The State of Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. A diplomatic and economic embargo of Qatar launched by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt (the Quartet) in June 2017 ended in January 2021 when the Government of Qatar and those of the Quartet signed an agreement at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in al-Ula, Saudi Arabia that ended airspace, naval, and land embargos and laid the foundation for restoring diplomatic and commercial relations between Qatar and the Quartet countries. Despite a decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 and 2020, which stemmed from depressed hydrocarbon prices and sales (the latter partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic), Qatar’s real GDP is forecasted to grow by 2.7 percent in 2021 according to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) projections. This positive outlook is largely driven by Qatar Petroleum’s ambitious plans to expand LNG production by more than 60 percent over the next five years. Determined to maintain high-level government spending on projects ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar projects a $9.5 billion budget deficit in 2021, based on a conservative oil price assumption of $40 per barrel. Qatar’s real GDP contracted by 4.5 percent in the third quarter of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
The government remains the dominant actor in the economy, though it encourages private investment in many sectors and continues to take steps to encourage more foreign direct investment (FDI). The dominant driver of Qatar’s economy is the energy sector, which has attracted tens of billions of dollars in FDI. In line with the country’s National Vision 2030 plan’s goal of establishing a knowledge-based and diversified economy, the government of Qatar has recently introduced reforms to its foreign investment and foreign property ownership laws that allow up to 100 percent foreign ownership of businesses in most sectors and real estate in newly designated areas. In 2020, the government also enacted legislation to regulate and promote Public-Private Partnerships.
There are significant opportunities for foreign investment in infrastructure, healthcare, education, tourism, energy, information and communications technology, and services. The government allocated $15 billion for new projects in these sectors over the next three years. Measured by the amount of inward FDI stock, manufacturing, mining and quarrying, finance, and insurance are the primary sectors that attract foreign investors. The government provides various incentives to attract local and foreign investments, including exemptions from customs duties and certain land-use benefits. The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranked Qatar third globally in terms of favorable taxation regimes, and first in the category of ease of registering property. The corporate tax rate is 10 percent for most sectors and there is no personal income tax. One notable exception is the corporate tax of 35 percent on foreign firms in the extractive industries, including but not limited to those in natural gas extraction.
The government has created an effective regulatory regime that enables various government agencies (the Transparency Authority, the National Competition Protection Authority, and the Anti-Monopoly Committee) to curb corruption and anti-competitive practices. To improve transparency, the government streamlined its procurement processes in 2016 creating an online portal for all government tenders.
In recent years, Qatar has begun to invest heavily in the United States through its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and its subsidiaries, notably Qatari Diar. QIA has pledged to invest $45 billion in the United States. QIA opened an office in New York City in September 2015 to facilitate these investments. The September 2020 third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue further strengthened strategic and economic partnerships and addressed obstacles to investment and trade. The fourth round of strategic talks is expected to take place in Doha in 2021.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2020||30 of 175||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||70 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2020||70 of 131||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2019||USD 14,198||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||USD 61,180||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Over the past few years, the government of Qatar enacted reforms to incentivize foreign investment. As Qatar finalizes major infrastructure developments in preparation for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the government has allocated $15 billion for new, non-oil sector projects to be awarded between 2021 and 2023, including for developing new residential land, setting up drainage networks, and building new public hospitals. As of 2021, the government plans to increase LNG production by 64 percent by 2027 and Qatari government officials expect significant investment opportunities for international companies in the upstream and downstream sectors. In 2019, Qatar’s national oil and gas company, Qatar Petroleum, announced localization initiative “Tawteen,” which provides incentives to local and foreign investors willing to establish domestic manufacturing facilities for oil and gas sector inputs. The government established in 2019 the Investment Promotion Agency to further attract foreign direct investment to Qatar. These economic spending and promotion plans should create additional opportunities for foreign investors.
In 2019, the government enacted a new foreign investment law (Law 1/2019) to ease restrictions on foreign investment. The law’s executive regulations permit full foreign ownership of businesses in most sectors with the possibility of fully repatriating the foreign owner’s profits, protecting the owner from expropriation, in addition to several other benefits. Excepted sectors include banking, insurance, and commercial agencies, where foreign capital investment remains limited to a maximum of 49 percent ownership, barring special dispensation from the Cabinet. In 2020, the government also enacted long-awaited Public-Private Partnership Law 12/2020, to further develop the domestic private sector and improve the government’s ability to manage and finance projects. The government is currently in the process of publishing regulations for the implementation of this new law, which should include rules governing foreign participation. Qatar’s primary foreign investment promotion and evaluation body is the Invest in Qatar Center within the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Qatar is also home to the Qatar Financial Centre, Qatar Science and Technology Park, and the Qatar Free Zones Authority, all of which offer full foreign ownership and repatriation of profits, tax incentives, and investment funds for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The government extends preferential treatment to suppliers who use local content in their bids on government contracts. Participation in tenders with a value of QAR five million ($1.37 million) or less is limited to local contractors, suppliers, and merchants registered with the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Higher-value tenders sometimes in theory do not require any local commercial registration; in practice, certain exceptions exist.
Qatar maintains ongoing dialogue with the United States through both official and private sector tracks, including the annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue and official trade missions. Qatari officials have repeatedly emphasized a desire to increase both American investments in Qatar and Qatari investments in the United States.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
The government recently reformed its foreign investment legal framework. As noted above, full foreign ownership is now permitted in all sectors except for banking, insurance, and commercial agencies. Law 1/2019 on Regulating the Investment of Non-Qatari Capital in Economic Activity (replacing Law 13/2000) grants foreign investors the ability to invest either through partnership with a Qatari investor owning 51 percent or more of the enterprise, or by applying to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for up to 100 percent foreign ownership. The Invest in Qatar Center within the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is the entity responsible for vetting full foreign ownership applications. The law includes provisions on the protection of foreign investment from expropriation, the exemption of some foreign investment projects from income tax and customs duties, and the right to transfer profits and ownership without delay.
Law 16/2018 on Regulating Non-Qatari Ownership and Use of Properties allows foreign individuals, companies, and real estate developers freehold ownership of real estate in 10 designated zones and usufructuary rights up to 99 years in 16 other zones. Foreigners may also own villas within residential complexes, as well as retail outlets in certain commercial complexes. Foreign real estate investors and owners are eligible for residency in Qatar for as long as they own their property. The Ministry of Justice created a Committee on Non-Qatari Ownership and Use of Real Estate in December 2018 to regulate non-Qatari real estate ownership and use.
Other FDI incentives exist, including ones extended by the Qatar Financial Centre, the Qatar Free Zones Authority, and the Qatar Science and Technology Park. A Public-Private Partnership legislation (Law 12/2020) was enacted in May 2020 to facilitate direct foreign investment in national infrastructure development (currently focused on hospitals, land development, and drainage networks). In part due to these reforms, Qatar’s World Bank’s Doing Business ranking improved in 2020 from 83rd to 77th position. Nonetheless, Qatar’s World Bank ranking in more than half of its annual categories continues to be lower than 100th, including in the categories of starting a business, getting credit, protecting minority investors, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.
U.S. investors and companies are not disadvantaged by existing ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms more than other foreign investors.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Qatar underwent a World Trade Organization (WTO) policy review in April 2014. Qatar is due for another review in 2021. The reviews may be viewed on the WTO website: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp396_e.htm
Recent reforms have further streamlined the commercial registration process. Local and foreign investors may apply for a commercial license through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s (MOCI) physical “one-stop shop” or online through the Invest in Qatar Center’s portal. Per Law 1/2019, upon submission of a complete application, the Ministry will issue its decision within 15 days. Rejected applications can be resubmitted or appealed. For more information on the application and required documentation, visit: https://invest.gov.qa
The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report estimates that registering a small-size limited liability company in Qatar can take eight to nine days. For detailed information on business registration procedures, as evaluated by the World Bank, visit: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/qatar/
For more information on business registration in Qatar, visit:
- Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Invest in Qatar Center: https://invest.gov.qa
- Qatar Financial Centre: http://www.qfc.qa/
- Qatar Free Zones Authority: https://fza.gov.qa/
- Qatar Science and Technology Park: https://qstp.org.qa/
- Qatar Petroleum Tawteen Program: https://www.tawteen.com.qa/
Qatar does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad. According to the latest foreign investment survey from the Planning and Statistics Authority, Qatar’s outward foreign investment stock reached $109.9 billion in the second quarter of 2019. In 2018, sectors that accounted for most of Qatar’s outward FDI were finance and insurance (40 percent of total), transportation, storage, information and communication (33 percent), and mining and quarrying (18 percent). As of 2018, Qatari investment firms held investments in about 80 countries; the top destinations were the European Union (34 percent of total), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, 24 percent), and other Arab countries (14 percent).
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Qatar has 59 bilateral investment treaties (BITs), according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Twenty-six BITs are in force, namely with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Montenegro, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Turkey. The most recent BIT was signed with Rwanda in November 2018 but has not yet come into force. A full list of current BITs with the State of Qatar can be found at: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/171/qatar
While Qatar has not entered into a bilateral investment or trade treaty with the United States, the two nations established a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2004. Additionally, as part of the GCC, Qatar has signed 12 treaties with investment provisions (TIPs), including one between the GCC and the United States in 2012, but this treaty has not yet entered into force.
Qatar does not have a double taxation treaty with the United States. In 2015, Qatar became the first GCC country to sign a Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) intergovernmental agreement with the United States. In total, Qatar has over 80 agreements for the Avoidance of Double Taxation, including, most recently, with Somalia (2020), Morocco (2020), and China (2020).
Qatar has recently improved its taxation regime. In 2019, the government established the General Tax Authority as the central tax collection and compliance body of the government. In the same year, the government implemented the GCC 2016 Excise Tax Framework Agreement, imposing consumption-based excise taxes on select goods deemed harmful to human health, including tobacco (100 percent excise tax), sweetened carbonated drinks (50 percent), energy drinks (100 percent), and “special-category goods,” including alcoholic beverages (100 percent), and pork (100 percent). The decision was promulgated in Law 25 of 2018 and applies to both locally produced and imported goods in those categories. On April 1, the government of Qatar removed the excise tax from “special purpose goods.” As a GCC member state, Qatar has agreed to introduce a common value-added tax (VAT) of five percent. In 2017, Qatar approved a draft law on the proposed VAT, but has not committed to an implementation timeline.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The World Trade Organization recognizes Qatar’s legal framework as conducive to private investment and entrepreneurship and enabling of the development of an independent judiciary system. Qatar has taken measures to protect competition and ensure a free and efficient economy. In addition to the National Competition Protection and Anti-Monopoly Committee, regulatory authorities exist for most economic sectors and are mandated to monitor economic activity and ensure fair practices.
Nonetheless, according to the World Bank’s Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance, Qatar lacks a transparent rulemaking mechanism, as government ministries and regulatory agencies do not share regulatory plans or publish draft laws for public consideration. An official public consultation process does not exist in Qatar. Laws and regulations are developed by relevant ministries. The 45-member Shura Council (which should statutorily have at least 30 publicly elected officials, is in practice comprised solely of direct appointees by the Amir) must reach consensus to pass draft legislation, which is then returned to the Cabinet for further review and to the Amir for final approval. Shura Council elections are planned for October 2021. The text of all legislation is published online and in local newspapers upon approval by the Amir. All Qatari laws are issued in Arabic and eventually translated to English. Qatar-based legal firms provide translations of Qatari legislation to their clients. Each approved law explicitly tasks one or more government entities with implementing and enforcing legislation. These entities are clearly defined in the text of each law. In some cases, the law also sets up regulatory and oversight committees consisting of representatives of concerned government entities to safeguard enforcement. Qatar’s official legal portal is http://www.almeezan.qa .
Qatar’s primary commercial regulator is the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Commercial Companies’ Law 11/2015 requires that publicly traded companies submit financial statements to the Ministry in compliance with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the International Accounting Standards (IAS). Publicly listed companies must also publish financial statements at least 15 days prior to annual general meetings in two local newspapers (in Arabic and English) and on their websites. All companies are required to prepare accounting records according to standards promulgated by the IAS Board.
The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) is the main financial regulator that oversees all financial institutions in Qatar, per Law 13/2012. To promote financial stability and enhance regulatory coordination, the law established a Financial Stability and Risk Control Committee, which is headed by the QCB Governor. According to Law 7/2005, the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Regulatory Authority is the independent regulator of the QFC firms and individuals conducting financial services in or from the QFC, but the QCB also oversees financial markets housed within QFC. QFC regulations are available at http://www.qfcra.com/en-us/legislation/ .
The government of Qatar is transparent about its public finances and debt obligations. QCB publishes quarterly banking data, including on government external debt, government bonds, treasury bills, and sukuk (Islamic bonds).
International Regulatory Considerations
Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a political and economic regional union. Laws based on GCC regulations must be approved through Qatar’s domestic legislative process and are reviewed by the Qatari Cabinet and the Shura Council prior to implementation. Qatar has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1996 and usually notifies its draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Qatar’s legal system is based on a combination of civil and Islamic Sharia laws. The Constitution takes precedence over all laws, followed by legislation and decrees, and finally ministerial resolutions. All judges are appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council, under Law 10/2003. The Supreme Judicial Council oversees Qatari courts and functions independently from the executive branch of the government, per the Constitution. Qatari courts adjudicate civil and commercial disputes in accordance with civil and Sharia laws. International agreements have equal status with Qatari laws; the Constitution ensures that international pacts, treaties, and agreements to which Qatar is a party are respected.
Qatar does not currently have a specialized commercial court, but in 2019, the Cabinet approved a draft decision to set up a court for investment and trade disputes. Pending the establishment of the new court, domestic commercial disputes continue to be settled in civil courts. Contract enforcement is governed by the Civil Code Law 22/2004. Decisions made in civil courts can be appealed before the Court of Appeals, or later the Court of Cassation.
Companies registered with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry are subject to Qatari courts and laws—primarily the Commercial Companies’ Law 11/2015—while companies set up through Qatar Financial Center (QFC) are regulated by commercial laws based on English Common Law and the courts of the QFC Regulatory Authority, per Law 7/2005. The QFC legal regime is separate from the Qatari legal system—with the exception of criminal law—and is only applicable to companies licensed by the QFC. Similarly, companies registered within the Qatar Free Zones Authority are governed by specialized regulations.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Over the past few years, the Amir enacted Law 1/2019 on Regulating the Investment of Non-Qatari Capital in Economic Activity and Law 16/2018 on Regulating Non-Qatari Ownership and Use of Properties. These aim to encourage greater foreign investment in the economy by authorizing, incentivizing and protecting foreign ownership.
The MOCI’s Invest in Qatar Center is the Ministry’s main investment promotion body. It has a physical “one-stop-shop” and an online portal. It gives preference to investments that add value to the local economy and align with the country’s national development plans. For more information on investment opportunities, commercial registration application and required documentation, visit: https://invest.gov.qa .
Separate laws and regulations govern foreign direct investment at the Qatar Financial Centre ( http://www.qfc.qa/ ), the Qatar Free Zones Authority ( https://fza.gov.qa/ ), the Qatar Science and Technology Park ( https://qstp.org.qa/ ), and Manateq ( https://www.manateq.qa/ ).
Competition and Antitrust Laws
Certain sectors are not open for domestic or foreign competition, such as public transportation, as well as fuel distribution and marketing. In those sectors, semi-public companies maintain a predominant role. Law 19/2006 for the Protection of Competition and Prevention of Monopolistic Practice established the Competition Protection and Anti-Monopoly Committee in charge of receiving complaints about anti-competition violations. The law protects against monopolistic behavior by entities outside the state, if it is deemed they would impact the Qatari market; instead, the law affords state institutions and government-owned companies full or predominant role in those sectors.
Qatari laws allow international law firms with at least 15 years of continuous experience in their countries of origin to operate in Qatar, however, they can only be licensed in Qatar if Qatari authorities deem their fields of specialization useful to Qatar. Cabinet Decision Number 57/2010 stipulates that the Doha office of an international law firm can practice in Qatar only if its main office in the country of origin remains open.
Expropriation and Compensation
Under current legislation (Law 1/2019 and Law 16/2018), the government protects foreign investment and property from direct or indirect expropriation, unless for public benefit, in a non-discriminatory manner, and after providing adequate compensation. The same procedures are applied to expropriated property of Qatari citizens. Law 13/1988 covers the rules of expropriation for public benefit.
There were no Cabinet-approved expropriation decisions in 2020, and one decision in 2019. Expropriation is unlikely to occur in the investment zones in which foreigners may purchase or obtain rights to property, although the law does not restrict the power to expropriate in these areas.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Qatar has been party to the 1958 New York Convention since 2011 and a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) since 2002. Qatar enforces foreign arbitral decisions concluded in states that are party to the New York Convention.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The government accepts binding international arbitration in the event of investment disputes; nevertheless, Qatari courts will not enforce judgments or awards from other courts in disputes emanating from legal proceedings or arbitrations made under the jurisdictions of other nations/systems.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, over the past 10 years, Qatar was involved in 10 investment disputes, nine of which were initiated by Qatari investors against foreign governments. Three of the 10 disputes have been discontinued, and the remaining seven are still outstanding.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) features an Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. Although primarily concerned with hearing commercial matters arising within the QFC itself, the QFC has expanded the center’s jurisdiction to accept other disputes at its discretion. The Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Center adjudicates disputes brought by firms associated with the QFC in accordance with English common law.
Qatar’s arbitration law (Law 2/2017) based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law gives Qatar’s International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre the jurisdiction to oversee arbitration cases in Qatar in line with recent local and international developments. The purpose of this law is to stimulate and strengthen Qatar’s investment and business environment.
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 ( https://www.qicdrc.com.qa/the-courts/judgments ).
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.
Two concurrent bankruptcy regimes exist in Qatar. The first is the local regime, the provisions of which are set out in Commercial Law 27/2006 (Articles 606-846). The bankruptcy of a Qatari citizen or a Qatari-owned company is rarely announced, and the government sometimes plays the role of guarantor to prop up domestic businesses and safeguard creditors’ rights. The law aims to protect creditors from a bankrupted debtor whose assets are insufficient to meet the amount of the debts. Bankruptcy is punishable by imprisonment, but the length of the prison sentence depends on violations of other penal codes, such as concealment or destruction of company records, embezzlement, or knowingly contributing to insolvency.
The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) established the Qatar Credit Bureau in 2010 to promote credit growth in Qatar. The Credit Bureau provides QCB and the banking sector with a centralized credit database to inform economic and financial policies and support the implementation of risk management techniques as outlined in the Basel II Accord.
The second bankruptcy regime is encoded in QFC’s Insolvency Regulations of 2005 and applies to corporate bodies and branches registered within the QFC. There are firms that offer full dissolution bankruptcy services to QFC-registered companies.
The World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2020 gave Qatar a score of 38 out of 100 on its Resolving Insolvency Indicator (123rd in the world) due to the high cost associated with the process and the long time it takes to complete foreclosure proceedings (2.8 years, on average).
4. Industrial Policies
Qatar does not impose a personal income tax and the new foreign investment law (Law 1/2019) offers a variety of other incentives to foreign investors, which may include the following:
- Exemption from 10 percent corporate tax for a period of up to 10 years.
- Exemption from customs duties on imports of necessary machinery and equipment.
- Exemption from customs duties on imports of raw materials or half-manufactured goods necessary for production and not available in the local market, for industrial projects.
- Up to 100 percent foreign ownership and no limit on repatriation.
Legislation provides for the establishment of some industrial projects in designated industrial zones under the Qatar Free Zones Authority; those projects receive the following incentives:
- Exemption from 10 percent corporate tax for a period of up to 20 years.
- Zero custom duties on imports.
- Potential access to a $3 billion government-backed fund.
- 100 percent foreign ownership and no limit on repatriation.
- Opportunities for joint ventures with local companies.
- Potential access to a backed investment fund.
Qatar Petroleum determines the amount of foreign equity and the extent of incentives for industrial energy-related projects; Law 8/2018 regulates the process.
In February 2020, and in line with the government’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business and enhance the investment environment for owners of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), MOCI, in partnership with Qatar Development Bank, launched the ‘Land and Industrial Loan’ initiative, offering loans and industrial land to SMEs.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Qatar has several free zones and business facilitation options, namely the Qatar Financial Center, Qatar Science and Technology Park, and Qatar Free Zones Authority:
- Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) is an onshore business platform that allows international financial institutions and professional service companies to establish offices in Qatar with 100 percent foreign ownership and full repatriation of profits. Locally sourced profits are subject to a 10 percent corporate tax. The QFC has its own independent regulatory regime based on English common law. The QFC Regulatory Authority acts as the regulator for financial firms operating the QFC’s umbrella. The QFC Regulatory Tribunal and Qatar International Court hear and adjudicate cases. Judgments issued though these bodies are only of value if enforced by Qatari courts against persons and/or Qatar-based assets. Goldman Sachs International, Mastercard Gulf, Uber, and Oracle are among the companies registered with QFC.
- The Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is a hub designed to conduct research and development and facilitate the transfer of expertise and technology. The hub offers grants and incubators to foreign and local innovators. QSTP permits licensed foreign companies to own up to 100 percent and full capital and income repatriation. Companies operating at the QSTP can import goods and services duty free and export goods produced at the park tax-free. Firms at the park are also exempt from all taxes, including the 10 percent income tax. The property of these businesses cannot be seized under any circumstance, but capital and other cash may be seized on the orders of a local court. Microsoft, ExxonMobil, GE, Cisco, and ConocoPhillips are among QSTP member companies.
- The Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZ) oversees two free zones in Qatar: Ras Bufontas near the country’s international airport and Um Alhoul adjacent to the country’s largest commercial seaport. Companies operating in these free zones are permitted 100 percent foreign ownership, corporate tax exemption for 20 years, full repatriation of profits, custom duties exemption on all imports, and a range of other incentives. Google, DHL, and Volkswagen are notable examples of multinational companies operating at the QFZ.
In May 2020, the Amir approved Law 12/2020 on Organizing the Partnership between the Public and Private Sector. This law is the government’s most recent attempt to further attract foreign investors and develop the private sector.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
There are no laws that obligate the private sector to hire Qatari nationals, but the public sector and institutions working closely with the government on projects and joint ventures (such as energy companies operating in Qatar) are required to hire Qatari nationals. Workforce localization policy (known as “Qatarization”) in the public sector is a main focus of the country’s National Vision 2030 and foreign investors wishing to operate fully owned companies will be required to submit a “Qatarization” plan. In 2020, the Cabinet approved a new Ministerial Decree that will mandate that Qataris should make up at least 60 percent of the workforce of state-owned companies or companies where the government is a majority investor. Children of Qatari women are considered Qataris for purposes of calculating this localization ratio. The new provision also states that Qataris should make up 80 percent of the human resources workforce in state-owned companies. The government allocates employers visa slots for hiring nationals of specific countries based on preset quotas; such slots are non-transferable without obtaining approval from the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor, and Social Affairs.
While Qatar does not follow a forced localization policy, the government provides preferential treatment to suppliers that use local content in bids when competing for government contracts. The government of Qatar also gives a 10 percent price preference to goods produced with Qatari content. As a rule, participation in government tenders with a value of QAR 5,000,000 or less (equivalent to approximately $1.37 million) is limited to local contractors, suppliers, and merchants registered with the Qatar Chamber of Commerce; tenders involving higher valuations do not in theory require any local commercial registration; however, in practice, certain exceptions exist.
In 2019, Qatar’s national oil and gas company, Qatar Petroleum, announced a localization initiative, Tawteen, which, among other things, would require all Qatar Petroleum suppliers, as well as bidders for select contracts, to undergo assessment by a third-party auditor to determine their In-Country Value (ICV) score. Qatar Petroleum and its subsidiary companies would assess bidders’ ICV score in addition to technical and commercial criteria when evaluating bids. The formula for calculating a company’s ICV score can be found at https://www.tawteen.com.qa/In-Country-Value-Policy/ICV-Formula-Calculation .
No specific performance requirements exist for Qatar-based-foreign investment. While disclosure of financial and employment data is required, proprietary information is not. There are no known formalized requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to the authorities for surveillance. The information and communications technology (ICT) sector is regulated by Qatar’s Communications Regulatory Authority, established as an independent body by Amiri Decree 42/2014, under the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Qatar is the first Gulf nation to enact a Data Protection Law 13/2016, which requires companies to comply with restrictions related to the collection, disclosure, and safekeeping of personal data. The regulator responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Law is the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
5. Protection of Property Rights
A set of laws, ministerial decrees, and resolutions make up the country’s jurisprudence on property rights and ownership. Law 16/2018 designates 10 zones in which foreign investors, companies, and real estate developers are permitted full property ownership. The law also allows foreign investors usufructuary right of real estate of up to 99 years in 16 other zones. Additionally, foreigners may own villas within residential complexes, as well as retail outlets in certain commercial complexes. In October 2020, the government announced that more zones will be open to foreign ownership in the near future. The government will grant non-Qatari real estate owners’ residency in Qatar for as long as they own their properties. Following the release of the law, the Ministry of Justice formed a committee to regulate foreign real estate ownership and use.
Law 6/2014 regulates real estate development and stipulates that non-Qatari companies should have at least 10 years of experience and be headquartered in Qatar as a precondition for carrying out real estate development activities at selected locations.
The government of Qatar enforces property leasehold rights. Qatar’s Rent Law 4/2008 tends to extend more protections to the lessee while regulating lessors. The government grants a number of enforceable rights to the lessee, including protection from rent hikes during the lease period and enforcement of the terms of the lease contract should the lessor transfer ownership. The government protects lessors against tenants’ violations of lease agreements. Qatar’s Leasing Dispute Settlement Committee enforces these regulations. The committee hears and issues binding decisions and requires all lessors register their lease agreements with this committee. The Ministry of Municipality and Environment oversees the preparation of all records related to the selling, leasing, waiver, and bequeathing of real estate. A reliable electronic database exists to check for encumbrances, including liens, mortgages, and restrictions, as well as keeping all titles and deed records in digital format.
The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranked Qatar first globally under the Ease of Registering Property’s category http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/qatar#registering-property
Intellectual Property Rights
While Qatar’s intellectual property (IP) legal regime is still under development, it is robust and includes a wide range of legislation that protects different types of IP rights. Qatar has signed many international IP treaties, and Qatari laws and regulations guarantee the implementation of those treaties. Qatar’s IP legislation includes the Trademark and Copyright Law (enacted in 2002), the Protection of Trade Secrets and Protection of Layout Design law (2005), the Patent Law (2006), and most recently, the Protection of Industrial Design law (2020). These laws grant foreign applicants the same rights as Qataris, provided they are nationals of a state that grants Qatar reciprocal treatment.
Intellectual property owners can apply for IP rights at MOCI, which is mandated, by Law 20/2014, to enforce IP laws and regulations. Within the ministry, an IP Protection Department has been set up with offices focusing on trademarks, copyrights, patents, industrial designs, and innovations. The following are the periods of validity for the different types of registered IP:
- Patents: Valid for 20 years from date of filing.
- The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) requires the registration of all imported pharmaceutical products and refuses to register unauthorized copies of products patented in other countries. Qatar also recognizes GCC patents on pharmaceutical products.
- The GCC Patent Office used to provide an affordable and efficient option for companies seeking intellectual property protection throughout the six GCC member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE). Effective January 2021, the office stopped accepting new patent filings. The decision will force companies seeking patent registration in the GCC region to file separate applications in each country, pay six separate fees, and endure substantial waiting period before their patents are registered in all six states.
- Copyrights: Protected for 50 years after the author’s death.
- Per Qatari law, failure to register at MOCI will not affect protection of the copyright. While the law does not protect unpublished works and does not criminalize end-user piracy, Qatar is party to the Berne and Paris Conventions and abides by their mandates regarding unpublished works. The IP Protection Department works with law enforcement authorities to prosecute resellers of unlicensed video and software.
- Trademarks: Valid for 10 years but can be renewed indefinitely; trademarks unused for five consecutive years are subject to cancellation.
- The GCC Customs Union, the GCC approved a common trademark law; Qatar is taking steps to enact it.
- Industrial Designs: Valid for five years from submission date but can be renewed twice more.
- This law covers the visual design rather than the functional or technical aspects of an original product. Law 10/2020 on the Protection of Industrial Design was enacted in May 2020.
The law on Intellectual Property Border Protection (Law 17/2011) forbids the importation of any products that infringe on any intellectual property rights protected in Qatar and obligates the General Authority of Customs to take measures to prevent the entry of infringing products into Qatar. The law also permits IP right holders to block the release of imported products that infringe on their rights, given sufficient evidence. In 2017, the General Authority of Customs launched an electronic system to detect counterfeit goods coming into the country. The system is accredited by the World Customs Organization and has been introduced to limit importation of counterfeit goods.
The existing Penal Code imposes hefty fines on individuals dealing in counterfeit products and prescribes prison terms for offenders convicted of counterfeiting, imitating, fraudulently affixing, or selling products, or offering services of a registered trademark, or other IP violations. The General Authority of Customs, the Consumer Protection and IP Protection Departments at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Ministry of Interior conduct surveys, search shops, and seize and destroy counterfeit products.
The United States Trade Representative Office (USTR) does not consider Qatar a market that engages in, turns a blind eye to, or benefits from piracy and counterfeit products, nor is Qatar listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report.
Qatar is a member of the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and is a signatory of several WIPO treaties. For additional information on national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .
Resources for Rights Holders
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Regional IP Attaché
Peter C. Mehravari, Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Department of Commerce Foreign Commercial Service, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
U.S. Embassy, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
+965 2259 1455
United States Trade Representative
tor for the GCCJacob Ewerdt
Companies and individuals seeking assistance on pursuing IP protections and enforcement claims in Qatar can consult a list of local attorneys posted on the U.S. Embassy Doha website: https://qa.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The government of Qatar has permitted foreign portfolio investment since 2005. There are no restrictions on the flow of capital in Qatar. Qatar Central Bank (QCB) adheres to conservative policies aimed at maintaining steady economic growth and a stable banking sector. It respects IMF Article VIII and does not restrict payments or transfers for international transactions. It allocates loans on market terms, and essentially treats foreign companies the same way it does local ones.
Existing legislation currently limits foreign ownership of Qatari companies listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange to 49 percent. The law permits foreign capital investment up to 100 percent in most sectors upon approval of an application submitted to MOCI’s Invest in Qatar Center. Foreign portfolio investment in national oil and gas companies or companies with the right of exploration of national resources cannot exceed 49 percent.
Almost all import transactions require standard letters of credit from local banks and their correspondent banks in the exporting countries. Financial institutions extend credit facilities to local and foreign investors within the framework of standard international banking practices. Creditors typically require foreign investors to produce a letter of guarantee from their local sponsor or equity partner.
In accordance with QCB guidelines, banks operating in Qatar give priority to Qataris and to public development projects in their financing operations. Additionally, banks usually refrain from extending credit facilities to single customers exceeding 20 percent of the bank’s capital and reserves. QCB does not allow cross-sharing arrangements among banks. QCB requires banks to maintain a maximum credit ratio of 90 percent.
Qatar has become an important banking and financial services hub in the Gulf region. Qatar’s monetary freedom score is 80.7 out of 100 (“free”) and ranks third in the Middle East and North Africa region (after the United Arab Emirates and Israel) in terms of economic freedom.
Money and Banking System
There are 17 licensed banks in Qatar, seven of which are foreign institutions. Qatar also has 20 exchange houses, six investment and finance companies, 16 insurance companies, and 17 investment funds. Other foreign banks and financial institutions operate under the Qatar Financial Center’s platform, but they are not licensed by QCB; they are regulated by the Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority and are not allowed to have retail branches in Qatar. Qatar National Bank is the largest financial institution by assets in the Middle East and Africa, with total assets exceeding $259.5 billion. To open a bank account in Qatar, foreigners must present proof of residency.
As the main financial regulator, QCB continues to introduce incentives for local banks to ensure a strong financial sector that is resilient during times of economic volatility. QCB manages liquidity by mandating a reserve ratio of 4.5 percent and utilizing treasury bonds, bills, and other macroprudential measures. Banks that do not abide by the required reserve ratio are penalized. QCB uses repurchase agreements, backed by government securities, to inject liquidity into the banks. According to QCB data, total domestic liquidity reached $164.8 billion in December 2020, and only 2.2 percent of Qatar’s bank loans in 2019 were nonperforming. International ratings agencies have expressed confidence in the financial stability of the country’s banks, given liquidity levels strong earnings and the support of the Central Bank to the banking industry.
Cryptocurrency trading is illegal in Qatar, per a 2018 Qatar Central Bank circular. In January 2020, the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA) announced that firms operating under QFC are not permitted to provide or facilitate the provision or exchange of crypto assets and related services.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Due to minimal demand for the Qatari riyal outside Qatar and the national economy’s dependence on gas and oil revenues, which are priced in dollars, the government has pegged the riyal to the U.S. dollar. The official peg is QAR 1.00 per $0.27 or $1.00 per QAR 3.64, as set by the government in June 1980 and reaffirmed by Amiri decree 31/2001.
Per the provisions of Law 20/2019 on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing and following the issuance of Cabinet Resolution 41/2019, starting February 2020, travelers to or from Qatar are required to complete a declaration form upon entry or departure, if carrying cash, precious metals, financial instruments, or jewelry, valued at QAR 50,000 or more ($13,736).
Qatar neither delays remittance of foreign investment returns nor restricts transfer of funds associated with an investment, such as return on dividends, return on capital, interest and principal payments on private foreign debt, lease payments, royalties, management fees, proceeds generated from sale or liquidation, sums garnered from settlements and disputes, and compensation from expropriation to financial institutions outside Qatar.
In accordance with Law 20/2019 on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing, QCB requires financial institutions to apply due diligence prior to establishing business relationships, carrying out financial transactions, and performing wire transfers. Executive regulations for this law promulgate that originator information should be secured when a wire transfer exceeds QAR 3,500 ($962). Similarly, due diligence is required when a customer is completing occasional transactions in a single operation or several linked operations of an amount exceeding QAR 50,000 ($13,736).
Qatar is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Qatar is currently undergoing its second round FATF Mutual Evaluation and is tentatively scheduled to have its onsite assessment in summer 2021. In July 2017, Qatar signed a counterterrorism Memorandum of Understanding with the United States, which provides for information sharing, joint training, enhanced cooperation, and other deliverables related to combating money laundering and terrorism financing.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, was established by Amiri Decree 22/2005. Chaired by the Amir, the Supreme Council for Economic Affairs and Investment oversees QIA, which does not disclose its assets (independent analysts estimate QIA’s holdings to be around $295 billion). QIA pursues direct investments and favors luxury brands, prime real estate, infrastructure development, and banks. Various QIA subsidiaries invest in other sectors, as well. In 2015, QIA opened an office in New York City to facilitate its $45 billion commitment of investments in the United States. QIA’s real estate subsidiary, Qatari Diar, has operated an office in Washington, D.C. since 2014.
QIA was one of the early supporters of the Santiago Principles, and among the few members that drafted the initial and final versions of the principles and continues to be a proactive supporter of their implementation. QIA was also a founding member of the IMF-hosted International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds. QIA supported the establishment of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds and helped create the Forum’s constitution.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The State Audit Bureau oversees state-owned enterprises (SOEs), several of which operate as monopolies or with exclusive rights in most economic sectors. Despite the dominant role of SOEs in Qatar’s economy, the government has affirmed support for the local private sector and encourages small and medium-sized enterprise development as part of its National Vision 2030. 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 SOEs:
Energy and Power:
- Qatar Petroleum (QP), its subsidiaries, and its partners operate all oil and gas activities in the country. QP is wholly owned by the government. Non-Qataris can invest in its stock exchange listed subsidiaries, but shareholder ownership is limited to two percent and total non-Qatari ownership to 49 percent.
- Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa) is the main utility provider in the country and is majority-owned by Qatari government entities. To privatize the sector, the Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC) was established in 2001 as a separate and private provider that sells its desalinated water and electricity to Kahramaa. Other privatization efforts included the Ras Laffan Power Company, established in 2001, and 55 percent owned by a U.S. company.
- Qatar Airways is the country’s national carrier and is wholly owned by the state.
- Qatar General Postal Corporation is the state-owned postal company. Several other delivery companies compete in the courier market, including Aramex, DHL Express, and FedEx Express.
Information and Communication:
- Ooredoo Group is a telecommunications company founded in 2013. It is the dominant player in the Qatari telecommunications market and is 70 percent owned by Qatari government entities. Ooredoo (previously known as Q-Tel) dominates both the cell and fixed line telecommunications markets in Qatar and partners with telecommunications companies in 13 markets in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. Ooredoo Group is listed on the Qatari Stock Exchange.
- Vodafone Qatar is the only other telecommunications operator in Qatar, with the quasi-governmental entity Qatar Foundation owning 62 percent of its shares. Other Qatari government entities and Qatar-based investors own the remaining 38 percent. Vodafone Qatar is listed on the Qatari Stock Exchange.
Qatari 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 no general framework for corporate governance across all Qatari SOEs. SOEs listed on the stock exchange must publish financial statements at least 15 days before annual general meetings in two local newspapers (in Arabic and English) and on their websites. When an SOE is involved in an investment dispute, the case is reviewed by the appropriate sector regulator (for example, the Communications Regulatory Authority for the information and communication sector).
There is no ongoing official privatization program for major SOEs.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is a general awareness in Qatar of responsible business conduct. In 2007, Qatar created the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Network, a research and reporting entity that publishes annual reports highlighting best practices and honoring CSR leaders in the country. Many companies in Qatar publicize their CSR initiatives.
Sustainability is the focus of the National Development Strategy 2018-2022, released in March 2018; it is also an important goal of the National Vision 2030. Law 30/2002 is the main legislation protecting the environment. It prohibits the use of polluting equipment, machineries, and vehicles, and restricts the dumping and treatment of liquid or solid wastes to certain designated areas. The law also limits emissions of harmful vapors, gases, and smoke by the energy sector. This applies to all companies working in exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has a dedicated Consumer Protection and Combating Commercial Fraud Department which has intensified its efforts in recent years by increasing the monitoring of records and inspection of stores and factories that sell or manufacture counterfeit goods. The ministry prosecutes business misconduct and announces these violations publicly. The government of Qatar maintains a reporting regime for suspicious transactions and requirements for consumer due diligence and record keeping.
As an economy dependent on extractive industries, Qatar participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Nonetheless, the Qatari government has not improved transparency regarding its management of the petroleum industry, as no regulatory body oversees resources extraction or revenue management. Moreover, Qatar has no freedom of information law.
Qatari law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor and reserves two percent of jobs in government agencies and public institutions for persons with disabilities. The law also prohibits employment of children under 16 years of age. The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor, and Social Affairs (MADLSA), the Ministry of Interior, and the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) conduct training sessions for migrant laborers to educate them on their rights while in Qatar. International media and human rights organizations continue to allege numerous abuses against foreign workers, including forced or compulsory labor, withheld wages, unsafe working conditions, and poor living accommodations.
In January 2018, the United States and Qatar signed a government-to-government memorandum of understanding on exchanging expertise and fostering capacity building in combating human trafficking. In March 2019, the Department of Labor and MADLSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding on labor, which focused on two pillars: labor inspections and protecting domestic workers’ rights in Qatar. Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Qatar focus on labor rights and often work in conjunction with the government. Researchers from international NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continue to visit and report on the country with limited interference from authorities. International labor NGOs have been able to send researchers to Qatar under the sponsorship of academic institutions and quasi-governmental organizations such as the NHRC.
Private security companies cannot operate in Qatar without an appropriate license granted by the Ministry of Interior, per Law 19/2009 on Regulating the Provision of Private Security Services. As of 2009, Qatar has been signatory to the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.
Department of State
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;
- Trafficking in Persons Report;
- Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities and;
- North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory
Department of Labor
Corruption in Qatar does not generally affect the conduct of business, although the power of personal connections plays a major role in business culture. Qatar ranked as the second least corrupt country in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index and ranked 30th out of 180 nations globally with a score of 63 out of 100, with 100 indicating full transparency.
Qatari law imposes criminal penalties to combat corruption by public officials and the government actively implements these laws. In recent years, corruption and misuse of public money has been a focus of the executive office. Decree 6/2015 restructured the Administrative Control and Transparency Authority, granting it juridical responsibility, its own budget, and direct affiliation with the Amir’s office. The objectives of the authority are to prevent corruption and ensure that ministries and public employees operate with transparency. It is also mandated with investigating alleged crimes against public property or finances perpetrated by public officials.
Law 22/2015 imposes hefty penalties for corrupt officials and Law 11/2016 grants the State Audit Bureau more financial authority and independence, allowing it to publish parts of its findings (provided that confidential information is removed), a power it did not have previously. Individuals convicted of embezzlement are subject to prison terms of no less than five and up to ten years. The penalty is extended to a minimum term of seven and a maximum term of fifteen years if the perpetrator happens to be a public official in charge of collecting taxes or exercising fiduciary responsibilities over public funds. Qatar State Security Bureau and the Office of the Public Prosecutor handle investigations of alleged corruption. The Criminal Court makes final judgments.
Bribery is a crime in Qatar, and the law imposes penalties on public officials convicted of taking action in return for monetary or personal gain, and on other parties who take actions to influence or attempt to influence a public official through monetary or other means. The current Penal Code (Law 11/2004) governs corruption law and stipulates that individuals convicted of bribery may be sentenced up to ten years in prison and a fine equal to the amount of the bribe but no less than $1,374.
To promote a fairer, more transparent, and more expeditious public-sector tendering process, the government issued Procurement Law 24/2015, which abolished the Central Tendering Committee and established in its stead a Procurement Department within the Ministry of Finance that has oversight over the majority of government tenders. The new department has an online portal that consolidates all government tenders and provides relevant information to interested bidders, facilitating the process for foreign investors ( https://monaqasat.mof.gov.qa ).
Qatar is not a party to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials. However, Qatar ratified the UN Convention for Combating Corruption (by Amiri Decree 17/2007) and established a National Committee for Integrity and Transparency (by Amiri Decree 84/2007). The permanent committee is headed by the Chairman of the State Audit Bureau. In 2013, Qatar opened the Anti-Corruption and Rule of Law Center in Doha in partnership with the United Nations. The purpose of the center is to support, promote, and disseminate legal principles to fight corruption (https://rolacc.qa/).
Despite these efforts, some American businesses continue to cite lack of transparency in government procurement and customs as recurring issues when operating in the Qatari market. U.S. investors and Qatari nationals who happen to be agents of U.S. firms are subject to the provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Resources to Report Corruption
The Public Prosecution’s Anti-Corruption Office encourages the public to report on corruption and bribery cases, and vows to protect the confidentiality of submitted information:
+974-3353-1999 and +974-3343-1999
The Administrative Control and Transparency Authority is also responsible for receiving complaints regarding transparency within the public sector:
Administrative Control and Transparency Authority
Al Bida St., Al Dafna, Doha
+974-40008088, +974-44648010, and +974-44648011
To file complaints: http://actadev.wpengine.com/en/complaints/
10. Political and Security Environment
Qatar is a politically stable country with low rates of crime. There are no political parties, labor unions, or organized domestic political opposition. The U.S government rates Qatar as medium for terrorism, which includes threats from transnational actors.
The State Department encourages U.S. citizens in Qatar to stay in close contact with the U.S. Embassy in Doha for up-to-date threat information. The Department invites U.S. visitors to Qatar to enroll in its State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive further information on safety conditions in Qatar: https://step.state.gov/step/.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Qatar has one of the world’s highest migrant workers to indigenous population ratios, with foreigners making up nearly 90 percent of the country’s population. Qatar’s resident population is estimated at 2.7 million as of December 2020, doubling in the last decade. Qatari citizens are estimated to number approximately 300,000 – around 11 percent of the total population. Qatar’s labor force consists primarily of expatriate workers. The largest group of foreign workers comes from the Indian sub-continent. Males make up around 72 percent of the population.
Unemployment rates in Qatar are among the lowest in the world, with 0.1 percent unemployment rate for men and 0.4 percent unemployment rate for women, as of 2019. In 2020, the Cabinet approved a new Ministerial Decree to Law 14/2004, mandating that Qataris shall make up 60 percent of the employees of state-owned enterprises, or companies where the government is a majority investor. Children of Qatari women are considered Qataris for purposes of calculating this localization ratio. The new provisions also mandate that Qataris constitute 80 percent of the human resources workforce in state-owned enterprises.
MADLSA regulates the recruitment of expatriate labor. Labor Law 14/2004 largely governs employment in Qatar and allows the terminating party to terminate employment without providing reasons. The law requires employers to pay employees due wages and other benefits in full, provided they have performed expected work duties during the notice period, which varies based on years of employment. Companies registered with QFC are governed by the English common law, and labor issues are administered by QFC’s Regulation 10/2006.
Law 12/2004 on Private Associations and Foundations and subsequent regulations grant Qatari citizens the right to form workers’ committees in private enterprises with more than 100 Qatari citizen workers. Qatari citizens employed in the private sector also have the right to participate in approved strikes, but the restrictive conditions imposed by the law make the likelihood of an approved strike remote. There are no labor unions in Qatar. Non-citizens are not eligible to form worker committees or go on strike, though according to an agreement between MADLSA and the International Labor Organization (ILO), joint worker committees including 50-50 representation of workers and employers exist in a small number of cases for all medium to large-sized companies. Individuals working in the public sector, regardless of nationality, are prohibited from joining unions. Over three-quarters of Qatari citizens are employed by the government. Workers at labor camps occasionally go on strike over non-payment or delayed payment of wages, however, this practice is technically illegal.
Local courts handle disputes between workers and employers though the process is widely regarded as inefficient. In an effort to speed up the process of resolving labor disputes, the government established Labor Disputes Settlement Committees headed by a judge and representatives from MADLSA. As of March 2018, there are three such committees, all of which operate outside of the traditional Supreme Judicial Committee structure and are required to address any complaints within three weeks.
In October 2020, Qatar enacted Law 17/2020 which set the minimum basic wage for works and domestic works at $275 per month, in addition to $220 for lodging and meals if not provided by the employer. To combat the problem of late and unpaid wages, the government issued Law 1/2015 amending certain provisions of Labor Law 14/2004 on wage protection and mandating electronic payment to all employees subject to the local labor law. The government requires all employers to open bank accounts for their employees and pay wages electronically through a system subject to audits by an inspection division at the MADLSA; this requirement, however, does not apply to domestic workers. Employers who fail to pay their workers face penalties of $550 – $1,650 per case and possible prison sentences. Those penalties, however, are rarely implemented. The system currently applies to over 1.4 million workers.
In an effort to eliminate forced labor, the government issued Law 19/2020 on August 2020 enabling employees to switch employers, without requiring employer’s permission. This new legislation compliments Law 13/2018, which allows workers covered by the Labor Law to leave the country without requiring exit permits from their employers. The Labor Law prohibits the withholding of workers’ passports by employers and stiffens penalties for transgressors.
To protect workers from fraudulent employment contracts, the Ministry of Interior signed an agreement with a Singaporean company in 2017 to establish Qatar Visa Centers (QVCs) with the goal of simplifying residency procedures for expat workers from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. In partnership with both MOI and MADLSA, contracted companies established QVCs in these countries to facilitate biometric enrollment, medical records verification, and signing work contracts before contracted workers enter Qatar.
Qatar is a member of the ILO and maintains that its labor law meets ILO minimum requirements. In 2017, Qatar made commitments to address some ILO complaints by launching a comprehensive three-year ILO technical cooperation program. In 2018, the ILO opened a Doha office.
In 2018, the Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs signed a labor-related MOU with the Department of State during the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue. The MOU laid out plans for cooperation in combating trafficking-in-persons, including strengthening the labor sector to reduce instances of forced labor. In 2019, MADLSA signed a new MOU with the Department of Labor to enhance cooperation in the fields of labor inspection and protecting domestic workers rights.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||2020||$164,647||2019||$175,838||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2018||$79||2019||$14,198||BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||2017||$2,452||BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||2018||$17.7||2019||16.37%||UNCTAD data available at https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/
Source for Host Country Data: Qatar’s Planning and Statistics Authority https://www.psa.gov.qa/en/
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||$33,874||100%||Total Outward||$40,330||100%|
|Other American Countries||$10,952||32%||European Union||$13,709||34%|
|European Union||$10,220||30%||Gulf Cooperation Council||$9,670||24%|
|United States of America||$7,995||24%||Other Arab Countries||$5,632||14%|
|Asia (excluding Gulf Cooperation Council)||$2,473||7%||Other Asian Countries||$3,214||8%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Source: 2018 Data form Qatar’s Planning and Statistics Authority https://www.psa.gov.qa/en/
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy, Doha
22nd February Street, Al Luqta District, P.O. Box 2399, Doha, Qatar