Doing Business In Qatar

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Map of Qatar
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The State of Qatar is located on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south. It has an area of 11,435 sq km (roughly half the size of Wales). Its capital city is Doha - other major towns are Ras Laffan, Al Khor, Mesaieed, Dukhan and Al Rayyan. Qatar's population is 1.7 million according to the national census in 2010 (an increase of 128% since the last official census of 2004, when the population stood at 740,000). 76% of the population is male and 24% is female. Unofficial estimates are that round 80% of the population is comprised of expatriates (mostly other Arab, South and East Asian, European and American). Approximately 20% of the population are Qatari nationals. Qatar is an Arab nation with Islam as the official religion. Arabic is the official language but English is also widely used.

The main source of Qatar's wealth is its vast reserves of oil and natural gas (it has the world's 3rd largest natural gas reserves) which have made it one of the richest countries in the world. Prudent management of these reserves has produced substantial fiscal surpluses (estimated at $16bn, or 3.4% of GDP, for 2010-11) that are being used to fund a diversification and development programme of investment in energy related industries, health, education and infrastructure in particular.

British exports to Qatar have more than doubled in the last few years. Qatar is a significant investor in the UK and has a growing portfolio of UK property. The UK imports more by value from Qatar than any other country in the region.

With one of the highest rates of GDP per capita in the world and a stable government and economy there is real potential for UK companies to bring their products and services to Qatar. UK goods and services generally enjoy a strong reputation.

The Qatar National Vision 2030, published in 2008 sets out Qatar's strategy, development and priorities. This can be viewed

The National Development Strategy 2011-2016 was launched in March 2011 and sets out the key priorities for the next 5 years. This can be viewed at:

Qatar Government District


Qatar's Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, has ruled since 1995 when he took over power from his father. His son, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, was appointed the Heir Apparent in 2003. His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al-Thani was appointed Prime Minister in 2007, as well as continuing in his existing role as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of the Emiri Diwan is His Excellency Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah. The Emir's consort, Skeikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, is a leading figure in the country.

Qatar's first elections to the Central Municipal Council took place in 1999, with subsequent elections in 2003 and 2007. In 2003, 97% of Qataris supported a new constitution in a national referendum. The new constitution came into force in June 2005 and provides for elections to a 45 member Legislative Council (Majils al-Shura). Two thirds of the council will be elected, with the Emir appointing the remainder. The constitution also contains provisions for the establishment of an independent judiciary, equal rights for men and women and freedom of expression for the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of worship.

Qatar is a member of several international organizations, including the League of Arab States, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the United Nations (where it was a member of the Security Council from 2005 to 2007).

The Qatari government owns Al Jazeera, the satellite television station, which broadcasts in both Arabic and English from Qatar. In 2006 Al Jazeera launched an English language TV channel with one of its four broadcast centres in London.


Qatar Towers

The exploitation of significant gas reserves has made Qatar a key strategic energy supplier to the world's major economies. Oil and gas (which account for around 50% of Qatar's GDP) are the major driving forces of Qatar's economy - one of the world's fastest-growing. Safeguarding and maximizing oil and gas revenue therefore remains central to Qatar's economic development and to its desire to diversify its economy.

During the last few years Qatar has experienced the highest average growth rate in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and in 2010 had the highest growth rate in the world. The 2011-12 budget is based on an average oil price of $55 per barrel and expects to achieve a surplus of QR22.5bn (£3.8bn). Qatar currently has the lowest rate of unemployment in the world and the second highest per-capita income (behind Liechtenstein).

Qatar is pressing ahead with ambitious social, economic and infrastructure development plans (together with the expansion of LNG production).

Qatar will invest tens of billions of pounds to develop its infrastructure over the next 10 years or so. Its successful bid to host the World Cup in 2022 provides a real focal point for projects including rail and the New Doha Port. Rapid population growth is driving demand for accommodation (both residential and commercial) and medical and education services. More than 50 new hotels are currently under construction or in the planning stages.

Trade between the UK and Qatar

Qatar Flag

The UK is one of Qatar's key trading partners. The UK exported goods worth £990m to Qatar in 2010 (up 27% on 2009 figures). Exports included industrial machinery & equipment, electrical machinery, vehicles and power generation equipment. The value of the UK's invisible exports including legal, financial and consultancy services was £484m in 2009.

Last year Qatar's exports to the UK increased by 205% (from £737m in 2009 to £2,247m in 2010) due to increases in the flow of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) coming in through the South Hook terminal in Milford Haven, Wales, which was opened in April 2009 by HH The Emir and HM The Queen.

The UK and Qatar have signed a number of agreements and Memorandums of Understanding in recent years, including a Double Taxation Agreement in June 2009.

HH The Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, accompanied by his Consort HH Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned paid a State Visit to the UK in October 2010. During the visit, a Qatar-UK Memorandum of Understanding on Business, Trade & Technical Cooperation was signed.

Areas of Opportunity

Qatar's economic diversification and investment in human capital in accordance with the Qatar Vision 2030 continue to generate opportunities for UK businesses across a wide range of sectors.

Sectors which offer significant opportunities are:


The government continues to invest heavily in priority projects including transport, power and water infrastructure. Many private sector projects are also planned or underway, although some have been delayed in the last two years due to the wider global recession. There is increasing interest in green and sustainable building standards, services, products and technologies, as seen for example in the Msheireb heart of Doha redevelopment. Qatar's successful bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 will also provide opportunities for construction related work surrounding this event (building and maintenance of sports stadia etc).

Education & Training

Education and training is a key focus of the Qatar Foundation, which is headed by Sheikha Mozah, consort of HH The Emir. The 2400-acre Education City (part of the Qatar Foundation) offers a base for leading international universities wishing to establish a campus presence in Qatar - University College London announced in October 2010 that it would be establishing a presence. At present, there are eight international universities located in Education City, including Georgetown University, Northwestern University and Texas A&M.

The Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) aims to create a centre for world class research and development and has attracted investment from a range of international companies including Shell, Williams F1, Microsoft and Total. Imperial College London has established a centre for research into medical robotics and is also working with Shell and Qatar Petroleum (QP).

The Supreme Education Council (SEC) is implementing a programme of teaching and curriculum reform in public schools. The Qatar Vision 2030 focuses on up-skilling Qatari citizens which may lead to training and human development opportunities for UK training providers. The Outstanding Schools initiative, which selects top schools from throughout the world to set up campus in Qatar, currently has three schools present in Qatar, two of which are from the UK.

Financial & Professional Services

Demand for services is growing as the economy develops and increasing numbers of firms choose to invest in Qatar. In 2005 the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) was established to offer overseas firms an attractive onshore environment from which to operate. Around 140 firms are now operating from the QFC. Benefits include a 3-year tax holiday, 100% ownership and full repatriation of profits. There is demand for providers of investment banking, private banking, corporate financing, private equity, insurance, reinsurance and brokerage services. A number of Qatari banks are expanding their presence overseas with the largest, Qatar National Bank, now present around the Gulf and in London and Paris. As Qatar's economy continues to grow and more international firm establish, demand for professional services, including legal and consultancy, is rising. The UK is well represented in this sector and enjoys a good reputation.

Oil Drill Pic

Energy & Environment

Qatar conducts its principal oil operations through the state-owned Qatar Petroleum (QP). QP's five-year plan (2007-2011) budgeted QR302.5bn (£51.5bn) for projects in crude oil, natural gas, gas to liquids, refining, petrochemicals, industrial cities and others.

Qatar's North Gas Field is the largest non-associated gas field in the world with proven reserves of over 900 trillion cubic feet (equivalent to about 164 billion barrels of oil). LNG is being exported to a number of countries including the UK, Italy, Japan, Korea and the US, through Qatargas and RasGas projects (local companies created under the auspices of QP). The oil and gas sector also provides feedstock for a number of other industrial products such as chemicals, vinyl, fertilizer and ethylene. Qatar is keen to explore new ways of enhancing gas extraction in a way that is cleaner, greener and more efficient. With a moratorium in place on the North Field until 2014 (when a decision to lift or extend it will be taken), current opportunities exist around maintenance and upkeep of existing facilities.

Qatar is investing in research and development programs in the energy sector. Given the local environment/climate, a particular area of interest is solar energy, including its use in water desalination.


Qatar's three ports in Doha (Qatar's main commercial seaport), Ras Laffan (the world's largest LNG exporting facility) and Mesaieed (Qatar's main oil export terminal and main entry point for aggregates/other building materials) need additional capacity as the economy grows. Construction of the $7bn New Doha Port starts in 2011, with the 1st phase scheduled for completion in 2016 and the whole project due for completion by circa 2030.

Construction of the 1st phase of the New Doha International Airport (NDIA), which will be able to handle 50m passengers, 2m tonnes of cargo and 320,000 aircraft landings and take-offs per year on completion in 2015, is underway. This is the first airport in the world to be custom-built to handle the new A380 aircraft (the largest in the world).

A $4Bn causeway linking Bahrain and Qatar has been under discussion though it is unclear when this might proceed. Other road projects include the Doha Expressway and the North Road (linking Doha to Al-Khor, Al-Ruwais and finally to Zubarah where it will connect to the causeway to Bahrain). There is also a diverse, state of the art 80+ station metro system planned for completion by 2026, a high-speed rail link between the NDIA and Doha city centre (which will eventually extend to Bahrain via the causeway) as well as a line to Saudi Arabia and a freight rail link between Ras Laffan and Mesaieed via Doha. The Qatar-Bahrain causeway is envisaged as the start of a Gulf Coast rail link, which (if realised) is to connect Istanbul in Turkey with Muscat in Oman. There are also plans for a rail link on the proposed Doha-Abu Dhabi causeway.

Qatar's Public Works Authority announced in early 2010 that it would launch projects worth $30bn in the next 5 to 8 years. The total amount earmarked for infrastructure is estimated to be between $65-100bn over the next decade.


At the end of 2010 Qatar was successful in bidding to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. This will undoubtedly provide unparalleled opportunities for foreign companies to work on projects surrounding the competition. In particular, since the UK will be hosting the Olympic Games in London in 2012, there will be a huge amount of potential for British businesses that have worked on the Games to bring the knowledge and experience they have gained there to Qatar. Aside from the World Cup, Qatar has been keen to establish itself as a global sporting destination and, as part of its decade-long modernisation programme, the development of sport in Qatar has enjoyed unfettered government support. Qatar hosts a number of international sporting competitions, including the Qatar ExxonMobil Open and Qatar Total Open tennis competitions, and will be hosting the Arab Games in December 2011. Qatar is also home to ASPIRE - one of the largest indoor sports facilities in the world.

West Bay Doha

Life Sciences/Healthcare

With its ever-increasing population, Qatar is looking to invest heavily in its life-sciences sector, particularly in healthcare. QR8.8bn (£1.5bn) of the 2011-12 state budget has been earmarked for expansions and improvements within the sector. Qatar's aim of providing effective domestic healthcare services is coupled with aspirations to become a research and development centre including in the area of life sciences. Through these initiatives Qatar aims to become the healthcare centre of choice for the region. An important element in delivering this will be a new medical and research centre - Sidra. A growing importance is being attached to in-country after sales services either through the establishment of an office in Qatar or through a reliable agent/distributor. Products are assessed against American standards and leaving free product samples with medical establishments to test has some traction in terms of securing sales. Significant opportunities for UK life science companies in Qatar exist in healthcare investment and operation, provision of hospital furniture, training of medical staff, work around preventative care, pharmaceuticals and medical research.

Source - UKTI


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