Overseas Business Risk – Qatar

Information on key security and political risks which UK businesses may face when operating in Qatar

Political and Economic

Check out the latest political and economic updates on Qatar

General Overview

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 around 1.9 million. Unofficial estimates are that round 85% of the population is comprised of expatriates (mostly other Arab, South and East Asian, European and American), with only the remaining 15% being Qatari nationals.

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 that are being used to fund a diversification and development programme of investment in energy related industries, health, education and infrastructure in particular.

Bilateral trade flows have increased significantly in recent years and Qatar is a significant investor in the UK with government investments worth around £22 billion. The UK imports more by value from Qatar than any other country in the region.

With the highest GDP per capita in the world in 2012 ($106,000 per head) and a stable government and economy (with a decent rate of economic growth forecast of 5 to 6% for 2013 and beyond) there is significant potential for foreign companies to bring their products and services to Qatar.

Despite rapid economic and social change, Qatar continues to attach great importance to traditional Arab and Islamic values that consider the family to be a central pillar of society.

Under the new leadership of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, The Emir of the State of Qatar, the country also plays an active role on the international stage.

Political Overview

Qatar is an Arab nation with Islam as the official religion. Arabic is the official language but English is also widely used. The Father Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani ruled Qatar from 1995 to June 2013 until his son, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani succeeded him. His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani was appointed Prime Minister at the same time as well as continuing in his existing role as Interior Minister.

Qatar is a member of several international organisations, 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).

Economic Overview

The Qatar National Vision 2030, published in 2008 sets out Qatar’s strategy and priorities in terms of change and development. This can be viewed at: http://www.gsdp.gov.qa/portal/page/portal/gsdp_en/qatar_national_vision

In addition, the National Development Strategy 2011-2016 (launched in March 2011) sets out the route for the next 5 years. This can be viewed at: http://www.gsdp.gov.qa/portal/page/portal/gsdp_en/nds

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). Qatar currently has the lowest rate of unemployment in the world and the highest per-capita income ($106,000 in 2012).

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

Qatar will invest up to $220bn to develop its infrastructure over the next 9 years or so and its successful bid to host the World Cup 2022 will provide added impetus for large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Doha Metro system, Hamad International Airport, New Port Project and major road projects. Rapid population growth is expected to drive 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

The UK is one of Qatar’s key trading partners. British exports of goods to Qatar have risen significantly since 2005, from £353mn to £1.31bn in 2012. Exports included industrial machinery & equipment, electrical machinery, vehicles, luxury goods, foodstuffs and power generation equipment. The latest available figures for the value of the UK’s invisible exports including legal, financial and consultancy services were £569mn in 2011 (up from £504mn in 2010) .

Qatar is now a major global energy player supplying 5% of the UK’s total energy supply, including 40% of our gas imports.

The UK and Qatar signed a Double Taxation Agreement in June 2009. The UK and Qatar also signed an Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement in October 2009, though this has yet to be ratified.

In 2011, the UK was the fourth largest exporter of goods to Qatar. The other main trading partners were the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea and India.

More information on political risk, including political demonstrations is available in FCO Travel Advice.

Business and Human Rights

Under the Qatarisation employment program, priority for employment must be given to Qatari citizens. Foreign workers are entirely dependent on their employer for residency rights and subject to the sponsorship system, are vulnerable; for example, employers must give consent before exit permits are issued to any foreign employee seeking to leave the country. In February 2009 a sponsorship law came into force which forbids the withholding of employee’s travel documents and in special circumstances allows for exit without permit based on a court ruling. Transfer of sponsorship is made possible under certain conditions.

In 2009 the National Human Rights Council published a booklet containing guidelines for workers stating their rights and responsibilities. These booklets are distributed by the Ministry of Labour.

The Labour Law grants workers the right to strike, but the restrictive conditions imposed by the statute makes the likelihood of a strike extremely remote. Nevertheless, expatriate workers do go on strike sometimes, at the risk of deportation.

Domestic workers do not fall under the Labour Law and are therefore not protected. The government has declared its intention to address the issue of domestic workers and is in the process of finalizing a draft law aimed at protecting this category of workers. Many unskilled workers frequently work seven days per week and more than twelve hours per day with few or no holidays. Their average wages are relatively low. Some countries have recently signed bilateral agreements with Qatar setting a minimum wage standard for their citizens.

As Qatar is considered a destination and transit area for human trafficking, the government opened the first shelter for victims of human trafficking in 2005. The National Human Rights Committee organized recently an International Conference on Human Trafficking. But the measures taken until now to combat trafficking should be more efficient. Qatar Foundation for Combating Human Trafficking was established in 2010.

Bribery and Corruption

Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for British nationals or someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK, a body incorporated in the UK or a Scottish partnership, to bribe anywhere in the world.

In addition, a commercial organisation carrying on a business in the UK can be liable for the conduct of a person who is neither a UK national or resident in the UK or a body incorporated or formed in the UK. In this case it does not matter whether the acts or omissions which form part of the offence take place in the UK or elsewhere.

According to the NGO Transparency International’s corruption perception index (CPI), Qatar ranked 27 out of 176 countries in 2012. Qatar had the lowest perceived level of corruption in the Middle East and North Africa Region.

The Qatar Rule of Law and Anti Corruption Centre was inaugurated in December 2011. The centre was built as an independent organisation that works in partnership with the United Nations to strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption.

Visit the Business Anti-Corruption portal page providing advice and guidance about corruption in Qatar and some basic effective procedures you can establish to protect your company from them.

Read the information provided on our Bribery and corruption page.

Terrorism Threat

Read the information provided on our Terrorism threat page

Protective Security Advice

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides protective security advice to businesses

Read the information provided on our Protective security advice page.

Intellectual Property

IP rights are territorial, that is they only give protection in the countries where they are granted or registered. If you are thinking about trading internationally, they you should consider registering your IP rights in your export markets.

Trade marks can be registered at the Qatar Trade Mark Office. Inventive designs or industrial models can also be registered under the Trade Mark Law.

Qatar copyright law protects original literary and artistic works including computer programmes and databases which are creative in the selection and arrangement of their subject matter – materials must be registered at the Qatar Copyright Office to be protected.

Inventions and foreign patents can be registered at the Qatar Patent Office. However, a GCC Patent can be obtained by filing an application at the Patent Office in Saudi Arabia. Certificates of Patents granted by the GCC Patent Office secure legal protection of the inventor’s rights in all member states (UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait).

Supervisory Ministry

Ministry of Business and Trade

PO Box 1968, Doha, Qatar

T: (+974) 4494 5001;

F: (+974) 4494 5555

Email:prc@mbt.gov.qa

Website: www.mbt.gov.qa

Trademarks Office

Ministry of Business and Trade

PO Box 1968, Doha, Qatar

T: (+974) 4494 5001;

F: (+974) 4494 5555

Copyright Office

Intellectual Property Center

Ministry of Justice

PO Box 917, Doha, Qatar

T: (+974) 4494 5263

F: (+974) 4493 1464

Email: info@moj.gov.qa

Website: www.moj.gov.qa

Industrial Property Office

Intellectual Property Center

Ministry of Justice

PO Box 917, Doha, Qatar

T: (+974) 4494 5263

F: (+974) 4493 1464

Patents

GCC Patent Office

PO Box 340227

Riyadh 11333

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

T: (+9661) 482 9378

F: (+9661) 482 9600

http://www.gccpo.org/DefaultEn.aspx

Refer also to the website of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO): www.wipo.int/portal/index.html.en .

Read the information provided on our Intellectual Property page.

Organised Crime

Read the information provided on our Organised crime page.

More information is available on overseas business risk in a range of markets.

UK Trade & Investment Contact:

gareth.o’brien2@fco.gov.uk

Countries: Qatar
Topics: Insurance & Risk
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