies. Investigations into allegations of corruption are handled by the Qatar State Security Bureau (QSS) and Public Prosecution. Final judgments are made by the criminal court
Qatari officials are working to establish a more open and transparent system in government procurement. By Emiri Decree No. 17/2007, Qatar ratified the UN Convention for Combating Corruption, and Emiri Decree No. 84/2007 established a National Committee for Integrity and Transparency. The permanent committee is headed by the chairman of Audit Bureau and is tasked with combating corruption in Qatar and reports directly to him. Qatar is not a party to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials. Qatar is not a participant in regional anti-corruption initiatives. No regional or local watchdog organization operates in this country.
In 2009, Qatar's standing improved by moving up to 28th from 32nd in the previous year, out of 180 countries rated in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Qatar also scored a respectable 7.0, the top spot for a Middle Eastern country. U.S. investors and Qatari nationals, if they are agents of U.S. firms, are subject to the provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
BILATERAL INVESTMENT AGREEMENTS
Over the past ten years, Qatar has signed bilateral investment protection agreements with numerous countries, including Belarus (2001), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1998), China (1999), Croatia (2001), Cuba (2001), Finland (2001), France (1996), Germany (1996), India (1999), Iran (1999), South Korea (1999), Morocco (1999), Pakistan (1999), Romania (1996), Senegal (1998), Sudan (1998), Switzerland (2001), and Turkey (2001).
On November 5, 2005, Qatar and Singapore signed a free trade agreement. Both countries continue to work to finalize the text of the agreement. Qatar has signed many agreements with other countries on the avoidance of double taxation.
Qatar has not entered into a bilateral investment, trade, or taxation treaty with the U.S. However, Qatar and the U.S. did sign a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in April 2004.
OPIC AND OTHER INVESTMENT INSURANCE PROGRAMS
Due to concerns about labor practices in Qatar, OPIC suspended its operations in Qatar in 1995. However, Qatar is working to improve its labor standards in order to reinstate OPIC coverage.
Qatar has no plans to become a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
Qatar's labor force consists primarily of expatriate workers. Qatar's current population is estimated at 1.7 million, a doubling in the last four years. Qatari citizens are estimated to number only 225,000 - less than one-sixth of the total population. The largest group of foreign workers comes from the Indian sub-continent. The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs regulate recruitment of expatriate labor, but Qatar's plan to develop its own manpower resources continues to receive attention at all government levels.
The 2004 labor law and subsequent regulations provide for the right of Qatari citizens to form workers' committees in private enterprises with more than 100 Qatari citizen workers. Noncitizens are not eligible to form worker committees. Those working in the government sector, Qatari and non-Qatari, are prohibited from joining unions. Further, the law and regulations permit only a single national trade union structure and forbid affiliation with groups outside the country.
These restrictions mean that, in practice no labor unions currently exist. Under the labor law, workers are granted the right to bargain collectively and to sign joint agreements, i.e., agreements reached between employer and worker regarding a work-related issue.
The right is circumscribed by the government's control over the rules and procedures of the bargaining and agreement processes. Collective bargaining is not freely practiced, and there are no workers employed under collective bargaining contracts. The law also grants workers the right to strike, but the restrictive conditions imposed by the statute make the likelihood of an approved strike extremely remote. Unapproved and spontaneous strikes are a frequent occurrence, though they are typically confined to the industrial areas, and resolved with intervention by the embassies or communities of the involved workers and/or shows of force by Qatari security forces. Leaders of such disturbances are routinely deported.
Employers set wages unilaterally without government involvement. Local courts handle disputes between workers and employers; however, the majority of foreign workers avoid drawing attention to problems with their employers for fear of repatriation. According to source country embassies and some migrant workers, the Labor Department was widely perceived to be objective within its narrow mandate when dealing with the nonpayment of wages. The Labor Department claimed that it resolves the vast majority of worker complaints amicably, with a very small percentage referred to the labor courts for judgment.
A new secretariat for labor relations was recently established and charged with overseeing collective bargaining and labor relations. The Labor Inspection Section has been restructured and staffed with sufficient numbers of trained inspectors who are provided with the power of law enforcement. Labor camps have been closed and forced to comply with minimum standards by the labor inspectors.
All expatriate labor must have a Qatari sponsor. Therefore, foreign investors are urged to negotiate labor visa issues with their sponsors/local agents/partners in the early stages of contract negotiation.
In order to bring an expatriate employee into the country, sponsors must submit a request to the Ministry of Labor specifying the employee's nationality and the job he will perform in Qatar. The Ministry of Labor maintains a quota system that restricts the number of workers that may come to Qatar from any particular country.
The Ministry of Interior and the current sponsor must approve all transfers of sponsorship of an expatriate from one individual or firm to another. With the approval of the Ministry of Interior, sponsorship of employees who filed valid complaints of abuse by employers can be transferred without the current employer's agreement, which is very rare. By law, an expatriate is only entitled to two sponsorship transfers during their residence in Qatar, provided they are below 60 years of age. If for any reason a residence permit is canceled, the expatriate is not allowed to return to Qatar on a work visa for a period of two years unless he obtains a letter of no objection from his previous employer. If an employee has been terminated under Article 61 of the law, he is barred from reentering the country for 4 years from the date of his exit.
It is common practice in Qatar for expatriate workers to be provided accommodation, end of service benefits and homeward passage allowance, in addition to salaries. Qatar does not have a minimum wage regulation, though Qatar's labor agreements with some countries stipulate a minimum wage for certain types of work. The Labor Law does not apply to domestic workers or drivers.
Qatar is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Generally, labor experts believe that Qatar's labor law does not meet ILO minimum requirements.
FOREIGN-TRADE ZONES/FREE PORTS
Companies operating at the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) can import goods and services duty free. Foreign entities wishing to invest in the QSTP apply for a license with the Park's managing board. No other licensing rules prevalent in the country will apply to the above businesses, although individuals will be subject to the criminal and civil laws of the state. Licensed foreign companies can enjoy 100 percent ownership and full capital and income repatriation benefits.
Businesses in the QSTP are exempt from all taxes, including income tax. The property of such a business is not to be seized under any circumstance, but capital and other cash can be seized on the orders of a local court. Equipment, machinery, or any other goods being imported for use by an entity doing business in QSTP are exempt from customs duty, and goods produced in the Park are not subject to export tax. Goods being sold within Qatar, but outside the QSTP, will be subject to the normal customs duty applicable to imported products. Flammable and radioactive materials, drugs, weapons, and explosives are banned from import by any of the licensed businesses.
Qatar has a 2005 law regulating the establishment of free trade zones. Qatar is planning to establish three free-trade zones, but no definite time frame has been announced for their establishment. One zone would be established near the New Doha International Airport (currently under construction with an estimated opening of mid- 2011) and would house light industries, financial services, and legal, trade and engineering consultancies. A second zone for the industrial area of Doha would cater to manufacturing and transport companies. The third zone, near Mesaieed Industrial City, would house petrochemical and other downstream-related businesses in the energy sector.
Priority in employment at the zones will be given to Qatari nationals. Resident expatriates will be allowed to join a licensed company if there is no objection from the Ministry of Interior. Conditions governing sponsorship change, including nationality quotas, will not apply to expatriates being recruited by a licensed company provided there is no objection from the Ministry of Interior. A new residency law is expected to be published by the beginning of the year 2010.
FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT STATISTICS
The Government of Qatar does not publish detailed statistics for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Qatar or the government's direct investments overseas. According to the latest data available from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. FDI in Qatar totaled USD 7.1 billion in 2007 on an historical-cost basis, or approximately 24 percent of all reported U.S. FDI in the Middle East and second only to Israel in the region. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Qatar's total stock of inward FDI in 2006 was USD 7.25 billion, with a total FDI inflow in 2007 of USD 1.1 billion. (Note: The total stock of FDI would, according to these figures, represent about 8.4 percent of Qatar's GDP.
In recent years, Qatar has attracted sizeable investments in the areas of enhanced oil recovery and production, as well as the development of Qatar's gas industry. During the past ten years, QP and its partners have invested an estimated USD 100 billion in upstream and downstream operations. The development of Qatar's offshore natural gas reserves in the North Field will continue to dominate all other sectors in attracting foreign investors. Qatar's gas industry has attracted investors/creditors from the around the world. The following is a list of foreign equity participation investors, U.S. firms included, in some major state-owned industrial/petroleum related industries:
Exxon Mobil currently holds stakes in 12 liquefied natural gas production units in Qatar as well as a condensate refinery.
Qatar Fertilizer Company (QAFCO) is jointly owned by Industries Qatar (IQ) (75 percent), Yara International (25%) shareholders.
Industries Qatar (IQ) (75 percent), Yara Nederland BV (15 percent) and Fertilizer Holdings AS (10 percent) - Year established: 1969. Commencement of commercial production: 1974. Total shareholder equity end 2004 is USD 791.5 million.
Qatar Petrochemical Company (QAPCO) is jointly owned by Industries Qatar (IQ) (80 percent), Total Petrochemicals (20 percent) - Equity share capital: QR 360 million (USD 99 million) - Year established: 1975. Commencement of commercial production: 1981. Total shareholder equity: USD777.5 million.
Qatar Fuel Additives Company Ltd. (QAFAC) is jointly owned by Industries Qatar (IQ) (50 percent), Chinese Petroleum Corporation (CPC) (20 percent), Lee Chang Yung.
Chemical Industry Corporation (LCYCIC) (15 percent) and International Octane Limited (15 percent). Total capital QR 2.5 billion (USD 687 million. Year established: 1992. Endusers: Far East, India, Europe and Arabian Gulf. Commencement of commercial production: 2001. Total shareholder equity: Unknown . Qatar Vinyl Company (QVC) is jointly owned by Qatar Petroleum (25.5 percent), QAPCO (31.9 percent), Norsk Hydro (Norway) (29.7 percent) and Total Petrochemicals (formally Atofina) (France) (12.9 percent). Year established: 1996. End-users: Asian countries. Commencement of commercial production: Mid-2001. Total shareholder equity: Unknown.
Qatar Chemical Company (Q-Chem): Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum (QP) 51 percent; Chevron-Phillips Chemical Company (USA) 49 percent. Year established: 1997. End-users: Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Commencement of commercial production: 2003. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown . Qatar Chemical Company II (Q-Chem II): Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum 51 percent and ChevronPhillips 49 percent. Year Established: 2002. End-users: Local and international. Commencement of commercial production: 2007. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Qatofin: Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: QAPCO 63 percent, Total Petrochemicals (formally Atofina) 36 percent and QP 1 percent. Year Established: 2002. End-users: Asia and Europe. Commencement of commercial production: 2007. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Ras Laffan Ethylene Cracker: Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Q-Chem II 53.31 percent, Qatofin 45.69 percent and QP 1 percent. Year Established: 2002. Endusers: Domestic. Commencement of commercial production: 2007. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Qatar Petroleum (QP) and ExxonMobil Chemical Qatar Limited joint venture to develop one of the world's biggest petrochemical complexes in Ras Laffan Industrial City worth $6 billion. The production is destined mainly for the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. The complex would include about a 1.6 million tons per annum steam cracker, 650,000 tons per annum gas phase polyethylene plants, and a 700,000 tons per annum ethylene glycol plant.
LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS PROJECTS
Qatar Liquefied Gas Company (Qatargas): Equity share capital: QR 500 million (USD 137 million). Shareholders: Upstream: Qatar Petroleum (QP) 65 percent, Total (France) 10 percent, Marubeni Corporation (Japan) and Mitsui and Company Ltd. (Japan) 7.5 percent each and ExxonMobil Oil (USA) 10 percent. Shareholders: Downstream: Qatar Petroleum 65.0 percent, Total 20.0 percent, ExxonMobil 10.0 percent, Mitsui 2.5 percent, Marubeni 2.5 percent. Year established: 1984. End-users of LNG: Worldwide. Commencement of commercial production: December 1996. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Qatar Liquefied Gas Company (Qatargas) II (Qatargas II): Equity share capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum 70 percent and ExxonMobil 30 percent. Year Established: 2002. End-users: U.K. Commencement of commercial production: 2007. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Qatar Liquefied Gas Company (Qatargas) III (Qatargas III): Equity Share Capital: USD 5 billion; Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum (QP) 70 percent and ConocoPhillips 30 percent. Year Established: 2003. End-users: USA Commencement of commercial production: 2009. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co. (RasGas): Equity share capital: QR 7.28 billion (USD 2 billion). Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum (QP) 63 percent, Mobil QM Gas Inc. 25 percent, Itochu Corporation 4 percent, Nissho Iwai Corporation 3 percent and KOGAS 5 percent. Year established: 1993. End-users of LNG: South Korea 91 percent, Spain 6 percent and the U.S. 3 percent. Commencement of commercial production: 1999. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co. (RasGas) II (RasGas II): Equity Share Capital: USD 550 million. Shareholders: QP 70 percent and ExxonMobil 30 percent. Year Established: 2001. End-users: India, Italy, Spain, Taiwan. Commencement of commercial production: 2004 (Train 3). Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co. (RasGas) III (RasGas III): The investment in Ras Laffan Industrial City, the hub of Qatar's upstream industry, reached USD 70.0 billion in 2009. Equity Share: Unknown.
Capital: USD 12-14 million. Shareholders: QP 70 percent stake and ExxonMobil 30 percent. Year Established: 2003. End-users: USA Commencement of commercial production: 2010. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown
Oryx GTL Project: Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum 51 percent and Sasol 49 percent. Year Established: 2003. End-users: Singapore, Japan and Europe. Commencement of commercial production: 2006. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Pearl GTL Project: Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell Group. Year Established: 2004. Commencement of commercial production: unknown. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
OTHER GAS PROJECTS
Dolphin Gas Project: Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Mubadala Development Company (Abu Dhabi) 51 percent, Occidental Petroleum 24.5 percent, Total 24.5 percent, End-users: UAE and Oman. Commencement of commercial production: 2007. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Al-Khaleej Gas Project: Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum, ExxonMobil. End-users: Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain. Commencement of commercial production: Unknown. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
OTHER OIL AND GAS-BASED INDUSTRIES
Gulf International Drilling: Equity Share Capital: USD 258 million. Shareholders: Qatar Petroleum 60 percent and JDC 40 percent. Year Established: 2004. End-users: TBD Commencement of commercial operations: 2004. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
POWER AND UTILITIES
Ras Laffan Independent Water and Power Project: Equity Share Capital: USD572 million. Shareholders: AES Corporation 55 percent, Qatar Electricity and Water Company 25 percent, Qatar Petroleum 10 percent and Gulf Investment Corporation 10 percent. Year Established: 2001. End-users: Local. Commencement of commercial production: 2004. Current value of foreign equity: Unknown.
Q Power Company: Equity Share Capital: Unknown. Shareholders: Qatar Electricity & Water Co. - 55 percent, International Power Plc (UK) - 40 percent Chubu Electric Power Company (Japan) 5 percent.