In an unexpected turn of events, the blockade that was supposed to bring Qatar's economy and industry to a halt has resulted in an industrial rebirth, casting doubt on the effectiveness of such heavy-handed policies.
Since June 2017, a Saudi-led coalition has been imposing an embargo on Qatar, targeting its aviation industry, maritime presence, foreign policy, media, finance, energy, and manufacturing, with the hope of bringing everyday life in the affluent Gulf country to a standstill. This, however, has not come to pass. After an initial shock which lasted for less than a week and was made up for by urgent imports from Turkey and Iran, Qatari authorities decided to handle the situation in the long run by relying on internal potential rather than external help.
Qatar’s economy and industry are showing far more resilience and robustness than the blockading countries initially expected. Undeterred, Qatar is doing its best to turn challenges into opportunities by, among other measures, unleashing the country’s internal manufacturing potential. Indeed, Doha’s industrial area has seen unprecedented expansion since the beginning of the siege. There has also been an increase in the amount of FDI in the country, including in its industry sector. Qatar’s industrial renaissance is the result of calculated steps taken by Qatari authorities to achieve self-sufficiency. In addition to incentives such as tax exemptions and subsidies for SMEs, Qatar’s Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has launched initiatives such as the “Own Your Factory in 72 Hours” scheme for channeling internal and international investments to Qatar’s manufacturing sector.
The committee in charge of the initiative has received just under 10,000 applications from prospective investors, and after due consideration, 63 outstanding projects—worth USD675 million—have been put into action. Understandably, the manufacturing of necessities such as food, medicine, and essential consumer goods has been prioritized by decision-makers. At the same time, strategically important commodities such as cement, plastics, and steel have not been neglected. The country’s public and private sector are encouraging residents to buy Qatari products given that local alternatives to many goods became available just a few months after the blockade came into place. The “Made in Qatar” exhibition and similar patriotic campaigns on social media have also played a role in keeping the nation’s morale high.
In the launching of the fifth edition of “Made in Qatar,” the State of Qatar’s Minster of Energy and Industry, Dr Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada, released the news that the number of factories in Qatar had more than doubled, adding that the stellar growth of industry had been the result of a collaborative effort by different stakeholders, including existing factories, which have ramped up their output, and entrepreneurs who have risen to the occasion. Minister Al-Sada added that many plots of land have been handed over to manufacturing projects which will go into production soon.
The area allocated to the fifth edition of the exhibition, too, had doubled to 30,000sqm— taking up the entire area available in Doha Convention and Exhibition Centre—as more Qatari factories and manufacturers were willing to showcase their capabilities. In addition, a more varied array of industries was in attendance in this edition, in line with Qatar National Vision 2030’s emphasis on economic diversification and moving away from an energy-based economy.
The blockade has also stimulated Qatar’s activities for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). The country has been offering virtually unbeatable competitive advantages. Qatar has been fostering new bilateral relations with Asian nations and improving its existing ties with Turkey, Oman, and Kuwait. A number of industrial firms with operations in Qatar but without a physical presence also decided to set up their Doha offices as soon as possible to maintain their interests in the country, lest the blockade impact their businesses. As another manifestation of the blockade backfiring, this has boosted both Qatar’s international ties and its industry. It seems that, far from being brought to its knees, Qatar’s industry is alive and kicking a year and a half later.
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