Qatar

Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
July 5, 2016

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Executive SummaryShare    

This past year Qatar experienced its first budget deficit in fifteen years due primarily to lower oil prices. Despite this, the Government of Qatar has maintained high levels of government spending in pursuit of its 2030 National Vision. As the world's leading supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Qatar has had one of the fastest growing economies with the highest per capita income in the world and due to its long-term LNG supply contracts and relatively low production costs it has been shielded from the oil crisis better than many other oil-dependent economies. Qatar’s economic growth rate is projected to accelerate slightly to 6.8 percent in 2016 from 6.6 percent in 2015, according to World Bank estimates.

Qatar continues to undergo massive transformation under the rubric of the 2030 National Vision, which aims to modernize infrastructure, establish an advanced, knowledge-based, and diversified economy, no longer reliant on the hydrocarbon sector. The government is heavily involved in Qatar's economy, although it encourages Qatari private investment in many sectors. As Qatar plans to spend USD 200 billion in the lead up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and in implementation of the 2030 National Vision, there are enormous opportunities for foreign investment in various sectors including infrastructure, health care, education, tourism and financial services, among others. Qatar’s budgetary spending is heavily focused in particular on infrastructure, health, and education.

Qatar this past year also began to heavily invest in the United States through its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), and its subsidiaries, such as Qatari Diar. QIA announced plans to invest $35 billion in the U.S. over the course of the next five years and opened an office in New York City in September 2015 to help facilitate these investments.

The U.S. and Qatar launched the Economic and Investment Dialogue in October 2015 in Washington, DC to further strengthen the bilateral economic relationship and help address obstacles to investment and trade. The next round of talks is expected to take place in Qatar in the fall of 2016.

Table 1

Measure

Year

Index or Rank

Website Address

TI Corruption Perceptions index

20151

22 of 168

transparency.org/cpi2014/results

World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”

2016

68 of 189

doingbusiness.org/rankings

Global Innovation Index

2015

0.65

globalinnovationindex.org/content/page/data-analysis

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)

2015

USD Amount

BEA/Host government

World Bank GNI per capita

2014

$92,200

data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign InvestmentShare    

Attitude toward Foreign Direct Investment

As noted, Qatar is undergoing massive infrastructure development in pursuit of its 2030 National Vision. Also, Qatar won the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The development related to the National Vision and the 2022 FIFA World Cup preparations will have a lasting impact on Qatar’s real estate, construction, and finance markets. Companies are scrambling to obtain a portion of the more than USD 200 billion in infrastructure development needed before 2022. Qatar plans to invest between USD 20 billion to USD 25 billion in tourism infrastructure development. The largest planned development is the USD 29 billion metro and rail project which will be implemented in three phases with completion scheduled for 2022. Other focal investment opportunities include roads, industrial zones, and information and communication technology. These developments will stimulate the domestic economy and create substantial export opportunities for foreign businesses. In addition to energy and infrastructure development, significant opportunities exist for foreign investment in medical, safety and security, education, and franchising.

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 and made Qatar the world’s largest exporter of LNG. Qatar imposed a moratorium on increasing natural gas production from the North Field in 2012. The moratorium on further development remains in effect. Significant investment in the downstream sector is likely to continue.

Qatar's investment liberalization policies are proceeding on a gradual basis, based on a desire to protect local companies from rapid competition. Nonetheless, Qatar has made progress on legislation that will facilitate the tendering process for foreign and local business alike, as Qatar currently 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 percent and goods from other GCC countries receive a 5 percent 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.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In June 2014, the government concluded a trade policy review through the WTO. The link to the report may be found here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp396_e.htm

Laws/Regulations of Foreign Direct Investment

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 obtaining 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 obtaining approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. Moreover, foreign financial services firms are allowed 100 percent ownership at the Qatar Financial Center (QFC). On October 31, 2009, the Council of Ministers agreed on the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce to allow foreign investors to hold 100 percent ownership in certain activities, including: business consultancy and technical services; information and communication services; cultural services; sports services; entertainment services; and distribution services.

The Emir issued a new procurement law in November 2015 which is scheduled for implementation in June 2016. The new law aims to promote a fair, transparent, simple and speedy tendering process. It will abolish the Central Tendering Committee and instead establish a Government Procurement Department within the Ministry of Finance which will have oversight responsibility overall the majority of government tenders. The new department also aims to create a new website which will consolidate all tenders and provide relevant information to interested bidders, facilitating the process for overseas investors.

A new Public Finance Law (Law No. 2/2015) was enacted in early 2015 it aims to optimize the use of the public funds and institute international best practices and standards in Qatar’s financial regulatory framework. The legislation is trying to help Qatar develop a long term investment strategy by setting up a macroeconomic unit within the Ministry of Finance to monitor overall economic management and planning, including a public investment program established to identify the State’s major projects and ways in which to prioritize them. The law also amended Qatar’s fiscal period from April-April to January-January to fall in line with international standards and extended the 2014/2015 fiscal year until the first of January 2016. International law firms with 15 years of continuous experience in their countries of origin are allowed to set up operations in Qatar, but the license will be granted only if authorities in Qatar are convinced that the field in which the applying firm specializes is of use to Qatar. On the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice, the Cabinet may reduce the number of required years’ experience or fully waive the condition. Cabinet Decision Number 57/2010 states that the Doha office of an international law firm is allowed to practice in Qatar only if their main office in the country of origin remains open for business. In April 2015 the QFC stopped issuing new licenses to foreign law firms in response to complaints made by local Qatari firms of unfair competition.

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, electricity and water, steel, cement, and fuel distribution and marketing. 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. However, there is a minimum requirement of QR 200,000 in initial capital for any telecommunication business, which creates a barrier to entry for small entrepreneurs.

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 to the Qataris, and promotes 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 high-end projects, including the Pearl, the West Bay Lagoon, Lusail, 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."

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.

Qatar is rated the easiest country in which to pay tax globally, according to Paying Taxes 2015, an annual report issued by Price Waterhouse Coopers, the World Bank, and the International Finance Corporation. Qatari nationals are not subject to any kind of corporate or income tax, although nationals are obliged to pay Zakat, which usually amounts to around 2.5 percent of profits. Although there is no income tax on salaries in Qatar, foreign investors are subject to taxation on their investment income. In January 2015, Qatar became the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council to sign a Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act intergovernmental agreement with the United States.

On January 1, 2010, a tax law went into effect imposing a 10 percent (corporate) flat rate on all non-Qatari companies and foreign partners in Qatari companies. The only exception is in the energy sector where there is a 35 percent tax rate on all oil and gas operations, unless exempted by Emiri Decree. 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.

The tax law applies to revenues from business activities and 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. Under Law No. 13/2000, the Ministry of Finance may grant a tax holiday of up to 10 years for new foreign investments in key sectors. Other exemptions may be granted under Law No. 21/2009 on a case-by-case basis for a period of up to 6 years.

Companies established in the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) enjoyed a tax exemption status since the start of operations in 2005 through 2009. QFC’s new tax regime, levying a flat 10 percent on profits, came into force in 2010, but captive insurance, reinsurance and asset management businesses are exempted.

There are two types of penalties for failing to pay corporate taxes: penalties associated with delays in filing, and delays in payment. Companies, local or foreign, 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 percent 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.

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.

Business Registration

  • The Ministry of Economy and Commerce has been increasing the number of online services for companies established or looking to establish in Qatar. All information on establishing a company is provided on the Ministry’s website. Companies looking to supply goods to the market typically have to register with the respective government agency. Registering a company in Qatar usually takes 3-4 months, but the Ministry of Economy and Commerce has announced a business center expected to launch this year, that will act as a one stop shop for companies looking to establish in Qatar. In addition, a Trade License and Signage License must be obtained from the Municipality of Doha along with an Immigration Card from the Immigration Department (Ministry of Interior) before the company can conduct business in Qatar. For more information, please visit www.mec.gov.qa
  • Companies with less than 10 employees are considered small firms, while companies with less than 50 medium and over that large. Special support services to local SMEs are being provided by Qatar Development Bank (incubation and financing). However, SMEs need to be locally established i.e. a foreign SME would have to partner with a local SME to receive these support services. Also of note, the new Ministry of Finance Procurement law (expected to launch in June 2016) will likely include mandates for government agencies to source 30% of their goods and services from local SMEs.

Industrial Promotion

Qatar announced ambitious infrastructure development plans in the lead up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and in implementation of the 2030 National Vision. There are in turn enormous opportunities for foreign investment in various sectors associated with this boom, including in the infrastructure, health care, education, tourism and financial services sectors. A new website launched by the Ministry of Finance is expected to be released later this year which will consolidate information on government tenders.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

On August 5, 2014, Law No. 9/2014 was issued amending some provisions of Law No. 13/2000 regulating investment of non-Qatari capital in economic activity in publicly listed companies. The effect of this change is to raise the limit of permissible foreign ownership levels in the listed companies to 49 percent, which previously was limited to 25 percent in most listed companies. The newly approved law stipulates that non-Qatari investors are allowed to own up to 49 percent of the shares of a Qatari shareholding company listed on the Qatar Exchange (QE). The 49 percent ownership must be contained within the company’s memorandum of association or articles of incorporation after they gain the approval of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. Under the amended law, these investors can also own more than the 49 percent, provided they attain cabinet approval. Gulf Cooperation Council nationals will be treated as Qatari citizens in the ownership of companies listed on Qatar Exchange. The effects of these amendments are retroactive. Non-Qatari GCC nationals previously treated as foreigners for the purpose of trading in Qatari stock exchange, will now receive equal treatment to that of a Qatari citizens. Their ownership of Qatari stocks is no longer viewed as foreign ownership; instead their participation is equal to that of a Qatari national.

Doha is home to the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) which allows major international financial institutions and corporations to set up offices with 100 percent foreign ownership, and all profits to be remitted outside of Qatar. The QFC is not an offshore center nor a free zone nor a property development. Companies licensed by the QFC are free to operate in both the local as well as other international currencies. Financial firms investing in Qatar enjoy an attractive tax regime; all QFC registered companies are subject to a 10 percent corporate tax on locally sourced profits. The QFC legal framework allows buildings in Doha to be designated as QFC sites so licensed firms do not have to be physically based in QFC premises, provided there is no objection from the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, and that they pay local market rents.

There are currently 196 licensed firms at the QFC, representing a spectrum of banks, investment companies, insurance houses, and related professional services. Approximately 70 QFC licensed firms are regulated by Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority (QFCRA), the QFC’s independent regulatory body. QFC firms are generally limited to providing services to wholesale clients. However, insurance companies can provide services to both wholesale and retail clients, and retail asset management is allowed.

The Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFC Authority) issued regulations governing special purpose companies, holding companies and single family offices operating in or from the QFC. The Special Company Regulations and Single Family Office Regulations (the 'Regulations') were issued on 27 September 2012. The Regulations provide for a more attractive legal, regulatory and business environment. They will expand the range of services the QFC firms will offer and the structures they may adopt, notably single family offices and special purpose companies.

On December 9, 2013, Qatar’s financial sector regulatory authorities the Qatar Central Bank, Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority, and Qatar Financial Markets Authority launched a joint strategic plan for the “future of financial sector regulation in Qatar.” The plan established a framework for financial regulation, setting out a road map of strategic priorities for the next three years (2014-2016). The goals of the plan are to enhance regulation by developing a consistent risk-based micro prudential framework; expanding macro prudential oversight; strengthening financial market infrastructure; enhancing consumer and investor protection; promoting regulatory cooperation.

Privatization Program

There is no ongoing official privatization program of state-owned enterprises, although the State of Qatar promotes and encourages a robust private sector, while offering IPOs for some government owned enterprises. The 2014 law explained above increased the limit on foreign shareholdings on the Qatar Exchange enables increased foreign investment in this regard.

Screening of FDI

The government of Qatar does not have an official or formal screening of FDI process. The government screens investment proposals and may indicate preferences for locating facilities, capital investments and other matters. Disclosure of financial and employment data is required, but proprietary information is not

Competition Law

Ministry of Economy and Commerce reviews the applications for 100 percent ownership licenses (agriculture, manufacturing, health, education, and tourism) where the license is permitted as long as it does not directly compete with existing Qatari companies locally.

2. Conversion and Transfer PoliciesShare    

Foreign Exchange

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.

GCC states have officially discussed harmonizing their monetary policies although they have not established a timeline for the implementation of a common currency. Despite a number of recent private sector analyses suggesting Qatar may reassess its dollar peg policy, the government has maintained the exchange rate.

Remittance Policies

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.

Qatar Central Bank (QCB) authorized mobile phone service providers Ooredoo and Vodafone to add payment services and money transfers via mobile phones in direct collaboration with banks and licensed money exchangers in Qatar.

The Government of Qatar enabled an Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorism Finance Law (AML/CFT) in 2010. The law addressed many of the deficiencies identified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and makes money laundering and terrorist financing offences in line with international standards. It also introduces a suspicious transaction reporting regime and requirements for consumer due diligence and record-keeping. In 2014 Qatar introduced a law governing charitable donations which mandated all donations be regulated by the Government. Law No. 15/2014 established an independent Charities Commission comprised of an interagency board (headed by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, including officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, the Central Bank, and Qatar State Security). This amends Law No. 4/2010 which previously charged the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs with the sole responsibility for regulating charities.

According to the new law, local charities must obtain authorization from the Commission prior to any dealings with foreign entities. In addition, revised regulations have been issued by all three of the main financial regulators in Qatar: the Qatar Central Bank (QCB), the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA), and the Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority (QFCRA). All three regulators do on-site inspections to check compliance with the new law and regulations. However, significant work remains to implement the new financial regulations and there remain some deficiencies with regards to terrorism financing. The Charity Commission continues to hire staff and develop capacity.

In accordance with the QCB instructions on AML/CFT, the financial institutions must apply due diligence prior to establishing business relationships. Certain originator information should be secured where a wire transfer exceeds QR 4,000. Similarly, due diligence should be made when a customer is carrying out occasional transactions in a single or several linked operations of an amount exceeding QR 55,000 or equivalent in foreign currencies per the provisions of Article 23 of Law No. 4/2010.

3. Expropriation and CompensationShare    

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 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.

4. Dispute SettlementShare    

Legal System, Specialized Courts, Judicial Independence, Judgments of Foreign Courts

Qatar is a signatory to the 1958 New York Convention and a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). If investment disputes occur, Qatar accepts binding international arbitration. However, Qatari courts will not enforce judgments or awards from other courts in disputes emanating from investment agreements made under the jurisdiction of other nations.

The civil and commercial court and the regulatory tribunal for Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) form the QFC Judiciary and the legal infrastructure behind the QFC. In addition, the court also features an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) center. Although primarily concerned with hearing commercial matters arising from within the QFC itself, the QFC intends to expand the courts’ jurisdiction to enable it to accept other disputes at its discretion.

Bankruptcy

In Qatar there are two concurrent bankruptcy regimes. The first is the local regime, the provisions of which are set out in the Commercial Law No. 27/2006. However, the bankruptcy law is largely untested. The bankruptcy of a Qatari citizen or a Qatari-owned company is rarely announced and the government sometimes plays the role of guarantor to keep a bankrupt business running and safeguard creditors' rights.

The second bankruptcy regime is found in the QFC Insolvency Regulations of 2005 and applies to corporate bodies and branches registered in the QFC. There are currently two firms in the U.K. offering full dissolution bankruptcy services to QFC-registered companies.

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.

Investment Disputes

The civil and commercial court and the regulatory tribunal for Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) form the QFC Judiciary and the legal infrastructure behind the QFC. In addition, the court also features an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) center. Although primarily concerned with hearing commercial matters arising from within the QFC itself, the QFC intends to expand the courts’ jurisdiction to enable it to accept other disputes at its discretion.

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.

International Arbitration

If investment disputes occur, Qatar accepts binding international arbitration. However, Qatari courts will not enforce judgments or awards from other courts in relation to disputes emanating from investment agreements made under the jurisdiction of other nations. The Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre adjudicates disputes of firms associated with the Qatar Financial Center based on the British common law system.

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Qatar is a signatory to the 1958 New York Convention and a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Duration of Dispute Resolution – Local Courts

There is no set duration for dispute resolution and the time to obtain a resolution depends on the case. The Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre publishes past judgments on its website, which may be used as a reference: http://www.qfccourt.com/Judgement.html

5. Performance Requirements and Investment IncentivesShare    

WTO/TRIMS

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.

Investment Incentives

The Ministry of Economy and Commerce is currently promoting investment in Qatar. A foreign investment law was passed in 2009 allowing 100% ownership in investments made in “Priority Sectors”: information technology, sports and leisure services, agriculture; manufacturing, healthcare, tourism, energy and mining. No specific requirements on investment size and number of employees have been explicitly stated. Additionally, 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 (QDB)
  • Flexible immigration and employment rules to enable the import of foreign labor

The same incentives are offered to Qatari investors.

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 Municipality and Urban Planning, Ministry of Economy and Commerce, Supreme Education Council, and Ministry of Environment.

Research and Development

Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) is the national agency charged with executing applied research and delivering commercialized technologies in four themed areas: Energy, Environment, Health Sciences and Information & Communication Technologies. QSTP is located in Qatar Foundation's Education City and has access to the resources of its cluster of universities. In addition to QSTP’s four centers, members include small companies, international corporations, and research institutions. QSTP seeks to attract U.S. and other foreign investors to start up research and development facilities in the Park, and provide opportunities for companies to engage in commercializing the technology they develop. Participating companies are allowed 100 percent foreign ownership, and exemption from payment of income tax. Microsoft, ExxonMobil, GE, Shell, Tata, Total, and ConocoPhillips are among QSTP member companies.

Performance Requirements

Performance requirements for foreign investment in Qatar do not exist. Disclosure of financial and employment data is required, but proprietary information is not.

Data Storage

Qatar does not follow a "forced localization" policy in which foreign investors must use domestic content in goods or technology, however, as previously outlined, the government does give 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 percent and goods from other GCC countries receive a 5 percent 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.

There are no known formalized requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance.

Information and communications technology (ICT) is regulated by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Qatar's Communications Regulatory Authority was established as an independent body by Emiri Decree No. 42/2014.

6. Protection of Property RightsShare    

Real Property

With the government's announced plans to spend USD 200 billion in infrastructure development in the next ten years, legislation regulating the real estate sector was amended in April 2014 under Law No. 6/2014 (Real Estate Development Law). This aims to facilitate investment in the real estate sector while strengthening regulation. Qatar was ranked 28th globally in 2016 for ease of registering property by the Doing Business Report, found here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/qatar/#registering-property

Intellectual Property Rights

Qatar has made progress in streamlining its intellectual property laws and towards enacting legislation and implementing practices to enable rights holders to protect their IP, but capacity constraints continue to hamper Qatar's IP regime.

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. 30/2006 (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).

Existing laws stipulate hefty fines on those dealing in counterfeit products, and fines and imprisonment for habitual offenders, a person found guilty of counterfeiting, imitating, fraudulently affixing/ selling products/ offering services of a registered trademark, and other IPR violations. However; the level of awareness about IP rights and enforcements is low among the general public but the IPR Department under the Ministry of Economy and Commerce has taken the lead in promoting awareness through workshops and seminars.

Qatar adopted the GCC Patent Law and has assigned the Industrial Property Section in the Ministry of Economy and Commerce to handle issues related to trademarks, commercial indications, trade names, geographical indications and industrial design. An Intellectual Property Centre was also established by Emiri decision No. 53/2009 and was affiliated with the Ministry of Justice at its inception. This center oversees implementation of Qatari law on patents, copyright protection, and protection of trade secrets. In February 2014, the Emir of Qatar issued several decisions on the organizational structure and function of ministries, establishing and reorganizing some authorities, public institutions and governmental entities. The Office of Intellectual Property Rights was transferred to a department within the Ministry of Economy and Commerce in 2014.

According to Law No. 30/2006, patents are valid for twenty years from the date of submission. 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.

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. The General Directorate of Customs, the Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, in cooperation with the IPR Department conduct surveys, raid shops and seize and destroy counterfeit products. In 2014, 30 raids were carried out including 10 cases; the total value of the confiscated material was USD 274,730.

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 Economy and Commerce 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 stipulating 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 Economy and Commerce will frame and implement executive regulations to help enforce the law; and (6) the Ministry of Economy and Commerce will set up a patent registration office. This office has been established and named the Patents Unit and falls under the Ministry of Economy and Commerce.

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

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy point of contact: Hala Rharrit, RharritH@state.gov

Local lawyers list: http://qatar.usembassy.gov/legal_information.html

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/

7. Transparency of the Regulatory SystemShare    

There are three regulatory bodies in Qatar. Law No. 13/2012 enacted by the Emir on December 2, 2012, set the Qatar Central Bank as the primary regulator of financial institutions. It also transferred the regulation of the insurance sector from the Ministry of Economy and Commerce to the Qatar Central Bank and the regulation of the Qatar Financial Center from the Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority to the Qatar Central Bank. The law, which unifies Qatar’s three regulators, the Qatar Central Bank, the Qatar Financial Markets Authority, and the Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority, aims to promote financial stability and enhance regulation coordination through the Financial Stability and Risk Committee, which is headed by the Central Bank Governor.

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 new Procurement Law issued November 2015, which is scheduled for implementation in June 2016, dissolved the Central Tenders Committee (CTC) and created a new Government Procurement Department within the Ministry of Finance which will be responsible for oversight over the majority of public sector tenders. The new department aims to promote transparency and efficiency in the tendering process. The new law requires every government agency to have internal tendering committees that are responsible for processing the tenders, while the Government Procurement Department oversees the process to ensure standards of fairness and efficiency are met. The Ministry of Energy and Industry and Qatar Petroleum 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.

8. Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio InvestmentShare    

There is no restriction 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.

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 percent of the bank's capital and reserves. In addition, QCB 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 percent.

Law No. 13/2012 regulates the QCB and its financial institutions. It mandates the QCB to act as a supreme authority for framing the policies for the regulation and supervision of all financial services and markets in the country. It lays the foundation for increased cooperation between the regulatory bodies in Qatar to develop and apply regulatory policies and implement international standards to deliver the objectives of Qatar’s 2030 National Vision and Qatar’s National Development Strategy (2011-2016). The most significant aspects of the law are that QCB shall be deemed an autonomous corporate body with its own budget under the direct control of the Emir. Its capital is QR 50 billion, equivalent to USD 13.7 billion, and it is fully owned by the government.

QCB acquired responsibility for the licensing and supervision of insurance companies, reinsurance companies and insurance intermediaries that were previously licensed by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. The Law repealed Decree Law No. 1/1966 on the Supervision and Control of Insurance Firms and Agents. The Qatar Financial Markets Authority and the Regulatory Authority remain independent regulators under the management and direction of their respective boards of directors in accordance with the Law regarding the Qatar Financial Market Authority (Law No. 8/2012) (" QFMA Law") and the Qatar Financial Centre Law (Law No.7/2005) ("QFC Law").

QFC Authority has also recently broadened its regulations to allow foreign companies offering services in Qatar that support the developments required for the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and Qatar National Vision 2030 to obtain a QFC license. Several companies offering services in design, engineering, medical consulting, and management services have successfully obtained a license, and have advised that the process was relatively straightforward and took about 10 weeks to finalize.

Qatar’s economic freedom score is 70.8, and ranks 32nd in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom. Its score has declined by 0.4 point since last year, with declines in 5 of the 10 economic freedoms including freedom from corruption, monetary freedom, and business freedom, according to the Heritage Foundation. Qatar is ranked 3rd out of 15 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, and its overall score is above the world average.

Money and Banking System, Hostile Takeovers

There are 18 licensed banks in Qatar, 11 of which are Qatari institutions including four Islamic banks (Qatar Islamic Bank “QIB,” Qatar International Islamic Bank “QIIB,” Masraf Al Rayan and Barwa Bank) and 7 commercial banks (Qatar National Bank “QNB”, The Commercial Bank of Qatar “Commercial bank,” Doha Bank, Ahli Bank, International Bank of Qatar “IBQ,” Qatar Development Bank “QDB,” Al Khalij Commercial Bank “al khaliji”). The Qatar Central Bank reports that Qatar also has 20 exchange houses, three investment companies and three commercial finance companies.

Qatari regulations for local and foreign banks are the same. New licenses for new banks are available through application to the Qatar Central Bank (QCB). License requirements can be found at the following link: http://www.qcb.gov.qa/English/SupervisionApproach/LicensingAndRegistration/Pages/Licensing.aspx

Qatar National Bank (QNB), 50 percent state-owned via the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), is the largest bank in the country, with total assets equal to approximately 50 percent of the total assets of all Qatari Banks (local). QNB's total assets grew to QR 486 billion as of December 2014, representing an increase of 22 percent compared to December 2013. According to QNB, the Qatar banking sector's overall assets grew 10.5% in 2014 based on higher lending to the private sector which offset the decline in loans to the public sector.

9. Competition from State-Owned EnterprisesShare    

Several state-owned companies still operate under monopoly, or exclusive rights in some economic sectors, with no plans toward privatization. SOEs are the driving force of the Qatari economy. The government has affirmed support for Qatar's local private sector and encourages SME development as part of its 2030 National Vision. The Qatari private sector is favored in bids for local contracts and generally receives favorable terms for financing at local banks. The following are Qatar’s major state-owned enterprises:

• In February 2013 Ooredoo was introduced by Qatar Telecom, Q.S.C, to replace Qtel, the former operating name. Ooredoo is a dominant player in the Qatari telecoms market and is 76 percent owned by Qataris. Its revenues from outside Qatar currently constitute more than 75 percent of its total revenue. In 2007, the mobile products and services sector was opened to competition. In 2008, the fixed line telecoms market was also liberalized. Vodafone was selected to compete in both mobile and fixed line against Ooredoo, and is 96 percent-owned by Qatari shareholders. Both companies are listed in the Qatar Exchange (QE). Prior to 2007, both the mobile and fixed line telecoms markets in Qatar were dominated by Ooredoo.

• Kahramaa (Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation) operates all water and electricity activities and is 90 percent owned by Qatari shareholders. The government owns 43 percent of the capital. The government has indicated that it may privatize segments of the water and electricity sectors. A first step in this direction occurred when the Ras Laffan Power Company, which is 55 percent owned by a U.S. company, was established in 2001.

• Qatar Petroleum (QP) operates all oil and gas activities and is wholly owned by the government. QP’s oil and gas fields fall into three categories - the North Gas Field, onshore oil, and offshore oil. In addition, QP carries out activities through the following subsidiaries, joint ventures and other investments.

• Q-Post (Qatar General Postal Corporation) is the state-owned postal company. Several other delivery companies are allowed to compete in the courier market: Aramex, DHL Express, and FedEx Express.

• Qatar Airways is the country’s designated National Carrier and is now wholly owned by the state

• The subsidiaries of Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the State of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, also play a prominent role in the local economy.

• Qatar Holding LLC (QH), the direct strategic investment arm of QIA.

• Qatari Diar, a property investment vehicle.

• Hassad Food Company (HDC), a vehicle for investment in agriculture and livestock

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs

Qatar SOEs may adhere to their own corporate governance codes and are not required to follow the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance. Some SOEs publish online corporate governance reports to encourage transparency, but there is not a general framework for corporate governance across all Qatari SOEs. When an SOE is involved in an investment dispute, the case is generally reviewed by the appropriate sector regulator. In 2010, the Supreme Council for Information and Communications Technology, for example, famously ruled against SOE Q-Tel (now Ooredoo) when Vodaphone Qatar lodged a complaint against the former for misleading advertising.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, was established by Emiri Decree 22/2005. QIA is the driving force of Qatar's economic diversification strategy. QIA is not required by law to publish an annual report or submit its books to an independent audit. QIA, in November 2014, hosted the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IFSWF) 6th annual meeting, which resulted in the Doha Agreement, adopting a three-year strategic plan to ensure free flow of long-term global capital and strong real returns for the progeny; with great emphasis on transparency.

In September 2015, QIA opened an office in New York City to facilitate $35 billion in investments in the U.S. over the course of the next five years. QIA is also an integral part of the U.S.-Qatar Economic and Investment Dialogue to promote increased economic cooperation and bilateral investment. QIA’s real estate subsidiary Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company, established an office in Washington, DC in 2014 upon successfully completing its first project in the United States. The City Center development project located in Washington, DC is a $1.5 billion development consisting of residential, and commercial space along with a hotel.

10. Responsible Business ConductShare    

There is a general awareness of responsible business conduct principles. Those firms that pursue CSR are viewed favorably. The Ministry of Economy and Commerce announced plans to introduce a corporate social responsibility index for companies listed on Qatar Exchange in order to measure their “social commitment.” Many companies in Qatar, however, already publicize their policies regarding corporate social responsibility, and are interested in publishing sustainability reports, including their CSR initiatives, in conjunction with their annual reports.

11. Political ViolenceShare    

Qatar is politically stable. The crime rate is low. There are no political parties or labor unions. 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 State Department and U.S. Embassy in Doha for up-to-date threat information.

12. CorruptionShare    

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 QR 5,000 (USD 1,374).

Those convicted of embezzlement and damage to the public treasury are subject to terms of imprisonment of no less than five and no more than ten years. The penalty is enhanced to a minimum term of seven and a maximum term of fifteen 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.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

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 the 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 opened the Anti-Corruption and Rule of Law Center on November 25, 2012 in Doha in partnership with the United Nations.

Qatar remains one of the least corrupt countries in the Middle East and North Africa in the Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Qatar was ranked 22 of 168 globally with a score of 71 out of 100.

Resources to Report Corruption

On March 11, 2015, the Emir issued a new decree (Emiri Decree No. 6 of 2015) reorganizing the Administrative Control and Transparency Authority (ACTA) and Saad bin Ibrahim Al Mahmoud was appointed as its Chairman. The Authority will have juridical responsibility and its own budget and will be directly affiliated to the office of the Emir. The Chairman reportedly has the authority to report directly to the Emir and his office is charged with combating any forms of corruption. The objectives of the Authority are to help prevent official corruption and ensure that the various ministries, state agencies and their arms as well as their officials operate with transparency. The authority is charged with investigating alleged crimes against public property or finances perpetrated by public officials.

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.

13. Bilateral Investment AgreementsShare    

Qatar has 52 bilateral international investment agreements according to UNCTAD. Eighteen have been ratified including those signed with Costa Rica, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea, Macedonia, Morocco, Romania, Russian Federation, Switzerland and Turkey: A full list of the 52 current bilateral agreements Qatar has signed can be found at: http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/CountryBits/171

In addition to formal treaties, Qatar has entered into numerous investment and trade agreements with numerous countries, including those listed below. Qatar additionally launched an Economic and Investment Dialogue with the United States in October 2015, which calls for annual high level talks on matters related to economic cooperation.

On the trade and economic side, Qatar signed several Technical, Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement with the following countries:

  • 2000 (Cuba, Lebanon, Yemen, and Eretria)
  • 2001 (Belarus)
  • 2002 (Finland, Ukraine, Mali, South Africa, Gambia, Armenia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Niger)
  • 2003 (Mauritania)
  • 2004 (Libya, and Azerbaijan)
  • 2005 (Germany and Nepal)
  • 2007 (Mongolia, Greece, Vietnam, Singapore, and Tajikistan)
  • 2008 (Cyprus and Philippine)
  • 2009 (Albania (ratified), Croatia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Belarus)
  • 2010 (Congo, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Slovenia)
  • 2011 (Chad)
  • 2012 (Ethiopia)

Bilateral Taxation Treaties

Qatar has 46 Agreements for the Avoidance of Double Taxation.

Qatar has not entered into a bilateral investment or trade treaty with the U.S. However, Qatar and the U.S. signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in April 2004. In January 2015, Qatar became the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council to sign a Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act intergovernmental agreement with the United States.

14. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance ProgramsShare    

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 is not a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

15. LaborShare    

According to the World Bank Migration & Remittances Fact Book 2011, Qatar has the world’s highest level of migrant workers, relative to population, with non-Qataris making up 90 percent of the country's population. Qatar's labor force consists primarily of expatriate workers.

Qatar's current population is estimated at around 2.5 million as of February 2015, doubling in the last eight years. Qatari citizens are estimated to number approximately 250,000 - approximately one-tenth 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 regulate recruitment of expatriate labor.

Little data exist on Qataris' attitudes towards the labor sponsorship system, which binds workers to a single employer for the duration of their work visa. One 2010 survey found almost half of Qataris wanted the system to be made stricter. Some Qatari business groups have defended the exit visa requirement, which requires workers to obtain their employers' consent before being allowed to leave the country, saying that non-Qatari partners or employees could suddenly depart the country without repaying loans or business expenses. Yet some Qatari employers have called for reforms, saying some employers "take advantage of the system", and that it's unfair to prevent workers from leaving for better-paid jobs.

In October 2015 the Emir approved amendments to the labor sponsorship system to be implemented in December 2016. The new law will limit employment contracts to five years or less, enable employees to change employers within Qatar upon completion of their contracts, eliminate burdensome regulations on labor mobility, and create a process for employees to leave the country over the objection of their employers.

In November 2015, Qatar began implementing an amendment to the national labor law mandating the payment of workers through direct bank deposits. Under the new provisions, companies are required to pay their employees through direct bank transfers, making it easier for expats and the government to scrutinize and document any late or non-existing payments. Employees should be paid in Qatari currency once a month, or for some category of workers, every two weeks. Employers in violation of the amendment could face jail time of up to one month and fines of QR 2,000 to QR 6,000.

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. Non-citizens 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.

This right, however, 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 occasionally occur, though they are typically confined to 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 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 reprisals, particularly repatriation. According to source country embassies and migrant community leaders, the Labor Department was widely perceived to be objective within its mandate to enforce the labor law. 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.

Since 2014, the Labor Inspection Department has more than doubled its trained inspector corps from 150 to 375. Some labor camps have been closed and forced to comply with minimum standards by 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, employers 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 employers 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. The Ministry of Interior may reject the transfer due to public safety.

The new law eliminates the two year return ban to Qatar if an expatriate’s residence permit is canceled. Employees still must obtain a no objection certificate from their current employers if they wish to transfer jobs prior to the end of their contract - however, after completing their time of service as delineated in the contract, employees may accept another job at a different employer without obtaining a no objection certificate from the previous employer. If an employee has been terminated under article 61 of the law, he is barred from reentering the country for four years from the date of his exit.

It is common practice in Qatar – and mandated by the Qatar’s Labor Law - for expatriate workers to be provided accommodation, end of service benefits specified in their contract, 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 household staff to include domestic workers, drivers, and gardeners.

Qatar is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Qatar claims that its labor law meets ILO minimum requirements. However, labor experts continue to criticize Qatar's implementation of the labor law, as enforcement is inconsistent. Until the new law comes into effect in December 2016, under the ‘kafala’ sponsorship system, employers continue to have the unilateral power to cancel residency permits, deny workers the ability to change employers, and deny them permission to leave the country. After December 2016, employers’ roles in determining freedom of movement and labor mobility will be diminished.

16. Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade FacilitationShare    

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, contracts and agreements are 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, are 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 entities, unless the licensed entity obtains the necessary permit from the competent governmental authority and a written approval from the QSTP Board.

In addition to the QSTP, Qatar established Manateq (formerly known as the Economic Zones Company), affiliated with the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, to manage and develop economic zones, although the primary focus are Qatari SMEs. Manateq has started work on three economic zones in and around Doha, and anticipates the first phase of the first zone to be operational by 2017. Priority at the zones will be given to Qatari SMEs and nationals. A recent draft law was approved by the Country’s Cabinet on February 3, 2016 allowing foreign companies 100% ownership of businesses in the zones. The law still requires Emiri approval.

The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) which allows major international financial institutions and corporations to set up offices with 100 percent foreign ownership, and all profits to be remitted outside of Qatar. The QFC is not an offshore center nor a free zone nor a property development, however. Companies licensed by the QFC are free to operate in both the local as well as other international currencies. QFC also recently expanded their mandate allowing foreign companies with services that can support the 2022 world cup preparations and Qatar National Vision 2030 to establish their presence in Qatar as a QFC entity, not limiting the license to financial institutions anymore.

17. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment StatisticsShare    

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

 

Host Country Statistical source

USG or international statistical source

USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

Economic Data

Year

Amount

Year

Amount

 

Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($B USD)

2014

$210.1 billion

2013

$189.9 billion

www.worldbank.org/en/country

Foreign Direct Investment

Host Country Statistical source

USG or international statistical source

USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)

N/A

N/A

2014

$ 8,639 million

www.bea.gov/international/di1usdbal.htm

Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_
multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm

Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Data not available

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

18. Contact for More InformationShare    

Hala Rharrit
Deputy Chief, Political/Economic Section
U.S. Embassy: 22nd February Street, Al Luqta District, P.O. Box 2399, Doha, Qatar
+974-4496-6774
RharritH@state.gov