The Business Year

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida

QATAR - Economy

Allows 100% Foreign Ownership

CEO, Qatar Financial Centre (QFC)

Bio

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority in June 2015. He previously held the role of Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Strategic and Business Development Officer at the QFC where he was responsible for the overall strategic development. He represents the QFC Authority on the boards of the Qatar Exchange, the Qatar Finance and Business Academy, the Financial Markets Development Committee and the Free Zones Authority. He also sits on the Advisory Council of Qatar University’s College of Business & Economics. He has previously sat on the boards of Nakilat QSC and the USD1 billion strategic investment fund of Unicorn Investment Bank, as well as serving as Vice Chairman of Mayadeen Real Estate Company KSCC.

“Being the country’s only business and financial center has also allowed us to put Qatar on the map.“

Can you give us an overview of the QFC and its structure?

QFC is an onshore business and financial center that provides an excellent platform for firms to do business in Qatar and the region. QFC is made up of five separate entities: the Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), which is responsible for licensing firms to conduct business in or from the QFC and managing and maintaining the QFC’s legal and tax environment; the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA), responsible for regulating and supervising QFC firms conducting regulated activities; the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC), which is responsible for managing dispute resolution and hearing civil and commercial disputes between QFC firms and their counterparts and hears appeals and decisions made by QFC Authorities and Institutions; the Qatar Finance and Business Academy (QFBA), the educational arm of the QFCA and works to raise the financial services industry standards and help organizations and professionals achieve their learning and business objectives; and the Employment Standards Office (ESO), which works to administer and enforce employment regulations and resolve employment disputes through conciliation, mediation and arbitration. We are proud of the fact that it is the first Administrative Employment Dispute Resolution Centre in the MENA region operating under International Labour Organization (ILO) standards. ESO recently signed a joint MoU with the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA), Qatar, and ILO that focuses on organizing training workshops and seminars on key human resource topics.

What are the benefits of setting up under the QFC?

There are a host of benefits for companies setting up under the QFC. QFC offers its own legal, regulatory, tax and business environment, which allows up to 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of profits, and charges a competitive rate of 10% corporate tax on locally sourced profits. Once a company submits its application, a dedicated QFC relationship manager is appointed to provide guidance on the registration process, obtaining a license and setting up operations. We also offer access to an independent and transparent legal environment based on English common law and an independent Employment Standards Office (ESO). Additionally, firms benefit from gaining access to Qatar’s business community, especially now with our expected move to Msheireb Downtown Doha, which will house the new financial and business capital for Qatar. Finally, all QFC firms benefit from Qatar’s extensive double taxation agreements network with over 60 countries.

How has the number of new QFC licensed companies evolved in the recent years?

The number of firms we register is definitely an important measurement of success for us as a financial center. While 2017 saw unprecedented events take place, QFC has proven challenges can turn into successes, and we have had our most successful year yet. In 2017, we witnessed a 66% increase in new firms being licensed YoY. As of December 2018, we have over 600 firms registered on our platform—well past the 50% mark of registering 1,000 firms by 2022. Our success is further evidence of the attractiveness of the QFC platform and the openness of Qatar as a market. Our model is unique in the region, and an increasing number of institutions from Qatar and around the world are clearly seeing the benefits of coming to Qatar and joining the QFC platform. There are also other measurements we look at and take into account. Our five-year roadmap announced at the beginning of 2017 sets out a number of targets for us to meet in the upcoming five years. These include establishing Msheireb Downtown Doha as Qatar’s pre-eminent financial & commercial destination and the first of its kind inclusive financial city in the region. Increasing the number of our licensed firms to reach 1,000 and in turn creating 10,000 jobs within the QFC ecosystem. We also aim to triple the licensed firm’s assets under management. Finally, we are working toward increasing QFC firms’ participation on Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) with the goal of reaching 5% QSE market capitalization.

What are some exciting new initiatives that QFC has set forth for 2018 and beyond?

We are working on a number of exciting new initiatives that will be rolled out in 2019. Mainly, we will be focusing on providing access to regional activities and investments through the QFC platform. This is a new era for Qatar and for the QFC, as we look to attract regional headquarters of major international financial and non-financial services firms. On a more global level, we will continue to reach out to our partners and arrange B2B meetings to showcase the market sectors worth in Qatar. Just recently, we concluded roadshows in Madrid and Paris, as well as China, where we conducted networking events with professionals corporations and private firms. The roadshows provided us with an opportunity to highlight the strong historical relationship between Qatar and France, Spain, and China and to help companies looking to grow their businesses in the Middle East. Qatar opened the Middle East’s first renminbi clearing center in 2015 to boost trade and investment between China and the region, and our roadshows are just another step towards enhancing the economic ties between Qatar and China.

What is the specific role that the QFC plays in helping fulfill His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030?

At the QFC, our mission is, and has always been, to drive economic development and diversification. Today, we work hand-in-hand with the government to develop a strategy that is in-line with the ambitions set out in QNV 2030 and the subsequent First and Second National Development Strategies. Being the country’s only business and financial center has also allowed us to put Qatar on the map and reiterate the growing business opportunities available here ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and beyond. We support the development of a world-class financial service industry and continue to broaden our platform to cater to the needs of the country and reaffirm our economic attractiveness. Our mandate so far has been successful; our firms, which recently crossed the 600 mark, manage roughly QAR75 billion in assets. We are playing a key part in the QNV 2030 roadmap by helping promote Qatar as a whole and the vast opportunities that are available in this thriving nation. Our roadshows have seen us visit Asia, Europe, and the UK, and we see great interest from these markets. Another aspect of our involvement in achieving the goals of QNV 2030 is our contribution to knowledge-sharing. At the QFC, we attract top international firms from various market sectors, and such businesses naturally bring along a vast amount of knowledge and professionals to the country, consequently adding value to the growth and prosperity of the local economy. However, we don’t only look at firms, but at local talent as well. In 2009, we established QFBA, an entity that is fully committed to developing the business and finance skillset of Qatar’s youth. Recently, one of the UK’s leading universities, Northumbria University, joined hands with QFBA to offer degree courses in accounting, finance & investments, and international banking.

Which sectors represent the greatest opportunity for investors interested in doing business in Qatar?

As one of the world’s leading and fastest-growing business and finance financial centers, we will continue to promote the Qatar huge market sector worth and look to boost the financial services sector. That said, we are also focusing our efforts on highlighting the market sector worth available in professional and business sectors. These sectors include sports and events, where Qatar is investing close to USD20 billion until 2023 with opportunities available in event management, ICT, facilities management, and more. To leverage these unique opportunities, we have partnered with Aspire Zone Foundation to launch the region’s first sports business district that aims to attract multinational corporations in the sports industry to Qatar through a dedicated incentive package and world-class services. Healthcare is another sector that is filled with opportunities; USD5.8 billion are estimated to be spent as Qatar plans to expand five hospitals and develop 56 healthcare facilities. The transportation sector is in full swing, with the Doha Metro aiming to provide 600,000 passenger trips per day by 2021. USD12.8 billion is being spent to deliver and operate a world-class transportation system and to support commerce, residence, and visitors for international events. Finally, the tourism and culture sector is seeing massive investment to develop Qatar as a world-class hub with deep cultural roots, with USD200 billion already invested in infrastructure that supports tourism and a dedicated government strategy to diversify Qatar’s tourism offering. As previously mentioned, we will focus on developing a financial, sports, media and digital hub in Msheireb Downtown Doha. These are areas and sectors that are of vital importance to Qatar’s development and the realization of the goals set out in QNV 2030.

In what ways has the blockade allowed the QFC, and therefore Qatar, to compete more successfully?

The blockade has had many positive effects on Qatar’s economy. 2017 was the fastest growth period in the QFC’s 13-year history since its establishment in 2005. In fact, we recorded a 66% increase in new firms being licensed on the QFC platform in 2017, compared to the year before. Not only has Qatar weathered regional challenges, but our economy has flourished by turning these challenges into undeniable opportunities for growth. Thanks to a united, coordinated effort across the public and private sectors, Qatar’s GDP growth is projected to rise to 2.4% in 2018 from 1.6% in 2017. The strength and versatility of the Qatari economy is also recognized on an international level, with Moody’s upgrading the banking sector’s rating to stable in October 2018 and S&P upgraded Qatar’s outlook to stable in December 2018. The blockade of Qatar has in fact further positioned Qatar as a leading hub for international business, by providing unrivalled access to the Qatari market as well as a USD2.1 trillion market in Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, and Turkey. The current situation has also led us to find alternative solutions and helped to prove our resilience to grow. Our government has looked at new trade routes and continues to establish trade relations with a growing number of countries. Milaha has launched new container services, including to Oman, Kuwait, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. Mwani has developed relationships with other regional ports and shipping companies. Hamad Port, Qatar’s main seaport, located south of Doha, began operations last year and is being further expanded. The foresight of this project means we can be self-reliant for imports. The blockade has also been a catalyst for change for the whole country—reforms in business will make Qatar stronger in the long run. These reforms include, completion of necessary legislations and decrees to facilitate investment, reduce bureaucracy, and reform the banking system, completion of food and water security projects and development of new industries and services and implementing constructions essential for the oil and gas industry. In addition reforms are in place to accelerate the completion of current infrastructure projects as well as the FIFA 2022 World Cup projects in line with the 2017-2022 National Development Plan and QNV 2030 and the implementation of the tourism strategy over a specified timeframe. These efforts help in encouraging the private sector to engage in these areas and provide them with the necessary framework to facilitate their success. Recently, Cabinet approved a draft law regulating and welcoming non-Qatari investments in all sectors of the economy, including the fields of banking and insurance. These efforts are a clear indication of Qatar’s efforts to attract foreign investment and to continue the drive towards economic diversification. All of these factors have led to a surge in the number of companies setting up under the QFC as an alternative hub to access regional markets.

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